Never before have there been so many marketing tools and channels available to Local Businesses. From free online listing directories to interactive social networks to targeted local search results, local franchises and businesses have no shortage of options for reaching local consumers. But with so many options, how do you know where to start? Well, we reached out to 9 local marketing experts to get their two cents on where local businesses should be focusing their efforts.
1. Plan around customer personas
“It's always best to first do a market analysis to determine what are the best ‘channels’ for your industry, product, or service to identify your ideal customer, says Brendan Sera-Shriar, Cofounder & Conversion Strategist at DayChamp. “At DayChamp we recommend to our SMB clients that before this step it is good to build a persona document. This helps them understand who their ‘ideal customer’ is, where to find them, what interests them, what they spend, etc.” “And once you understand your customer personas, a very cost effective way to get some marketing up and running with real measurable ROI is through the use of landing page campaigns, driving traffic from either social or ppc efforts. This is where they will get the biggest bang for their buck!”
2. Know when to get professional help
“If you don’t have experience in the digital space, find a quality referral for an expert that does,” says Mitch Sweibel, CEO of MOM Cleaning. “Get help to assess your needs and build a strategic plan. Build a good foundation, and then it’s easier to scale up your marketing activities. I recall our website had hosting issues and we were penalized by Google. Silly things like this are avoidable setbacks. Watch out for vendors that quote low and don’t deliver.”
3. Optimize for local & mobile search
“SMBs and Local businesses would benefit greatly from optimizing for local search, says Stephanie Presta, Local Marketing Specialist at the Montreal Gazette. “Let’s say you own a local coffee shop in Montreal, QC. In order to compete with the Starbucks next door, you need to be found online easily when coffee goers search for an alternative nearby coffee shop on a smartphone.”
4. Use Google My Business to help do that
“It's really easy to overlook Google Places, because it's not something you need to maintain on a regular basis,” says Chuck Lapointe, CEO of Narcity Media. “Everyone searches for your business either through Google or Google Maps, so make sure your business is listed appropriately through Google My Business, and that all your basic info is updated (opening hours, correct address, photos, etc.).”
5. Engage with Yelpers
“Yelp's business tools are free, and once business owners are digging into those free online marketing tools, I'd urge them to take an extra minute to represent themselves authentically,” says Risa Dickens, Senior Community & Marketing Director at Yelp. “Upload high quality photos of your business, your products, and your team and write Funny, Useful, Cool captions. Respond to your reviews from an account with a real name. Take feedback with an open mind and then let it go, the best marketing will be excellent customer service that people want to talk (and Yelp!) about.
6. Don’t overlook PPC advertising
"Beyond setting up free business listings in places like Google, Facebook, and Yelp," says Marc Poirier, CEO & Co-Founder at Acquisio, "the best and most universally accepted channel is setting up a focused local paid search campaign using Google AdWords, and perhaps Bing Ads, but always with the appropriate ROI tracking in place to guide the investment. That means tracking results and evaluating ROI beyond clicks, such as phone calls, direction requests and store visits for example."
7. Develop your brand’s own online real estate
“It's easy to get caught up in third-party networks like Facebook or even something like Just Eat. They're very important for your marketing mix, but you always have to remember that you don't own them, you're really just renting,” says Liesl Barrell, CEO of Third Wunder. “But these services can (and do) change their pricing, services, or features, get acquired, or even fold. So whatever activities you're doing on third-party networks, make sure you're also spending time building your own channels. Great SEO on your own site or a substantial subscriber list can really help a local business thrive and there's less uncertainty than putting all your eggs into someone else's platform.”
8. Invest in your content infrastructure
“Content drives all your online interactions,” says CT Moore, Principal & Founder at Socialed Inc. “Whether it’s a Facebook status update, a blog post, a web page, or even a user-generated review of your business, all of your customer interactions online are made possible through content. So your business should be looking at what kinds of content it can be producing to better engage users online.” “This could mean anything from publishing helpful blog posts to scheduling engaging Facebook status updates to doing everything you can to encourage positive online reviews. The point is that if you're not thinking about your brand’s content footprint, you’re not really thinking about your online presence, at all.”
9. Have a consistent online presence
“Businesses need to understand that consumers are expert researchers,” says George Leith, Chief Revenue Officer at Vendasta. “In 2017, a business' virtual doorway is more important than their actual doorway. Having (1) consistent local listings so consumers can find them, (2) a good online reputation (e.g. reviews) so consumers will trust them, (3) an active social media presence so consumers will like them, and (4) a fast, responsive website are important pieces of fostering a professional online image.”