Marketing a small business like a Vape Shop is a real challenge – for anyone. When you break down the basic structure of a marketing campaign you are faced with four fundamentals that you must get right to be a success: product, price, place and promotion.

Let’s assume you have the first three under control. You’ve got a great product or product line that you believe in and that your customers love and buy from you, happily and frequently. Your prices are justified, reasonable and set at price points that the market will bear. They are sustainable and enable you to generate sufficient revenues to help you realize high enough profits to cover all your costs and grow the business while making a decent living.

Now, you are half way there.

Your Vape Shop is a great place to be. Clients love to linger. Everybody gets a good feeling doing business there – on both sides of the counter. It’s a great place to work and that good vibe comes across when a customer walks through the door.

The 4Ps of Marketing
So, what about the forth P, promotion? How do you get it right? There are lots of answers and many experts out there who will tell you how to do it right.

Jack Welch, the late great CEO of General Electric and the author of ‘Winning’ and ‘The Real Life MBA’ said you must be customer focused. “Customer centric” were his exact words. You’ve got to give your customer what they want, when they want it. He said “you’ve got to gain more of a customer’s mind” and “have it in your bones to get outside your internal focus to your external focus”.

Now, there are a few really good ways to talk to your customer base, to promote your business. Number one is word-of-mouth. There is no better path to success than having customers who love and promote your business for you. Every time a certain coffee drinker walks down the street carrying that cup (you know the one) its word-of-mouth advertising.

And priceless promotion!

Running ads in targeted business trade publications like this one, is another ideal promotional tool.

And today, one of the best and least expensive ways to promote your business – in a way that combines word-of-mouth and target marketing – is through social media. Vape industry statistics will tell you that your clients live in the online world. Most are Internet users and access social media regularly. They read Facebook posts, tweets, Instagram and LinkedIn updates.

Marketing executives focus time, effort, and money on social media, integrating it into their strategies. Targeted, relevant online promotion that can be engaging, interactive, and entertaining with clear, compelling messages.

The majority of adults use a smartphone and 80% of them are using them to connect to social media. They make online purchases, search for best prices, use loyalty programs and look for local promotions. The convergence of the real and the digital world involving in store, online research, bar code scans and reward points represents an explosive retail trend.

One Company’s Social Media Plan
For example, a major E-liquid company that is a global leader in the manufacturing and distribution of flavors for the vapor industry provides consumers with choice and quality across categories and price points with a full roster of unique brands.

They have an evolving social media strategy managed by a creative & social media team that includes an art director, writer and social media manager. They maintain over twenty social media sites every day with global reach on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The team shares press releases, newsworthy articles and company updates including those from sponsored events and trade shows.

Another example is logistical and involves dove-tailing a promotional road trip across the US visiting Vape Shops while at the same time promoting the Wounded Warriors Family Support program that helps the families of wounded vets.

At the same time, the creative team promotes regular updates and donations through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a genuine full circle “real and digital world” promotion.

New product launches that hit the market at industry trade shows in Europe and the United States are likewise promoted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, enhanced by high volumes of re-posts from Vape Shops picking up the juice line or people trying it out.

Matt Simmonds, a web developer, says its best to write sites and splash pages with HTML5, CSS3 and JavaScript. He also recommends creating and designing e-commerce websites using a Magento framework and has worked on corporate sites in WordPress with connections to the SEC for corporate filings and to OTC for stock charts and updates.

He points out the importance of writing sites to be responsive so they can be viewed properly on a handheld device as well as other computers and to edit images so they are web ready with transparent backgrounds and the right pixel count.

Convergence of the Real & the Digital World
This convergence of social media using tablet devices, smartphones, and new apps enables small businesses like Vape Shops to have a more dynamic interaction with their customers. The merging and overlapping of direct life experience with a brand combined with instant word-of-mouth, interactive promotion with customer generated social media posts, shares or comments demonstrates precisely the success of any well-planned social media strategy.

Often called a “smart systems convergence” this kind of promotion offers a dynamic impact for entrepreneurs and small businesses. It takes a huge cash investment to start a bricks-and-mortar business. But with social media, a new businesses can begin life on a financial shoestring.

Computers, TV, the Internet, smartphones, tablets and social media have forever changed the way we communicate from Denver to New York City, from London to Beijing, dramatically affecting global marketing despite any cultural, economic or political-regulatory differences.

Finally, here are a few tips on building your social media program the right way.

1. Pick the right social platforms. Research. Find out where your customers are. Study their social media usage. Instagram, Facebook and Twitter have international audiences. But in countries like China, you will need to use local competitors such as Weibo and Renren.

2. Organize your social media platforms in a hub-and-spoke manner with a main site as the hub and the other social media sites being spokes to promote the hub and drive traffic to it.

3. And like Jack Welch, listen to your customers and find out what content they want. Speak to your clients in their language. Use pictures. They really are worth a 1000 words. And find the influencers in your market and invest to engage them so they can help spread the word. SVBS

Donald Fenton Headshot PhotoDon Fenton has directed marketing and communications campaigns around the world for corporations traded in New York, London, Tokyo, Toronto and Paris. He teaches marketing at the University of Toronto and is Vice President of Communications at Gilla Inc. You can reach him at 416-434-3681 or [email protected]