Digital marketing for local small businesses is essential.
You can’t always rely on word-of-mouth or a well-established customer base because local economies change rapidly. Besides, you want to grow your business, right? This means you need to attract new customers. You know you need to advertise, but it’s expensive. Internet marketing can help. It’s low-cost, even free, and it lets you connect with your potential customers in a way that print, radio, and TV ads can’t.
Smartphones have made it possible to have the internet right in our pockets anytime anywhere. Nowadays most people do their research on the fly, while they’re shopping. They’re checking out stores before they even walk through the door. Your place might look great and sell some cool stuff, but if your competition has an attractive website and is easily found online, where do think they’ll go first?
Online marketing does something else besides driving sales. It helps you connect with your customers in a way that traditional advertising doesn’t. It allows you to have conversations, generate buzz, and develop trust. You can use your website and social media to provide a rich customer experience that goes beyond just selling them a product. You can give advice, offer helpful tools, provide entertainment, and create fun events. You can also use email, social media, messaging, and other channels to have personal conversations with people before they’re even customers. You can make them feel happy and unique in a way that builds trust and brings repeat business.
In general, online marketing makes it possible to interact with customers in a way that was unheard of just a few years ago. And it’s practically free. Local businesses that have a savvy digital marketing strategy do better than those that don’t.
Hopefully, you’re convinced that digital marketing is important. Now, let’s look at some ways you can put it into practice:
1. CLAIM YOUR LOCAL LISTINGS
A local listing is like being in the yellow pages only better. First of all, it’s free. Second, when people do searches on their phones, they’re going to find businesses close to where they are, thanks to GPS. It’s like having a virtual storefront.
Google My Business and Bing Places for Business are connected to the major search engines, so they offer you the best chance of being found. But there are plenty of other popular and useful places to list your business including Facebook, Yelp!, City Search, YEXT, LinkedIn, and Foursquare.
Sign up for a Google, Bing, and a couple of others. Then add your hours, a description of your business, and some photos.
2. CREATE A MOBILE-FRIENDLY SITE
Since most people search for local businesses on their phones while they’re shopping, it makes sense to have a website that’s mobile-responsive. If your site isn’t easy to read and navigate from a phone, then customers are going to move on to one that is. Also, Google actually penalizes websites that aren’t accessible from mobile devices.
Creating a mobile-friendly website involves using responsive design. Make sure yours is responsive. If it isn’t, ask your designer/developer to fix it.
3. START A FACEBOOK PAGE
Many people spend a lot of time on Facebook. It’s the hub of their online social lives, and it’s frequently the place they go to make plans for their real-world interactions. When searching for something to do, they naturally turn to Facebook pages to check out the local scene.
A Facebook business page is a lot like a Google or Bing listing, but with significant differences. Facebook allows you to have actual conversations with your customers. So when you post or comment, you’re nurturing a relationship and building trust. You can buy ads that target specific audiences. You can offer discounts and specials that can be used on your website or in your store. So it’s more than just a business listing, it’s a place to connect with your customers.
4. HAVE GREAT CONTENT
Digital marketing gives you the opportunity to engage your audience like never before. Your brand can be more than just the products you sell or the services you offer, it can be a complete experience. Customers are more likely to visit your business if you treat them as more than just a credit card. Start a blog where you provide advice, helpful information, or fun diversions. If you’re an auto parts store, post some DIY fix-it videos. If you sell clothing, offer fashion advice. If you’re a restaurant, provide some recipes.
Google loves websites that have lots of fresh content. If you update your content regularly, you’ll rank higher in the search results. So, get creative, have fun, and remember, a little free information can get you a lifelong customer.
5. OPTIMIZE FOR LOCAL SEO
Registering your business with Google, Bing, and other places is important, but you still need to make sure your website is in line with your listings. Fully optimizing it for local search is an essential piece of your digital marketing strategy. Here are a few quick fixes.
Embed a map to your business on your pages. Make sure your address and hours are clearly visible. Use local keywords in your content. Your page titles and meta descriptions should include your location and your services or products. Use local structured data markup to give search engines detailed information about your business.
Optimizing for local search can be tricky. Some of it is pretty technical. If you’re using WordPress, a plugin called Yoast SEO can help. You can also ask your developer for assistance. If you want to DIY it, check out our guide to local search optimization.
If you need help with any of this stuff, contact Hungry Ghost Consulting. We’re experts, and we’d be happy to assist you.