My core mission as an online marketing consultant to local businesses in the Washington DC Metro area is to educate business owners about the multitude of options available to market their businesses online. It’s naive to assume that everyone is aware of these opportunities simply because most everyone has a computer or other device that can connect to the Internet.
Most people have probably at least heard about Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and the host of social media sites along with reviews sites such as Yelp, Urban Spoon, and others, but chances are good that they have never considered using them to market products or services.
Opportunities abound online to market local businesses and the only limitations are how appropriate they are for promoting your business and how far you’re willing to take things. The sky is pretty much the limit these days.
When I follow up with business owners after an initial email or direct mail contact piece, I attempt to gauge their level of knowledge about online marketing as well as their level of interest in the topic. Below are the most common objections that I’ve encountered:
- We get all our clients/customers by referral – this response is most typically encountered when contacting service-based businesses such as accounting firm, auto repair shops, and dentists. I certainly don’t dispute that word of mouth endorsements are a great way to bring in new business and I have received new clients as the result of referrals from previous clients who can vouch for my services, however, is this a form of lead generation that you can count on indefinitely? What about seasonal slowdowns or a new competitor entering into your market? The biggest problem I see with this type of thinking is complacency. In most markets, things tends to ebb and flow and you really can’t count on a steady stream of new customers coming in via referrals. To resort to an vastly overused, but quite apt cliche, you don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. That’s why having other channels of customer acquisition is really in the best interest of keeping your business viable.
- We already have someone handling that for us – on the surface this is a good sign, at least for the business owner, and often for me as an online consultant as well. Usually, after just a little bit of gentle digging, I find that the third party they are referencing is just a one tick pony. By this, I mean that they are handling just one aspect of the business’ online marketing such as Web design or SEO. When I point out that the business doesn’t have a verified and optimized Google Places Page, the business owner is often surprised that the firm handling their online marketing never mentioned it to them. This all centers around what I refer to as an end-to-end marketing strategy. One in which all aspects to a business’ marketing efforts are considered in total.
- That Internet stuff just don’t work – this is actually one of my favorite objections because I know that I’ve just found my ideal prospect: someone who truly needs and secretly wants to be educated about what’s available to him/her to market his/her business online. And surprisingly enough, it’s not just older business owners that have this objection. It runs the gamut of people who either have little experience using the Internet for more than sending and receiving email to others who have probably been burned by consultants promising the moon, charging a small fortune, and then delivering very little in the way of tangible results. The sad end result is that these unfortunate business owners cling even tighter to the antiquated Yellow Pages which delivers just as little in return. But at least it’s something familiar.
- We have all the customers we need– when I hear this objection I know it will probably be a very brief conversation. This business owner is clearly making up the best excuse that he/she can come up with to get rid of a pesky “salesman”. In these cases, I choose not to waste either my time or theirs with pursuing the discussion. At the very least, I really would appreciate the courtesy to a more direct and honest reply that they simply aren’t interested instead of a BS one about having all the customers they can handle. OK, rant over – felt good though LOL!Now, that’s not to say that some businesses are truly booked to capacity such as a dentist operating in an individual practice. This situation comes under referrals, and for most dentists, this comes from referrals from insurance plans that they participate in. In order to handle the increased patient load they would either have to expand their working hours or take on a partner or two.
My cautionary advice to all business owners is to enjoy the good times while they last, but it never hurts to hedge your bets a little and at the very least educate yourself of alternative ways of generating new business. You never know when things may suddenly take an unexpected turn in the southerly direction.