Local Online Marketing Handbook for Small Businesses
According to a recent study, 70% of consumers believe that being able to shop in-store is more important than having to decide which brand or retailer to buy from. When people shop on the go, they want to have what they are shopping for as soon as possible and not wait for days for it to be shipped to them.
At the same time, when someone is looking for a contractor, they are more interested in companies operating around their area. Who wants to wait for a locksmith to travel several kilometers to rescue them when they are locked outside their home?
That is why local businesses need to rightly position themselves to meet the desire for immediacy and local service. The only way this can happen, however, is when people in your area know you exist. In the kind of marketplace we have today, where several brands and businesses are calling for the attention of consumers at the same time, it is easy for any brand to get lost in the crowd.
However, by utilizing local marketing, you can give your local complete an edge over the competition, helping it to thrive on the local level.
What is Local Marketing?
Local marketing provides you an opportunity to increase your brand visibility to local customers. It employs both offline and online strategies to promote your business within a specific geographical location. That way, it becomes super easy for your local audience to find and visit your website or storefront. They will also be able to contact you first any time they need your product or services.
How Does Local Marketing Help Small Businesses?
Today, more people search the internet before commencing their purchase journey. And that should send a message to you as a business owner in this modern time. If it doesn’t yet, then consider these facts too:
- 46% of people using Google to shop said they confirm inventory online before they visit a store.
- According to Social Media Today, about 72% of people searching online for local businesses will choose stores within five miles
- 69% of people shopping online said in a study by RetailMeNot that they check reviews online first before making a purchase.
- Bright Local found in a study that 90% of consumers use the internet when looking for a local business
That means as a local business owner, you need to rightly position yourself online to meet the needs of modern consumers. And when establishing an online presence, you need to focus more on geographical locations. Otherwise, you could end up wasting precious time and resources on people who live too far away to do your business any good. No one will drive several kilometers to come pick up a mouthwash anyway.
Instead, you should target people within your area who can promptly respond to your promotions and patronize your local business.
Nevertheless, when we talk about local marketing, it goes far beyond just creating an online presence. It can give you an edge over your competitors. Most times, it even gives local businesses an advantage even over big and established brands.
For example, imagine having a café in your area. Your local marketing strategy might include something like:
- Attracting the lunch group in the nearby business district by using digital ads
- Informing your subscribers about a local event or a special promo code
- Having a sidewalk sign that calls in foot-traffic
- Using social media to attract potential customers by sharing a fun picture of your patio
You know your community so it makes sense to use every possible offline and online channel to reach your local audience.
Creating a Local Marketing Strategy That Drives Results
Whether you are new to local marketing and need to get yourself started or already know about it but looking to improve your strategies for local audiences, these tips will help. Here are some important elements you need to ensure you include in your local marketing strategy for it to be effective.
1: A mobile-friendly website is a must
This is the first place to start – even before implementing any local marketing tactics. Your website has to be well-optimized for mobile usability. Mobile searches are one of the leading ways people will find and know about your business. So you will want to position yourself well so that local customers find it easy to do business with you.
A mobile-friendly website is one that loads quickly across different devices. Your texts and other elements on the website should be legible enough and make navigation easier for anyone accessing your site on smartphones. That also means having your website fit perfectly to different screen sizes.
Not sure if your website is mobile-friendly? You can do a quick test with Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test Tool to confirm that.
2: Localize your content
An effective marketing strategy is one that has its content tailored to meet audience needs. You wouldn’t achieve so much from your marketing efforts if your content is not relevant to the people you’re targeting. So focus on publishing local content across your digital network to increase your visibility online while also establishing your business as n authority whose voice can be trusted in the community.
So think about questions your customers are most likely to have. What aspect of your products or services can you help by giving a detailed explanation to their questions? Are there any local events coming up in your community or neighborhood that might be relevant to your audience? All these are what you should focus on and create content about.
Not sure how to know what people are searching for in your industry or location? Google Trends is a tool that can help with that. Creating local content can help present your brand as one that is well involved in the community, hence helping people to trust your brand more in the locality.
3: Invest in local SEO
Your potential customers are daily searching online for products or services related to your business in your local area. One way to help them easily find your business is through a local SEO strategy.
Local SEO involves a lot of things and is usually a long-term process. But at the most basic level, it involves your website having a dedicated location page that contains your business name, phone number, address, and other relevant store information.
Another thing is to make sure your website offers a good user experience, is well-structured for search engines to easily crawl it, and also contains relevant keywords.
4: Claim your local listings
When looking to build a local digital presence, you need to make sure your business listings show up where your potential customers are looking. This includes third-party websites like Better Business Bureau (BBB), Yelp, review sites that highlight local businesses, and also directories.
However, don’t forget to take advantage of Google My Business (GMB) – it is the most important listing to get your business featured. Having a GMB listing will allow your business information to appear on Google Maps and Google Search when people in your area are looking for your products or services.
5: Leverage local advertising to reach your target audience
Gone are the days when only word-of-mouth is all you need to take your business to the right people. Things have gone digital now and the way modern consumers journey has changed, even in the local sphere. With that being said, another powerful tool to leverage for your business is pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Below are five ways you can use this tool to favor your local business.
Use ad scheduling to get the best results
There is no point running your ads 24/7 when you can select specific windows of time which represent your business hours. Ad scheduling is a great tool to make that happen. You can set your ads to be displayed at your peak hours to maximize visibility and keep your ad budget under control. If you want to manage resources and cut all those clicks at off business hours, use ad scheduling to your advantage.
Custom landing pages
When setting up a PPC campaign to draw in potential customers, you need to make sure your landing page is ready to receive them. So incorporate place names, testimonials from verified community members, and localized images in your landing pages. Overly broad or generic pages can make you lose your audience, especially when such is used over and over, and across multiple campaigns.
So instead, focus on creating a unique, highly relevant landing page for each of your campaigns, and with your ideal local customer in mind.
Platforms like Facebook, Google ads, and Nextdoor are providing local businesses great opportunities to easily maximize visibility in specific areas. Even if you spend a fortune on ads, if the person searching is not located within your targeted area, they won’t see your ads. So use geotargeting options to help people in specific areas relevant to your business find it.
Use location-based bid adjustment
Location-based bid adjustment allows you to maximize your local search visibility. With the tool, it will be easier for you to bid higher on searches happening in specific areas that have a high conversion rate.
Use ad extension to highlight your location
Platforms like Google offers many features that help make your ads more relevant to local searchers. These features are called ad extensions. They could include direct links to relevant pages of your website, call buttons, service callouts, etc.
For instance, when you use the display location extension, it will reveal the location of your business as part of your PPC ads. When people see the ad, they can click the address to find their way to your store. Using these extensions can help you drive foot traffic to your storefront.
7: Be active in your community
Yes, getting involved in your local community can mean a lot to your local marketing. Do you want your marketing strategies to produce the right fruits? Participate in local events. This will give you the opportunity to meet plenty of people, build brand awareness, and better connect with the people in your locality.
Think of volunteering in a community event, donating prizes to contests and competitions, sponsoring and support a local team, etc. This will go a long way in convincing people that they can trust your brand and so they will be more likely to support you.
8: Ask customers for reviews and testimonials
You need social proof to get people to trust your local business. People will only support a business they think they can trust. So get positive reviews and testimonials from reputable figures in the community to help complement your efforts in the community.
However, never be tempted to pay people, monetary or otherwise, to get positive reviews. That can do more damage than good to your reputation. Some sites like Yelp also don’t support you soliciting directly for reviews. So you will want to avoid doing that too
But you can encourage happy customers to drop reviews and feedback for you without directly asking them. Positive reviews on your listing can go a long way to help convert an audience to a customer in the future. So do all it takes to get good reviews and testimonials for your business.
Blueprint for Local Marketing Success
Before you talk about how to redefine your marketing strategy, you need to first figure out what success means for your business. Why are you investing so much energy and resources in these strategies? What are your goals? What are you aiming to achieve with the strategies and how are you going to measure your performance? All these are important to determine if you are really successful with your tactics.
A good way to define and measure success when it comes to local marketing strategy is to set SMART goals. That stands for:
- Specific: You need to have specific answers to all the questions we have highlighted above about your marketing strategy.
- Measurable: your performance has to be measurable. So decide on which key performance indicator (KPIs) you will be using to measure your performance so you can know if you have really been able to achieve your goals.
- Achievable: it is not enough to just have the big picture. You also need to have a clear understanding of how you want to go about it. What are the steps, skills, tools you will need to accomplish your marketing goals?
- Relevant: make sure each of your goals is relevant to the big picture of your business plan
- Time-bound: don’t overstretch yourself. It can discourage you along the way. Only determine what you can realistically achieve within a specific period. Set deadlines for yourself and work towards them.
Ideas to Get More Results from Your Local Marketing Campaigns
Now that you have the eight essentials of local marketing in place, the next thing is to get yourself together and branch out. To motivate you on the next route to take, here are some ideas and strategies you can use to market your business to your local community.
Not all these ideas will necessarily work for you. You only need to identify the ones that work via continuous experimentation. So, let take a look at some local marketing ideas that might work for you.
Sponsor local events
We already mentioned this in the earlier part of this guide. Sponsoring local events will show people that you support your community and care about them. This will build goodwill and give you an excellent platform to showcase your brand and promote your business.
You can also buy a booth at local events. It will help you connect with members of the community and get more visibility for your business. You can as well team up with other businesses to host your own event. For instance, you can host a mini “home show” that features craftspeople, furniture stores, woodworkers, etc. Offer food, drinks, and entertainment. Invite the members of the local community and ask them to come have a look.
Local marketing happens both online and offline. So explore various offline strategies to promote your business within your locality. For instance, design and share postcards, quality business cards, flyers, and yard signs. Take advantage of print materials too, and put them in strategic places in your community. That will go a long way to help you spread the word with your local community.
Another effective way to go about this is to do giveaways of material that has your brand printed on it. Good examples are t-shirts, car magnets, or reusable shopping bags. Each time people use these materials, it will instantly remind them of your brand, serving as an effective yet relatively cheap way of promoting your business.
Organizing contests and promotions that celebrate local events can be a great tool to help you engage members of your local community. Just be creative with your approach and offer prizes you think your ideal audience will love to have.
Increase participation by announcing the event on social media and radio. You can state the kind of prize to anticipate in the event to get more people to want to attend. You can also increase foot traffic by insisting that winners come to collect their prizes in person.
Leverage your local media
Local media still has its powers too, so don’t underestimate it. Consumers still depend on radio stations and local newspapers to get on the latest news about the community. Because of that, those channels can also present you with an opportunity to get new customers to your door.
Consider sending out press releases and pitching topics to the local press presenting yourself as an expert providing a professional review on certain topics. Make sure you provide your phone number and always check your voicemail. You don’t want to keep a reporter who is on deadline waiting too long to get a response from you.
You can also use sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to show yourself as a reliable source of useful information about relevant stories.
Make local business contacts
Think of how much awareness you can get for your business if you can partner with other local businesses in the community. So consider joining local business associations in your community to connect with relevant businesses in your locality.
To make the most out of this, consider finding complementary businesses to connect with for cross-promotion. For example, if you run a home construction business, you can connect with and refer people to trusted interior decorators or landscapers. That will be a win-win for both of you as they too will refer people to your business.
You can also take this a step further by looking for a way to partner with other local businesses online to improve your local SEO. Connecting with authority businesses will help you build quality backlinks to your site, hence helping search engines that you are a trusted network of local businesses.
Targeted email campaigns
Emails can be the most cost-effective and simplest tactics for reaching your customer base, especially if you know the correct way of going about it. Start creating your own email list by asking your customers for their email addresses and ask for permission to send them communications.
A great way to do this is to let them decide what type of email they would like to receive. With this knowledge, categorize the list so you can send the right email to the right people for the best results. Also, include an option for them to change their preference or unsubscribe any time they want.
Furthermore, it means a lot for your customers to trust you with their email address, so respect this and don’t bombard them with content they don’t like.
Help as much as you can
Establishing yourself as a local authority in your field plays a huge role in helping you build your brand in your community. Offer free consultation or professional advice to show your expertise to people. This will put you in front of potential customers while building a local reputation for your brand.
At the same time, you can use the same strategy online by giving excellent answers to relevant questions on websites like Business.com, Quora, and local advice forums. You can as well create a YouTube channel or blog to provide people with a glimpse of what your business offers. This can help you earn trust from people who may be interested in what you do, hence helping them to remember you effortlessly when they are ready to buy.
Create a loyalty program
Consider rewarding repeat and loyal customers. You can also ask customers to take certain actions to win a prize. Even using old-school loyalty cards with prints on them can help achieve this. For instance, a customer can get their next drink free when they buy 10 drinks at your café.
Customers can also earn a discount based on how much they spend. All these will help attract new customers to your business while also helping to keep existing ones.
This is arguably an excellent way to get more customers to your store – whether online or offline. Just give your customers a coupon that encourages them to buy more products from you, particularly encouraging them to buy in bulk.
You can also offer a coupon that gives an in-store discount for each purchase made on your store online. Get more people to be aware of these promotions by sending out emails or creating awareness on social media or using print media. Sites like Groupon will also come in handy in helping you to offer special deals to people in your area.
As you can see, there are many things involved in creating and implementing a successful local marketing. However, it is not something you should lose your head over. Just take your time to go over the points we have mentioned in this guide and make a decision to proactively follow them.
Create a roadmap on how you want to achieve a successful local marketing campaign to grow your business, and just do it!