Today is the 119th Boston Marathon. It is one of the most famous and notable long distance races in the world. It’s a course that challenges both expert and novice racers. Although you don’t have to leap over obstacles or trudge through mud, the marathon tests you with organic obstacles like Heartbreak Hill and the unpredictable New England weather. If you can battle through the elements, the course, and even your own body, the reward is reaching the finish line successfully.
In a lot of ways running the marathon and running your business are quite similar. Both journeys take planning, commitment and support from people in neighboring communities. You don’t just wake up one day and decide you want to run a marathon. The same goes for starting your business and building an advertising strategy.
The day you open your doors to the public is like when you hear the starter’s pistol at the beginning of the race in Hopkinton. Your first steps should focus on the demographics of your customers. Who is your business serving? These shoppers are going to be the lifeblood of your business so you want to reach out to them early and often to build a strong core. Once you know who they are you can start creating opportunities for them to visit your store.
One of the ways to find these consumers is through direct email marketing. Using the information you gathered during your research you can build an email that will be received by potential customers that you have virtually hand picked. Create messages that will start a conversation with consumers. Write content that will inform them about how you can fulfill their needs. These consumers are your friends and family who support you on race day.
You’ll always need more support though. Direct mail may seem a tad outdated, but as long as people are still receiving mail, your correspondence with them still holds value. 40% of consumers will try a new business after receiving mail from them. Mail creates a connection with people because it’s personalized and physical. Receiving mail is an experience that’s hard to ignore. These customers are the fans you make as you reach each checkpoint. The cheers push you to the next marker.
You may start to get tired as your feet pound the paved roads of the race course. You want to think about other ways you can call attention to your business. This is the time to start pacing yourself. Do what businesses have been doing for generations, advertise with the local media.
Print media reaches the community which is being served by your business. It is a daily and weekly reminder that your business exists and where it is located. It can act as a call-to-action and offer coupons or special deals. It can be a place where you can put a picture of your business so that people can connect the name with an image. Keep in mind that your print media outlet may also provide digital advertising solutions too. Duplicate your message in the paper of record and on their website.
By now, you’ve run a third of the race and it’s starting to take a toll. Take a minute and reassess your situation. Examine your web presence. Make sure your business’s website is a digital beacon for your physical store, offering customers the services they expect in a 21st century business.
Use live chat to communicate with consumers if they have questions. Have an e-commerce solution in place so that customers can purchase or reserve items from the comfort of their home. Most importantly, make sure a website is accessible from a desktop computer or a mobile device. Half of all web searches are being done on mobile devices, so you have to prepare your website for these visitors.
Once you start using your website as a hub for your online services, you can expand your brand through social media. Using Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google + you build a place to share immediate updates with customers. These social media sites create a place where you can communicate with your fans and build a rapport. Train yourself to rely on this option so you don’t burn through your energy.
The difference between the Boston Marathon and your business is that the marathon has an ending. You know that your journey will be over when you cross the finish line outside of the Boston Public Library. With your business, you don’t want the journey to ever end. You want to create a business that will be a pillar of the community. Your race, like the marathon course, will have challenges that will require endurance and hard work. Your goal is to keep pushing and perform better than you did the mile before. Every step is building your business into a brand. Every step you take is success. Afterall, that’s your goal.
Nick Pizzolato is the Marketing Content Manager at Wicked Local Media Solutions. For questions, topics for future blogs, or to share your favorite moment from the film “Back to the Future,” email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.