The global pandemic of 2020 will also go down in history as “the great accelerator.” Contactless payments, curbside delivery and cashless orders are just a few examples of trends that were well underway and got pushed into overdrive as the pandemic took hold. Shopping malls, restaurants and traditional retailers closed — in some cases permanently. Meanwhile, consumers turned to the internet to find many of the products and services they need.
While the overall impact on business has been negative, many businesses that adapted to online marketing actually benefited from the digital shift that began in spring 2020. Those that benefited the most already had an established online presence and were highly visible when consumers came looking.
At Evosus, we speak with hundreds of pool and hot tub retail / service companies each month. We are often asked, “What’s working?” and “How are other dealers dealing with these challenges?”
If you’re looking to up your digital marketing game — or simply create an established presence online — here are some must-haves to boost your business and drive new customers via digital marketing.
Free Business Listings
Decades ago, the phone companies ruled the roost when it came to directories. They offered a free standard listing, with the option of paid placement in a printed phone book. Fast forward to 2021 and the model looks strikingly similar, though in a digital format.
GOOGLE MY BUSINESS When people are looking for information, nearly 9 out of 10 look for it via Google, the No. 1 search engine on the internet. And when searching for products and services in your local area, you may have noticed a rectangular box on the right side of your screen. That box is called Google My Business, and it’s a free listing that includes all the basic information you’d expect — business name, hours of operation and customer reviews. It’s incredibly powerful for driving new customers.
An additional perk of Google My Business is that your business will also show up on Google Maps. As people are navigating from place to place, they’ll see your business name appear. How nice is that?
To get Google My Business up and running for your business, you’ll need to register and validate your address via a postcard they’ll send you. To get the process started, go to google.com/business.
FACEBOOK PAGES Facebook is the No. 3 most visited site, spanning its website and mobile app (YouTube is No. 2). So whether you’re a fan of Facebook or not, many of your customers scroll through their Facebook timeline every day.
Facebook Pages is a free business page that you can set up in minutes. Many companies use this in place of a website, because it doesn’t require any programming skills.
Better Business Bureau — while not a big traffic driver, the BBB comes up a lot when online shoppers are looking for reviews about your business, and are making a purchase decision.
Search engine optimization provides organic (free) traffic to your website. In other words, you want your business to be included in the organic search results when someone searches for “pool service near me” or “hot tubs Pasadena CA.”
The keys to SEO are:
Trust — You must establish a strong online presence for your company. Perhaps the best and fastest way to do this is by getting your company listed in online directories. More on this below.
Solve a Problem — Google loves value-driven content that solves a problem, thereby creating immediate value. How often does a pool filter need to be changed? What is an acceptable pH level for a residential hot tub?
Unique Content — The content you create must be original. If it’s not, Google will not include your content in its search results.
ONLINE DIRECTORIES One of the fastest ways to build trust online is by getting listed in online directories such as Apple Maps, Yahoo Local and Foursquare. And while you could register for each one individually that would realistically take a few weeks of full-time work. A quicker and easier option is to use an online listing service such as Moz Local. Moz offers a great way to get listed in hundreds of websites quickly, which boosts your opportunity to be found via local SEO. It’s a paid service that starts at $129 per year for the lite version (you’ll rarely need more than that) and takes less than an hour to set up.
WEBSITE Your customers expect you to have a website. So does Google. Your website will need to be at least 10 pages to get any kind of decent SEO ranking.
While there are many programs and platforms available to build a website, your options generally fall into two camps:
WordPress site — Google loves WordPress, which is an open-source content management system (CMS) used by about one-third of the websites in the world. The CMS acts as a container for images, text and other elements that make up your website. You’ll need some technical skills, or you’ll need to hire an agency to build a WordPress site and host it. WordPress is essentially a DIY model, where you may need to bring in some contractors to get the job done.
Platform site — companies like Hubspot, Wix and GoDaddy have created hosted solutions, drag-and-drop interfaces and no-programming tools that can help get your website up and running quickly. I personally like Wix for its easy-to-use interface and free site option.
YOUTUBE YouTube is the second most popular website in the world, and it’s owned by Google. People visit this site to watch (not read about) how to get things done. Whether it’s changing out a pool filter or installing a pump, YouTube is a great way to publish unique content and drive visibility for your business.
Once you’ve exhausted your free digital marketing options, you’ll want to explore paid media, or targeted advertising, to drive new customers for your business. While there are many ways to advertise, here’s a quick list of the most proven ways that retail and service companies are driving new customers online:
Google Ads — Google ads display when someone searches for your product. And you only pay when someone clicks your ad.
Facebook Ads — Inexpensive ads that reach the masses. Targeting is key.
The $350 per month business pages — Yelp, Houzz and a plethora of companies that have determined that $350 per month is what most businesses are willing to pay for local leads. These sites will typically negotiate rates and length of contract.
Here’s to driving more business in the digital world.