If you’re a small business owner operating locally, you probably think there’s no need to promote your business online. Well, here’s news: you’re wrong.
Sure, offline local marketing can help you develop a repeat customer base, advertise your presence in the area, and stake your territory among your direct competitors.
What offline marketing can’t do that good is make your business discoverable by people still not in the area, but soon to be. The reason is quite obvious – and logical. How can someone see a sign in front of your store, and know you’re offering 20% off ‘til Saturday if that person is still on their way from Hartford?
That’s where online marketing comes in. Online marketing, also known as Internet marketing, can help your local business grow tremendously. All you need is a budget, online marketing plan, and time. Okay, and patience, good team, design and analytical skills, a sense for branding, as well as some knowledge of digital marketing, among other bare necessities.
But, don’t be frightened by any of this: at least you can create the campaign from the comfort of your home! You can also always hire someone to do it for you. In the latter case, all you need to do is define your online marketing goals, pay for the service, and wait. Much simpler, isn’t it?
Whatever your preferred choice is, let’s see what you must should consider when it comes to marketing your local business online!
In parenthesis, you should know that by online marketing, we mean any kind of digital marketing that’s not via digital TV, digital radio or SMS. This leaves us with search engine marketing, social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing, website/search engine optimization, banner advertising, and mobile marketing. All good? Great! Let’s move on.
So, what is the best way to get results from online marketing for a small local business?
There are many ways you can use online marketing to get the results you want. You can promote your business organically – through content, and organic search results; alternatively, you can opt for paid advertising and promote your business across different social media channels or search engines.
However, before starting any online marketing campaign, you need to create a strong online presence. An online presence is not just about having accounts on all social media platforms possible, and a three-page website, no.
A strong online presence certainly means “be recognizable, findable online across different channels”. But, the key question is: what? -> What would you like to serve to people who find your business on the Internet?
So, before anything, think about the way you’d like to represent your local business to a greater audience. Think about your brand, the tone and voice you’d use, the message you’d like to convey. Consider your expertise, unique selling point, approach to business and customer service. What are your values, mission, and goals?
Since many people believe the Internet is a transparent place (don’t mind the skepticism), it’s important for businesses looking to attract more customers or clients to be as open as possible. You should primarily focus on earning people’s trust. You can do so by hiring a brilliant copywriter; but without quality, don’t expect too much. That said, since birds of a feather flock together, I’m sure you’ll be able to some people whatsoever.
1. The number one thing is, therefore, content. The king.
Content across all your online channels – website, social media, local websites (such as communities, forums, discussions, etc.), industry-related websites, etc. should be explicit, valuable, and unique.
Keep in mind that, most often, your content is your first online contact with a potential customer or client. Think of the best way you’d represent your business through content to a target audience – what kind of language would they like to hear? What is the particular thing that would make your content stand out among so many search results?
Give detailed information about your business, create a blog where you’ll demonstrate your expertise, and include your unique value proposition/selling point and calls to action whenever possible, without being too pushy. Yes, moderation is key here. Nobody wants to feel as if a sales hunter were chasing them all around the meadow.
By studying customer reviews of your business and the industry, you will discover their concerns and questions. You can then address those concerns and questions when creating content. Provide simple, easy-to-understand answers to build trust and confidence in your business.
Key point to retain:
Do not steal someone else’s content. If you don’t have time or skills to create useful content, better hire someone to do it for you, rather than copy-pasting work written by similar company operating in XYZ country, hoping nobody will notice. Well, Google will – and, eventually, other people, too. (Yes, Google is a peop, a living creature.)
Additionally, everything you post online should be part of your content strategy. That’s why you need to be specific about your business goals. Also, you should constantly evaluate and measure the success of your content to be able to make any necessary improvements.
2. Search engine optimization aka SEO
Search engine optimization is highly connected with content improvement, only so you could render your business more relevant to users’ search queries, i.e. whatever they might be searching for on Google or other search engines, such as Bing.
You want your website and social media accounts to appear to users looking for products or services you offering in your area.
There’s this thing, called local SEO. Local search engine optimization is how you optimize your website to rank better for a local audience. But, it’s more than just optimizing your website for great rankings. It’s about optimizing everything you can edit online to help search engines learn about your business as much as possible in a way you want to make your company more visible on the Web. This, in turn, means you can attract more customers. It’s like a loop: you feed search engines, search engines feed your profit jar.
Key point to retain:
Local SEO is yet another scary linguistic construction, invented to make simple things more complicated for those new to digital marketing. It’s just like the regular SEO, with the word “local” slammed rudely before its S, to make it – you guessed it – local.
Just like its older brother SEO (or sister, because gender equality), local SEO is not just about being visible on “local” Google. It’s more about using the guidelines to polish up everything the Internet shows to [local] users. It’s like putting [local] makeup on and then fixing it, if necessary.
You can’t change other people’s reviews, but you can apply yourself to continuously delivering outstanding service and quality products, so that people say mostly nice things about you. Mostly, since, well, you can’t please everyone, right?
Anyhow, local SEO: don’t forget to include your [local] address wherever you’re asked to.
3. Local listings
Google My Business, Bing Places, and Yelp allow you to list your local business in their directories, so consumers can discover your business more easily. These listings should be meticulously completed as to include details about your company, such as address, phone, and working hours, but also about products and/or services you’re offering, photos, and alike.
People can leave reviews of your business, and you can communicate with your customers. You can thank them for a kind message or look into an issue they might have experienced, but that somehow went unnoticed.
Google, for instance, uses 3 factors to decide whether to display a business or not: relevance, distance, and prominence. The first two are clear enough (how relevant your business is to a user’s search query and how far it’s from their current location), while the latter refers to how good your business is – and Google uses any information it can find about you anywhere online.
Let’s say someone’s looking for a nice restaurant serving Mexican food in London:
So, we want to check out the first one. When we click on the restaurant’s name, Google shows us this:
But, if we were to Google the restaurant, check out the right side of the search results:
We can see all the necessary information to decide whether to visit or not – a short description, address, hours, phone, and the link to their website. We can see that the restaurant is not that expensive, and that it has received quite a lot of positive reviews. We can get directions as well via Google Maps.
Key point to retain:
Local business listings are a must if you want to improve your online visibility. They should be duly completed and updated, so your business pops up every time anyone searches for something related to what you do.
Verify your location, include a nice description, add photos, and don’t forget to respond to reviews whenever possible! Regularly check any links or articles featuring your business to ensure their correctness. Embrace the best SEO practices, and voilà!
4. Social media
You can use social media to increase your business’ visibility and reputation in so many ways! Since we have quite a number of social media platforms, you should pick those that suit your business most.
For instance, if you’re running a restaurant, then Instagram would be a must, as you’d want to showcase your delicious foods by sharing photos and letting other people tag you. Facebook, of course, goes without question, especially since we have Facebook Places – a great feature that allows people to find interesting places based on their location; it, once again, improves your online visibility. But, the best option would be to create a Facebook page for your business, where people could learn about and interact with you, and also post reviews.
Share promotions and alike whenever there’s something going on.
Use hashtags to help people find you this way. Let’s say you have a restaurant in Dallas, TX. This weekend, you’re serving barbecued pork loin and offering 15% off to those who order 2+ portions. A free way to promote the offer would be to create a unique copy with a strong call to action, include a photo of this treat, as well as a few hashtags (#food, #BBQ, #dallas #dallasrestaurant, #fooddallas, etc.) – whatever you find most relevant! You could also boost posts or create ads.
Include links to your website blog, with, for example, useful recipes or how-to articles. YouTube would be great if you want to make addictive recipe videos for people looking to hone their cooking skills, but short videos for Facebook or Instagram would also do!
If you’re a B2B company, then you must not forget about LinkedIn, a huge professional network that allows you to connect with other businesses.
Last, but not least – think influencers. Who are those popular people on social media in more or less direct link to your business? Can you reach out to them and see whether they’d be willing to review your business or work with you? What about other websites, professionals? Can you somehow establish trusted, strategic partnerships with, for example, suppliers or industry experts to help you improve and grow your business?
Key point to retain:
No matter how many social media accounts you have, it’d be useful to create a social media style guide. Find a way to combine your writing style with branding – your company’s voice and tone should reflect the way you represent yourself on your website, although it’s totally okay to be more relaxed on social media.
5. Real world
Your efforts to grow business through digital marketing will not pay off unless what you promote is what’s actually true. Your online image should reflect your local business. That’s why it’s important to establish a strong, unique workplace culture, and build an environment based on your key values.
Remember that your employees are your ambassadors, so you need to ensure they have the necessary skills and qualifications to deliver outstanding service and validate your claims. They need to know the ins and outs of your business, and possess excellent communication skills to be able to represent your brand.
Furthermore, when it comes to the products or services you’re offering, you need to regularly assess their quality. Are you following your industry standards? Are there any novelties you need to catch up with?
A great way to better understand where you’re at in the eyes of consumers is by reading people’s reviews online. However, don’t wait for your customers to leave your store to check for any negatives! Unless they first Googled your business, their [local] experience begins the moment they walk in your store, office or whatever. That’s why you need to create an ultimate journey for them, and correct any issues right there, on the spot.
Key point to retain:
Regardless of your online marketing campaigns, offline marketing should not be omitted from your marketing strategy if you want to promote your local business to people in the area. From billboards and signs to flyers, and even radio and TV, options galore.
Additionally, local community engagement would help your business prosper even more. It’s a great way to network, build relationships and brand awareness, but also attract and keep a strong, loyal customer base.
We’ve listed a few important things you should consider when creating an online marketing strategy. With so many effective ways to promote your local business online, you should explore and test to see what works best for you.
However, keep in mind you should remain consistent and unique, which is why planning is crucial. Put yourself in the shoes of your customers. By understanding their needs, wants, and concerns, you’d be able to create a winning marketing strategy that would make your business stand out. Focus on providing value and gaining trust of your local community, and the rest will come.
If you feel you need help with planning your marketing strategy, whether it be market research, content, paid advertising, or basic consulting, we’ll be happy to help! Just drop us a note!