How Using Free and Low-Cost Technology Can Help Get Customers for Local Businesses (Phyllis Zimbler Miller)

by Jeremy on July 14, 2009

From Jeremy: I am trying to add additional content from guest bloggers to Refocusing Technology.  So, I have been looking for guests who can provide information about how to utilize technology to help build your business.  The first post in the guest blogger set is a Phyllis Zimbler Miller.  I hope that you will find it helpful. Enjoy!


Free 3D Giant Coffee Break Concept
Creative Commons License photo credit: lumaxart

I was having lunch in a restaurant in Los Angeles that I hadn’t eaten in before when I noticed a little card on each table.

I picked up the card and read that the restaurant had just joined Twitter – the social media site where you write updates called tweets in less than 140 characters.  And the card urged restaurant patrons to follow the restaurant on Twitter in order to get tweets offering specials.

And I would have instantly followed this restaurant on Twitter, eager for the specials, except I didn’t think the food was very good. Yet, if the food had been good, the restaurant would just have gotten a new loyal customer.

While many people who don’t understand the power of Twitter bad-mouth the phenomenon, you as a small business owner can use this power to help generate business.

To be clear how this works, let’s take an imaginary scenario:

I own a dry cleaners, and business has been slow this month.  I’ve built up a decent following on Twitter with my tweets about solutions to different cleaning problems.  And every so often I tweet an offer.

I need more business now.  Therefore, I tweet: Summer special: Get two sets of drapes cleaned for the price of one set.  Good through 7/30.

And I don’t just tweet it once.  I tweet it a couple of times a day through July 30th because different people check their Twitter streams at various times of the day.

Cost of advertising?  Zero.  Targeted audience?  Yes, these are people already choosing to follow me on Twitter.

Now let’s take my other favorite Internet marketing strategy for local businesses:

Email marketing.  But not the “old-fashioned” email marketing where you collect emails on a piece of paper in your dry cleaners store, enter the email addresses manually, and create a group in order to send a mass email.

I’m talking about double email opt-in marketing.  And here’s how it works:

You pay for a monthly service with a company whose specialty is email marketing.  (Price range around $30 a month.)  This company optimizes its system to get past spam filters and instructs you on what NOT to do if you want your emails to get past spam filters.

(Tip:  Never put the word free in your subject line.  If you insist, you have to put weird characters in the word, such as f.r.e.e., in order to get past the spam filters.)

You get coding from the company that enables you to put an email opt-in box on your website – preferably in the upper right-hand corner of every page.  (See for an example of this.)

Then you offer a freebie – such as a coupon for one free dry cleaned item or a coupon for a free dessert – in order to entice people to give you their email address and name.

When people sign up through the email opt-in box on your website, they get an email asking them to confirm that they indeed want your emails.

When they click on the confirmation link (which triggers getting the freebie), they have now doubly signed up.  (Double email opt-in).  Thus email messages are much more likely to get to them because, in effect, they have told the spam filters that they want your email messages.

These email addresses go into an automatic system that you use to send out email messages.  And you can customize each email message, including using a code to pull in each person’s first name from the database list maintained for you by the company.

Now it’s a Tuesday morning and it’s raining cats and dogs.  You know your restaurant business will suffer.  What do you do?  If you’re on Twitter, you tweet that you’re offering a free sandwich at lunch for a “rainy day special.”

And you also send out an email to your list (your email subscribers) announcing this same special.  (It takes less than five minutes to write the email, check it, and then have the system send it out for you.)

Voila!  You have used a free – Twitter – delivery system and a low-cost – email marketing – delivery system to drum up business on a rainy day.

Isn’t this technology great?


PhyllisZimblerMiller_smPhyllis Zimbler Miller’s company has just launched the Miller Mosaic Internet Marketing Program to help people promote their brand, book or business online at and she’s a National Internet Business Examiner at  Follow her at

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  • Phyllis Zimbler Miller

    Jeremy —

    Thanks for having me as a guest blogger on your site. And I love the art you added to this post. Don’t we all feel that way sometimes when it comes to learning new technology?


  • Jeremy Lattimore


    Thank you for creating the post. The art definitely struck a cord with me. Many times that’s how I feel and I think many people do.


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