This article originally appeared in Pro Contractor Rentals.
Running a business today without managing your online presence is like neglecting to put a sign on your store and boarding your windows – you’re losing potential customers because they can’t trust you or, even worse, can’t find you.
According to a BrightLocal survey, 97% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in 2017, with 41% of people looking at least once a week. Your potential customers are looking for you online. How can you use your online presence to get them into your store? And how can you build on your in-store excellence to enhance your online presence, creating a positive feedback cycle?
Give the people what they want.
75% of shoppers who find local information in search results helpful are more likely to visit stores, according to a recent Google, Ipsos Media CT, and Sterling Brands survey. Your site needs to include things like your store location, hours, pricing, and if you have the item they want when they want it. Don’t give anyone an excuse to write you off before they set foot in your store. Make sure these things are in your Google business listing as well!
Use your “in-person” to build your “online”: If your company has rental software, this information is already available to you – all you have to do is get it integrated into your website.
Exhibit your knowledge.
Consumers like to buy locally, but 69% of those consumers buy locally because they expect higher-quality goods and better service. If you’re able to show consumers that you’re an expert before they meet you, they’re more likely to enter a rental relationship with you and your business.
If you’re a general rental store, show people how to use the equipment you rent to solve their problems (or, if your team has a great sense of humor, to “solve” ridiculous problems, like the “Will it Blend?” series). Don’t forget to archive the videos on your website to improve your search rankings! If you’re a party rental place, you can show off your products AND give people tips on how to make their event awesome. How-to videos are one of the most popular genres on YouTube; tap into that and show that you’re a trustworthy expert all at the same time.
Use your in-person to build your online: Connect with your staff to see what they’re great at. If you don’t have the time or money to create studio-style how-tos, record some new-hire training sessions. Encourage your team to think about the stuff they wished they learned sooner.
Connect with your staff.
There are three reasons to feature your staff in your online presence. First, your staff is your main point of contact with your customers – people respond to familiar faces on social media and new customers who have seen your staff online already will feel familiar with that person when they see them in your store (They might even think of them as a very small-scale celebrity!). Secondly, you’re all working together and often workplace proximity associates are friends – when you share photos from work, your team can share them socially and increase your business’s reach organically. Finally, you’re reinforcing to your staff that they’re an important part of your business, improving morale.
Use your in-person to build your online: Ask your team to share important messages. Encourage them to take photos of work in progress on-site for you to share.
85% of customers now trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation and 68% of consumers left a local business review when asked. Let your customers sell your business for you! When you’re responding to reviews online, remember to stay positive. Respond to reviews while thinking that you’re speaking not to that person, but to every potential customer with your response. Respond in the manner you’d like to see from a business – don’t forget to thank people for positive reviews, either! If you get a negative review, encourage the customer to contact you privately to resolve the issue. Once you’ve defused the situation offline, ask the customer if they’d be willing to change their review or add a comment, too! It shows potential customers that you’re dedicated to service when they see bad reviews turn to good ones.
Use your in-person to build your online: The easiest and least expensive way to get reviews is to have your counter staff and sales team encourage customers to post reviews online. If you’d like, you can offer a small discount, either in percentage or a set total, for online reviews.
Manage and initiate conversation.
You don’t have to wait for a review to connect with your customers and potential customers. The Internet gives you an opportunity to pose questions and get answers from people that already know who you are and what to expect. If you have business clients, follow them on social media and offer help where you can provide it. If you are focused on consumers only, then ask them what they’d like to see, what needs you can fulfill, how they approach certain projects, etc. and try to build a group around your business. Giving people more opportunities to engage with your brand deepens your relationship and promotes future business.
Use your in-person to build your online: You can come up with questions on your own, but typically, your best ideas will come from customers. This has been true almost everywhere I’ve worked, from colleges to professional sports to Point of Rental. Listen to customers’ ideas and pose those suggestions to a larger audience!
Investing time and effort in your online presence is like greeting someone walking in your store with a smile and a hearty greeting, followed with a “How can I help you today?”. When a customer feels like you’re genuinely concerned about their success and their needs, that’s the beginning of a great rental relationship.