IT USED TO be that just having a Facebook or MySpace page was enough to keep new customers rolling in. Now, these social networks are jam-packed with businesses, all clamoring for attention. Sticking out from the crowd and attracting new customers may require a much more unconventional approach.
Timothy Lee of the Arkansas Small Business Development Center in Little Rock, Ark., recommends exploring new technologies. One simple way, he says, is to reformat your business’s web site so it will function on mobile devices. That way, consumers can find you while they’re on the road. Or, for those with a little extra cash and technical know-how, he suggests buying a hypersonic sound device to market your product or service. First used by the military to communicate over long distances, these devices direct sound to the exact location where you want it to be heard. Now, they are commercially available (for prices ranging from $399 to $599). “Imagine this device shrunk down and focused on an area just outside a retail store. Anyone walking through suddenly hears a marketing message,” says Lee.
While embracing high-end technologies like hypersonic sound may not be for every entrepreneur, there are plenty of other low-cost and easy-to-use options out there. Here are some ways to help boost sales using the latest technologies.
Geotagging: Put your business on the map
One way to make sure prospective customers know where you are is to use “geotagging” or “geocoding.” This process enables you to add the latitude and longitude coordinates of your business’s location to digital content, including web sites, photographs, videos, news articles and blog posts. Once this digital media gets tagged with your business’s geographic information, it can then be added to online maps – creating what’s known as a mashup.
The Beer Mapping Project , a site that supports various mashups for beer enthusiasts, for example, has pinpointed nearly 6,000 watering holes, shops and breweries in more than 20 countries since its launch in 2005. With between 5,000 and 10,000 visitors each day, Jonathan Surratt, the site’s founder and chief cartographer, says “I have no illusions that Beer Mapping’s users are [little] more than a small percentage of [a pub or brewery’s] day-to-day business, but we are doing what we can to help get people into their bar stools.”
Beyond breweries, however, small local businesses that tend to rely on word of mouth such as grocery stores, hair salons and restaurants also stand to benefit from the technology, says Simeon Simeonov, a technology venture capitalist in Boston. “Geotagging [gives] small businesses better discoverability,” he says.
Wising up to widgets
Beer Mapping is also using ” web widgets ” to get the word out to ale enthusiasts. Widgets allow users to cut a piece of a web site or blog they find interesting or useful, like a recipe, and paste it onto another web site or blog. Beer Mapping’s web widgets allow breweries to show where their beers are available. Watch City Brewing, a brewery in Waltham, Mass., uses Beer Mapping’s web widget to show the location of pubs and shops in the area where customers may purchase Watch City’s brands.