By Geoffrey Henny

Introduction and Overview

Many surplus stores and businesses are still grappling with the role of an online presence for their sales and marketing efforts, whether to drive potential customers to their physical store or simply sell directly online via a website. The key to all this is to get people’s attention or “eyeballs” and motivate to buy their products and services.

An online presence is often called digital marketing. Digital marketing is much broader than simply a website or email. It also includes adding a Facebook or Google+ presence, or a Twitter or Instagram account. Instagram may not be familiar to older surplus storeowners. Instagram is “an online mobile photo-sharing, video-sharing, and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them on a variety of social networking platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr.

These social networking platforms are, today, an essential part of digital marketing. They are designed to enable a variety of new ways of sharing electronic images, text, and other communications between individuals and groups for a vast variety of purposes. They each have some unique characteristics with which a surplus store wishing to promote itself digitally online should familiarize itself. While the under 30s are the biggest users of social media, older groups – who form the core of surplus store customers – are increasingly using this form of communication. It is changing the face of sales and marketing and is vital for anyone trying to grow their business in the second decade of the 21st century.

Some Market Research on Digital Marketing

While email still remains the most used type of digital marketing for business success, several of the other approaches are making a big impact. Ascend2 – a well regarded market research firm – found that although 54 percent of businesses view email as the best way to do internet marketing, 40 percent believe optimized websites and blogs, Twitter, Instagram, and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) are the most important marketing tools today.

Some Reasons Businesses Use Digital Marketing

Businesses use digital marketing for many reasons, according to Ascend2. Wanting to increase customer engagement, sales revenue, leads for their sales teams, and brand awareness were the most important reasons. The study also found that nine out of ten businesses felt digital marketing was valuable or even essential in today’s business environment.

Using Blogs and YouTube Videos

Apart from email and social media, digital marketing can also include blogging (writing articles online that attract readers who may become customers) or creating YouTube videos (videos you can create and post online at YouTube). These activities can be powerful but they require a fair amount of creative skill. Surplus owners should look for a digital marketing consultant if they want to venture into this arena, unless they are very familiar with it.

The Power of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

A key tool in digital marketing is search engine optimization – getting the name of your business to show up in the first entries that appear following a search on the term “military surplus,” for example. The response rate and close rate on new business when you deploy SEO strategies is usually three and four times those achieved by cold calls and in-person selling. Again it pays to use an expert to get the best results with this tool.

The Emergence of Big Data Analytics

With all the digital devices out there allowing people to communicate with each other, and with organizations in real time on the fly or mobile, an unprecedented amount of useful information is being captured about people’s location, habits, backgrounds, spending patterns, interests, and more. This information – often called big data or big data analytics – can be valuable for any business and especially a small business interested in calling their offerings to the attention of a prospective customer who is nearby, ready and able to buy, and potentially interested in what you are selling. A digital marketing strategy needs to take advantage of this capability. Most social media consultants are fully aware of what can be done with big data analytics, and a surplus store interested in digital marketing should take advantage of this knowledge.

Digital Marketing to Succeed

Bottom line: you need to play in the digital marketing space today. To do so effectively, you need to get professional help or become proficient at the use of some key social media tools. In future articles we will be outlining specific social media game plans you can adopt and sources of good information on how to put them together for your own business. We will also direct you to credible and experienced sources of reasonably priced consulting advice.

Geoffrey Henny is a published author and small business entrepreneur.  At present, he is also an adjunct professor of Economics at Cleary University.  Geoff was a former Shell International Petroleum Executive and a “Systems Thinking” Consultant with special expertise in Scenario Building and Risk Management.