Selling to local merchants is a challenge in a post-Groupon world, where many small business owners have grown skeptical of the long-term value that digital marketing solutions can provide. Early stage hyperlocals without established track records have additional hurdles to overcome, as they struggle to prove themselves in a crowded marketplace. All these obstacles are forcing hyperlocal vendors to get creative with the way they target local merchants, foregoing traditional tactics like cold calls and feet-on-the-street in favor of email drip campaigns and strategic community partnerships.
Here are eight strategies for selling to local merchants as an early stage hyperlocal.
1. Think about scale. “The question of how to market to small businesses is, what scales? Using the web is by far the best way to start. It takes longer than knocking on doors, but it also scales a lot better and most startups that build themselves an army of door-to-door salespeople don’t have great economics. I’m not saying don’t ever go door-to-door, just don’t do it at first.” (Shaun Clark, PromptAppointment)
2. Form strategic alliances. “We have been able to grow our customer base by partnering with established businesses and associations that sell or provide complementary services — such as OneCoast, the largest national sales agency in the gift and home decor industry, and Brixy, an organization that supports independent baby shops across the country.” (Jessica Moretti, SnapRetail)
3. Start a drip campaign. “Normally, 30% of sales occur immediately, while 70% occur later. Email is one of the main things to get sales happening. First you have to see if there is a natural way of getting the email addresses [of potential clients]. Once you have the email addresses, start setting up weekly/monthly emails. These need to be good, and there are a lot of systems out there for sending them — MailChimp is an easy one. A rule of thumb is that a lead needs roughly seven interactions before it turns into a customer. (Bjorn Holte, bMobilized)
4. Make pitches during off-peak hours. “All restaurants and retailers have peak times (think: breakfast, lunch, and dinner) and off-peak times. There’s no more certain way to invoke a negative response than to interrupt the normal flow of business to try to make your sales pitch — no matter how short. So be sure to go during a slow time, when the manager or owner can take a free minute to listen to you and consider your pitch in a non-stressed state of mind. This may require sitting and waiting until things slow down, if you mis-time your approach.” (Noah Glass, OLO)
5. Keep an eye on costs. “Being numbers driven in selling to local is critical. Designing a sales process requires a detailed focus on costs at each stage of the process. That is because the average revenue per unit (ARPU) tends to be relatively small; customer churn is a real issue in this market; and the sales process will have to be replicated, along with the inefficiencies associated with replication, to generate enough scale to matter. ARPU and churn greatly impact whatever sales process is designed.” (Ted Paff, Customer Lobby)
6. Attend industry events. “We’ve had great success attending events where small business customers gather, and through targeted advertising. Our marketing team focuses the majority of their efforts on lead generation through content marketing, so we’ve never really had to do cold-calling.” (Jessica Moretti, SnapRetail)
7. Use analytics to smooth the rough spots. “Tracking is a must. Install Google Analytics, and then create funnels and goals. The goal should be a sale, order, email, or whatever makes your business go around. Once you have set up the goal, you need to add each step the user has to go through. (For example, homepage > products > sign up > credit card > confirm payment.) With this setup you can see where potential clients drop off in the purchase process and make adjustments. Sometimes it can be easy things, like a link or a button people don’t understand. Once this is up, you can also do A/B testing with pages that don’t perform well.” (Bjorn Holte, bMobilized)
8. Tether Google AdWords to website content. “Google AdWords is a quick way to get started and to generate traffic. It costs money, but there are not a lot of better options on the web [that work] this fast. Take the keywords you bid on in AdWords and start writing copy around them, starting with your most relevant keywords. By content, I mean a really well written page on your website on how your business relates to this term, most likely about your service or product.” (Shaun Clark, PromptAppointment)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is an associate editor at Street Fight.