The marketing landscape for local business has changed dramatically. Smart business owners, like you, are relying less on print and traditional media advertisements and are instead embracing the power of the Internet and mobile technology. Consider this your checklist for ensuring you have all your bases covered when it comes to marketing your business locally.
If you don’t have a website, now is the time to create one. Your potential customers are searching for you online and they want to see your operating hours, address, catalog or menu before they visit you. If they can’t find you, they’re likely to move onto the next business that readily provides the information they’re looking for.
Your website needn’t be complicated, but should include the following:
- Hours of operation
- Catalog / Menus and Pricing, where possible
- Any specials you are currently offering
- Contact information including address, phone number and email address
- An interactive map to help users navigate to your place of business (Use Google Maps)
- “About Us” information about your company
- Customer / Client satisfaction and testimonials information
Search Engine Traffic
There is plenty of potential for local traffic from search engines. Whether your customer is searching for your business name or searching for the type of service you offer in your local area, this is highly targeted traffic.
Free Search Engine Traffic
Most of the business listings you see in a search engine are free and businesses do not pay to be listed there. Search engines use a complex algorithm to determine which pages are relevant for each search its users make. For example, if a user searches for “kids clothing boutique Raleigh, North Carolina” and you happen to own a kid’s clothing boutique in that city, you’re more likely to be found, provided that your website is descriptive and includes those keyword phrases.
Always be descriptive when creating your website pages. Include your complete address on each page and describe your products and services. Make sure you or your web designer also includes descriptive keywords in your title, description and headline tags. If you’re building your site yourself, find out how you can modify your title, description and headline tags as the method varies depending on the type of design tool you are using.
- Google Local: On Google, you may have noticed that there are Places results that often appear before the other listings.
- Bing Listings: Bing also has a similar service to “Places” for U.S.-based businesses. You can learn more at http://www.bing.com/businessportal.
- Yahoo Local Listings: For American businesses, add yourself to Yahoo’s listings at http://listings.local.yahoo.com/.
- Yelp: Go to https://biz.yelp.com/ to unlock your business listing.
If you’re not familiar with pay-per-click advertising, it is advertising that you pay for only when someone clicks on your ad. Unlike traditional advertising where you pay simply to have your ad shown, you are only paying for the results of clicks. You can also target your campaigns by only advertising for certain keywords and your ads will only be shown to people who are looking for the type of information or products you provide.
You can see pay-per-click ads in the search engines and they are labeled as an ad, but it’s not always immediately apparent. Here’s how pay-per-click ads look in the search engines…
Google: Ads are labeled as “Ads” and often appear at the top, before free listings and on the right side of the page.
Bing: Ads are also labeled as “Ads” and often appear at the top, before free listings on the right side of the page.
Yahoo: Ads are labeled as “Sponsored Results” and often appear at the top, before free listings and on the right side of the page.
Of course, there is a learning curve to pay-per-click advertising, but it is definitely a source of highly targeted traffic to explore.
A Few Pay-per-Click Tips
- Set a budget and use the budget tools included in the pay-per-click program. They are designed to keep you from overspending when you’re not available to monitor your campaign closely.
- Use coupon codes or other tracking methods, so you can calculate the profitability of your campaign and know what you can afford to pay for each click.
- Be as targeted as possible. Don’t use the same ad for multiple keywords. Use different ads that you use the specific keywords in your ad text.
- Make targeted landing pages for your campaigns. For example, if you are advertising “blue widgets Birmingham England” in one ad and then “red widgets in Bradford England” with another ad, not only will you use different ad text, but each ad should go to a different page that is highly relevant to those keywords.
Where to Purchase Pay-Per-Click Ads
- Google Adwords: Google runs the most sophisticated and well-trafficked pay-per-click program and is the perfect place to start to learn the ropes and tweak your campaigns. You can sign up for an account at https://adwords.google.com
- Microsoft Ad Center: Microsoft ads fuel the Yahoo and Bing search engines. You can learn more and sign up for an account at: http://advertising.microsoft.com
Mobile Technology is booming and we can see it everywhere we go. Whether it’s cell phones, tablets or other devices, this has opened up new marketing opportunities for local businesses. People are searching their devices for business information, “checking in” at various locations, sharing reviews and more.
While mobile technology has come a long way and many devices display web pages well, anything you can do to make the pages load faster and easier to navigate can go a long way. There are a lot of tools that can help you set up mobile-friendly websites, but you can also use the following tips in designing your website:
- Make clear and simple navigation.
- Avoid the use of Flash as it excludes your content from a large portion of mobile users.
- Keep the number of images to a minimum. This helps ensure your pages load more quickly and your mobile user is more likely to stick around longer.
Text Message or SMS Marketing
You probably already have an email newsletter and understand the power of reaching your prospect directly in their inbox. Now text message marketing provides even more instant connection and results from your efforts. You can set up a cost-effective campaign using a variety of services, including http://eztexting.com
You’ve probably seen these black and white codes on printed advertisements in your area. They look something like this:
These special codes are a great way to connect your traditional marketing with digital marketing. QR codes can be printed on any brochure or advertisement and mobile users can scan the code and automatically be connected to your website.
QR codes are an easy way to share coupons, special offers, schedules and more with your prospective and current customers. You can make your own QR codes for free at http://delivr.com
Coupons and Deal Sites
You’ve probably heard about sites like Groupon and Living Social that offer a special deal daily. These are a great way to get extra exposure for your business as these sites market locally and help ensure your offer reaches your local audience.
The deal site sells your special offer, collects the money and typically you receive about ½ the profits back. While it may seem like a large upfront cost, it can be a very effective way to get first-time customers through the door. After all, remember that satisfied customers are likely to come back for more, so the long term profits from a campaign could be very worthwhile.
It seems like everywhere you go, people are talking about Facebook, Twitter and other social media. If you already have a large customer base and mailing list, growing your following on social media makes perfect sense. If you are a budding young business, it may take more work and strategy to gain a following, but your efforts can be very well be worthwhile.
- Facebook: It seems like everybody’s kid and grandma is on Facebook these days and that makes Facebook a natural choice for embarking on a social media campaign. http://facebook.com
- Twitter: Not quite as popular as Facebook, Twitter’s beauty is in its simplicity. It’s a great way to provide a sounding board for your business and to connect with your followers as well. http://twitter.com
- Google+: This is a new social network created by the search giant Google. It attracts an older and more technologically sophisticated audience, but comes with some very powerful marketing possibilities. http://plus.google.com
- LinkedIn: LinkedIn is known as the professional’s social network. It is a great place to connect with other likeminded business owners, make important connections and more. http://linkedin.com
Where to Start
It’s true, there is a lot of information in this checklist and the thought of getting all these things done can seem overwhelming. Consider this your ongoing checklist to work through over time. Start with your website, get listed in Google Places and work on the other points. Just remember to track your results and see what’s working, so you can do plenty more of what does.