The heyday of storefront advertising is long gone. It’s not enough to hang signs in your window and hope customers wander by and see them.
You may think being local means you don’t have to delve into the online arena. Your customers are right in your community, so there’s no reason to waste time with digital tools. Taking this short-sighted view will limit your reach and create more work in the long run.
In fact, people may pass your store every day and never stop in until they have a strong incentive. But where does that motivation come from?
It’s true that word-of-mouth marketing is still one of the best resources to boost local business. However, most people go online to research businesses and share recommendations. People want proof your business offers value and reliability before they invest time or money.
You can’t wait for customers to come to you. Go where your customers are to grab attention and build a following. Here are simple ways to use local business online marketing to bring in more sales.
1. Update your business listings
First and foremost, you have to make sure your website and contact information show up correctly in local searches. For customers, it’s a frustrating experience to hunt around for your website, only to find 20 listings that aren’t the right business.
Claim your Google listing using the Google My Business website. This tool allows you to verify key details, such as your location, phone number, hours, and website address. You can also add photos and gather reviews, making it a one-stop shop for people looking for quick highlights about your business.
The information appears right at the top of search results, so customers are likely to review these listings first. And since Google is a hub for most online search activity, updating your listing ensures accuracy on a variety of other platforms.
2. Make your business website searchable
Keywords and tags are essential for making local businesses stand out online. The internet is a big place with millions of businesses competing for attention. If you don’t use strong identifying phrases, how will new people find you?
Don’t wing it. Keep track of your keyword research in a spreadsheet, and make note of which ones bring in more visitors. Using location-specific keywords, such as your city or service area, instantly weeds out irrelevant search traffic. You don’t want to compete with carpenters in San Diego if you operate in San Francisco.
It’s also important to add schema markup in the right places on your site. This coding language makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site and decide which pages are relevant to a search query.
Page titles, meta-tags, and headings shouldn’t be broad or vague. Search engines are more likely to take notice when titles and headings tell people exactly what to expect on each page.
3. Feature case studies from your community
Do your case studies and testimonials feature your biggest clients or your most familiar ones? Customers have more incentive to trust businesses that have helped people they know.
Sharing your success stories working with local clients is a smart way to gain loyalty.
Whether you work with businesses or consumers, showcase people who are well-connected in your area. Check out which clients have a large social media presence, and ask them to share the case study with their own network.
4. Blog about local events
Local business marketing provides a cross-section of topics to cover on your blog. There could be 10,000 blogs about pottery, but how many of those sites will mention your local charity craft fair?
Merge your primary topics with community news to give locals a reason to seek out your blog, instead of a competitor’s. Find ways to tailor how-to articles and guides to your area to attract people looking for relevant, actionable information.
5. Start collecting subscribers
It’s a challenge to build lasting momentum when you have to keep covering the same ground. Reap the benefits of your marketing efforts by setting up a way to capture leads. Add a prompt to your website asking visitors to subscribe to your blog or accept notifications. Otherwise, you won’t have a consistent means of building relationships with interested people.
A blog or newsletter is useful for demonstrating your value to people who aren’t sure if they want to do business with you yet. They also serve as a retention tool, helping customers learn from you and stay invested in your business.
6. Put social media handles in prominent places
Don’t leave customers wondering how to find you. Make your website and social media handles visible wherever people engage with your products. That way, many customers will start following you right away.
Go beyond your website and business cards. Try printing your social media handles on store bags and food service containers where people are likely to see them.
7. Embrace visual storytelling
Visuals are everything to online audiences. Sure, anyone can stop by your business and see your offerings in person, but will they? People have busy lives, and they prefer to stick to stores they know well. If you want customers to try something new, you have to make it clear you carry products they want. Use your website and social media profiles to create a feast for the eyes.
Sites and apps such as Instagram, Pinterest, and YouTube are great places to draw customers into your world. An Instagram gallery lets you design a visually striking grid of images that highlight different aspects of your business. Even if you don’t sell consumer products, you can share photos of your team, offices, and special equipment.
Invite people to check out your projects in progress or a sneak preview of your production process. If you know what matters to customers, you can make videos and photos that are exciting to your specific audience.
8. Consistently ask for customer reviews
Are your online profiles empty or filled with reviews from three years ago? Customers take notice of these lapses in activity and assume it’s a reflection of your business. In reality, your business could be doing great work, but only your loyal customers are aware of it.
Thriving profiles with well-rounded reviews are a sign of a healthy business. Make it a priority to request reviews on a regular basis. Start sending follow-up emails for all your orders to get reviews when a purchase is still fresh in a customer’s mind.
If you serve a largely millennial audience, consider sending SMS text prompts. Many customers find it quick and convenient to spend a few minutes sharing their thoughts in a text message. Do your best to routinely read and respond to online reviews, so customers know you care about their feedback.
9. Partner with fellow business bloggers
One huge benefit of local business marketing is your direct access to fellow entrepreneurs. Think like big businesses, and boost your value by partnering with other popular brands. Take turns guest blogging with business owners who aren’t your direct competitors.
Brainstorm how you can combine relevant topics to help both businesses reach a bigger audience. Let’s say you own a dry cleaning business. You can team up with used clothing or uniform sellers to talk about how to remove stains, upcycle, or repair minor damage.
Local business online marketing allows you to get creative and personalize your strategy. Both your community and your business are unique. There is no other place on earth that is exactly the same as you, your brand, or your local surroundings. Use this differentiation to your advantage, and look for opportunities to communicate your value in a new way.
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