5 Powerful marketing strategies for independent merchants
Faced with the enormous marketing budgets of the nationals, how can you hope to compete effectively if your customers can't find you?
It's time to shout louder, work smarter, and stop underselling your business with poor PR.
Focus your marketing in your region, to your customers and prospects, and echo the strengths of working with a local, independent and trusted business or branch.
With that in mind, here's 5 powerful marketing strategies for independent merchants, which play to your strengths, and don't cost a bomb:
1. Be consistent on social media
There's no arguing - businesses must have a social media presence to get noticed.
But it's not all TikTok dances or Instagram stories.
As an independent merchant, your suppliers and larger customers may prefer to use platforms such as LinkedIn, but the smaller builder will more likely enjoy a Facebook scroll.
But don't take this as a sign to start up an account on every platform - you'll run the risk of spreading yourself too thinn.
Pick one or two key social media platforms to start with. Build a community of customers and followers who you have time to converse with (social media is a two-way street, not just shouting into the abyss!) and be helpful.
Try to post at least three times a week - schedule in advance if it makes it easier to manage
Don't just sell - provide educational content such as "how-to" videos, or product comparisons
Engage with others - take time to reply to comments, ask questions and like other people's posts
2. Press Relations
Your local customers and community are so important for the growth of your business.
Supporting local businesses has become more popular since the pandemic, with customers wanting to help their local independents survive.
So where better to promote your local business (or brand), than in the local press?
By submitting well-crafted, relevant, and inspirational articles to the local press, you'll build awareness of your business and branches, and maintain a positive public image.
Submit announcements of any events you're holding, then follow up with a video or pictures of the day
Provide regular company updates, such as new hires, to show how you're supporting the local area and reducing unemployment
Ask to be featured in the online version of the magazine, and include a link back to your own website
3. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)
Is your website easy to find online?
Does it show up in a local area search? Or are your competitors taking over?
Is your new e-commerce platform failing to perform?
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) can seem like a dark art, and we've moved well past the days of keyword stuffing and white text in footers.
With the leading search engines constantly changing the rules of SEO, you need to be regularly reviewing performance and tactics.
SEO can be organic or paid - or a combination of both. It's important to get your organic SEO in order before investing in expensive Google (or other) ads
Some website building platforms have built in SEO tools - make sure you check out their guides for best practices (and remember, they keep changing!
Don't forget to create a Google Business Profile and submit your site - it helps Google list your site, allows you to receive reviews, and puts you on the map (literally!)
4. Commitment marketing
Before wildly making changes to your website, or any other marketing collateral, it's important to know if it's working, and if not, why not?
There are so many tools on the market that can allow you to track documents, see who's on your website, watch website visits and find underlying issues that you may not be aware of.
For example, if part of your business includes tendering for large contracts, instad of sending a Word document, why not create an online proposal that tracks engagement and closes the deal faster?
Or, for your website, find the underlying issues that may be causing frustrations in your customer journey, via heatmaps, live visit recordings, and website visitor identification.
By understanding what your customers are looking at on your website, and what content is resonating. you can enable your sales team to capitalize on every B2B sales opportunity.
A lot of these commitment marketing tools have free trials for a month - take advantage of these, and their user guides, to make the most out of it before making the jump into a paid plan
Some tools require you to install a code into the back end of your website - if you're not sure how to do this, they usually provide guides for each platform
Create a heatmap of each page on your website, to see if there are areas of frustration that are causing them to leave without making contact
5. Blogs & Case Studies
Humans are nosey.
They like to know what others are doing, and how they compare.
So don't ask your happy customers for a boring one-liner testimonial.
Contact them, take the time to listen to their story, and create a compelling case study that customers will love and competitors will envy.
Blogging is a slow burn, and it can take a while to see increased traffic, but you create a bank of useful information that is available 24/7 (and can reduce time taken answering frequently asked questions) whilst improving your SEO and attracting more people to the website.
Write about relevant industry topics, give your audience a "back stage pass" into your business and share exciting staff news.
Your website will thank you.
Think of what words your customers would use to find what you sell, and write content to include these naturally (don't just shove them in willy-nilly) - it'll help your SEO
Make sure to share your case studies on social media, and tag the customer's account for further reach
Submit the case study as editorial to your local press - you never know, they might have space to feature it!
Marketing for merchants doesn't have to be expensive, but it does take commitment to be consistent.
Think of it less as a chore that needs doing, and more of a relationship building exercise. You show up to support your customers with helpful, educational content, and they'll show up to your door to buy your products.
And if you simply don't have the time to do it yourself - why not outsource?