Whether you’re an independent operator or a franchisee, the challenge of marketing a local business is the same: geography. Since your business territory is limited, your marketing efforts should be localized; ideally, they should also be targeted at consumers who are actually potential customers.
While conventional local marketing channels (e.g. radio ads, mailers, etc.) allow you to blanket a given geographic area, they can only offer a spray-and-pray approach: you do reach local consumers, but many of them are not necessarily interested in your products/services, so you end up paying for exposure that’s not really relevant to your business.
Several online channels, however, offer local businesses marketing opportunities that are not just localized, but targeted, as well. In fact, marketing your local business online offers a better return on its marketing dollar, allowing you to increase sales while saving on resources that you can ultimately invest back into your business.
Google my business
For the most part, Google+ was the search giant’s failed attempt to eat into Facebook market share. While it was a flop as a social network, it did give local businesses a powerful and effective way to target local users. Google My Business helps local businesses target customers who are looking for their services on search or in Google Maps.
Search engine users are the most targeted users online because they’re already looking for your products/services. Targeting them through a Google My Business page, moreover, is doubly effective because it allows businesses to target local users who are in close proximity to their brick-and-mortar locations.
Once you’ve created and verified your local business with Google, your My Business profile will show up in search results for your business’s name, helping you establish legitimacy and capture users’ attention. More importantly, though, Google My Business pages also power Local Search Results, allowing businesses to target consumers in their neighbourhood searching for their products/services.
Yelp for business owners
When it comes to local business listings, Yelp is quickly displacing directories such as the Yellow Pages. In fact, a 2013 study by The Boston Consulting Group found that businesses who claimed their free Yelp Business page generated approximately $8,000 in annual incremental revenue. Similarly, a Nielsen study that same year found that 82 per cent of users visit the site when preparing to make a purchase, with 89 per cent of them making a purchase within a week of finding a business on Yelp.
Source: Yelp Fact Sheet
Indeed, your business may already be listed on Yelp (submitted by either users or Yelp itself), and Yelpers may already be reviewing your products/services. By claiming your Yelp business profile, though, you can better engage local consumers, manage your business’s reputation, and drive more foot traffic through the door (consider these case studies). It will also help your business capture an additional piece of real estate in search engine results.
“Yelp was incredibly effective for bringing in foot traffic when we first opened our doors just over a year ago,” says Adriano Mielewczyk, owner of Scotch & Scissors, a local online barber shop. “It really helped us raise our profile in the Montreal barber shop scene, and we even regularly get bookings from out-of-towners who find us on Yelp.”
Facebook for business
As the largest social network in the world, Facebook cannot be overlooked by a business of any size. Simply put, having an active local presence in the world’s largest online community is just part of doing business these days.
At bare minimum, your business should set-up a Facebook Page and optimize it. This will not only help your business engage local Facebook users, but it, too, will help your business capture more real estate in local search results.
“Facebook has really helped us reap the benefits of word-of-mouth,” says Mielewczyk. “Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t come in asking for a haircut they saw on our Facebook page.”
Facebook for business also offers additional paid marketing opportunities that businesses can leverage to either promote their products/services directly to local consumers, or continually build and interact with their local Facebook audience.
“Facebook’s advanced audience targeting allows our local clients to reach users who otherwise would have no interaction with their business,” says Sanjay Mayar, chief marketing strategist forImajery, a local digital marketing agency. “It’s like having billboards all around town, but we get to choose who can see it, and we only pay for the people who actually engage.”
Locally grown marketing
The advantage of shopping locally is one of convenience: businesses are close by, and offer a more personal shopping experience. Well, online channels offer local businesses similar opportunities: users are nearby, and you can target only those who are interested in your products/services. With that kind of efficiency and return-on-investment (ROI), online channels represent a marketing opportunity that local businesses simply cannot ignore.