Category Archives: local business marketing

Effective Online Marketing Tactics that Target Local Customers

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local business trying to reach local customers with marketingLocal businesses need to invest their dollars into marketing tactics that target local customers. After all, a customer thousands of miles away isn’t going to travel cross country to buy your product.

And local customers aren’t looking in their phone book anymore. Consider phone books in the same category as the extinct do-do bird.

It’s time to move into the modern age of smartphones and tablets—and use them to target local viewers that can actually buy.

The chance for increasing sales is high. The investment (of time and funds) in the marketing tactic doesn’t have to be (if you choose the right marketing firm that delivers results).

To be clear, we’re not discounting the significance of in-person customer interactions. Customer service (both online and off) is more important than ever, building relationships and customer loyalty. However, you have to reach customers before you can provide excellent customer service. Far too often, local business owners waste their money on generic marketing tactics that can reach anybody anywhere. Frankly, a flooring store isn’t going to increase sales if their marketing is seen 1,000 miles away.

Website Optimization

An optimized website is built and designed for users and search engines. This is not done blindly. The best websites are built with the right structure for search engines and fast enough for any impatient customer (statistics have shown that online viewers leave websites that take too long).

For the benefit of both search engines and online viewers, website content should be written with information and images relevant to local online viewers. Lastly, contact information for the business should be included on several web pages for search engines and customers. For the latter, include easy-to-use ways to contact the business, such as a contact form and social media.

Optimization Technology

An optimized website is the first step; it shouldn’t be the last. The next step is to continually optimize with content and technology. Search engines credit websites that regularly add high-quality content (i.e. blog posts, infographics, etc.) Online viewers use the content as they research topics that solve their problem. The answer is to regularly add content to the website for both online viewers and search engines. If a staff member isn’t available to do so or doesn’t have expertise, consider outsourcing the effort to the experts.

For brick-and-mortar businesses with one or several locations, optimization technology is the logical next step. Optimization technology specifically targets customers within a specific radius around a business location (or locations). This marketing tactic takes a high level of expertise and understanding of best-use search engine practices; use this guide to choose a marketing firm that offers effective optimization technology that has proven results.

Social Media

Social media is a free marketing tactic that gets results. Unfortunately, those results can be hit-or-miss if some best-use social media practices aren’t followed. Sales-driven posts can also be more in the miss category if these ideas for local social media posts aren’t used.

To build a solid social media following that buys, promote the social media channel on every marketing piece (i.e. website, e-mails, traditional mailers) and during in-person interactions (i.e. register sales, sales meetings, etc.) Get the maximum amount of followers and audience engagement by carefully choosing the social media network that the business target audience is on. Use this helpful social media chart to select the right social media networks and post regularly for maximum effect. Regular posts fit into the “not too often, not often enough” category. The exact schedule should be determined by using statistics, social media insight, and a testing method that determines the best time for customer engagement (i.e. comments, likes, etc.)

Increasing sales on social media does not necessarily mean “only sales” posts. Social media marketing is more of a subtle practice; approximately 60 percent of posts should be sales and 40 percent should be relevant content. To that end, plan a marketing calendar that meets this criterion and showcases the local nature of the business (this list of ideas for social media posts).

E-mail Marketing

E-mail marketing is one of the most effective marketing tactics—especially for local businesses. The first step is to build an e-mail list that is open to communications (use this list of ideas for building an e-mail list). Try to avoid buying e-mail lists which can fill the list with e-mail users that don’t have any interest in the business.

Set a regular schedule of e-mails (i.e. weekly, bi-weekly, monthly) around dates that are relevant to the e-mail recipients. Try to avoid sending e-mails too often (this is a sure-fire way to annoy e-mail recipients). If the schedule starts to feel too arduous, consider outsourcing the effort a marketing firm.

In the e-mails, include content that is relevant to the target audience. Just like social media content, these topics are not always sales-driven. For local businesses, include community events that the e-mail users are interested in and topics that e-mail recipients want to act on. For a maximum return-on-investment, include call-to-actions in the e-mail that are easy-to-use.

Local Businesses: Get Customers to Your Door (and Keep Them Coming Back)

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customer headed to local business after looking onlineIf you’re a brick-and-mortar business, it’s the million dollar question: how do you increase the amount of customers who walk through the door—and keep them coming back? The answer may not be as tangible as your company’s location (computers and the internet never are), but the results—customers walking in the door, contacting you, coming back time and time again—are real and rewarding as your business grows.

Target local customers (not just everyone!).

It’s hard to look at a crowd and not see dollar signs, but to effectively market you need to thin the crowd. As tempting as it might be to take a “the more the merrier” approach, it makes more cents (pun intended) to target your local customers. Customers residing thousands of miles away aren’t going to be ordering your product or services; you need them to be able to walk in the door.

As such, invest your budget to marketing tactics that targets your local customers: emails, mail marketing pieces, local search engine optimization. All three of these options target local customers in zip codes around your business. Email marketing does require an initial visit—-either in your store or on your website—but has a high return on investment if you deliver valuable information (not only sales information) to them every month. The return on your mail marketing pieces depends on value, whether the method fits your demographic, and—similar to your email—whether your piece delivers some value to your customer.

The third tactic, local search engine optimization, is verified by an important statistic: more than 90% of all customer searches for information start with on a search engine. The rise of mobile marketing has led to larger stakes: more than ¾ of all mobile searches end in an offline sale. Local search engine optimization targets your local customers (in zip codes within miles of your location) so they get the information they’re looking for—and the call-to-actions that lead them to contact your business (either in-person, via email or phone).

Build a solid foundation to your local marketing plan.

A block tower with a heavy top load is going to topple without a strong base. When marketing your business, this means you can promote your website—the base of your marketing—as much as you want; however, if your website isn’t strong, it’s not going to drive customers to you.

A strong website is comprised of a strong structure built for search engines, content targeted at your customers, call-to-actions that produce results, and contact information that makes it easy for your customers to contact you. Once you’ve built a strong website (more information about strong websites here), you can build a marketing plan with strategic promotion (i.e. social media, email marketing, local SEO, etc.)

Make your social media site very local-minded.

If social media is part of your marketing plan, show your customers why they should stop in. This recommendation comes with one disclaimer: you don’t want your customers to feel like you are screaming advertisements at them. Mix photos of your store and personnel, information of upcoming specials and sales, and other relevant tips and information in to your targeted marketing plan. Since you are local, add one other key component to your social media plan: information and pictures from local community events. Show your business is part of your community.

Take customer service to the next level.

There is one factor that can set your business apart from your national competitors, and studies have shown that customers are willing to pay more for it: prompt and excellent customer service. Now it’s your turn to prove it—every way your customers contact you. Respond promptly to e-mails, social media inquiries, phone calls, and in-person requests. Use these tips to respond, and respond quickly; prompt means within hours, or even minutes, of when the question comes in. Don’t shy away from a response if the inquiry is negative. Instead, use the opportunity to showcase your customer service skills. If the request is public (such as on social media), ask the customer to privately message you with details.

Monitor your online reviews.

Online reviews may seem inconsequential to your local business, but the reality is that online reviews can majorly impact your business. Social media and local review sites are full of negative and positive information left by your customers. Your potential customers see that information as they research your business, which is why you need to monitor the reviews and take steps to resolve negative reviews. If you want to make the process easier, contact a marketing firm with an automated system that informs you when reviews come in and gives you time to respond.

8 BIG Do’s & Don’ts of Marketing Your Business Online

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man laying head on desk confused by online marketingWe get it: online marketing is a dark, mysterious abyss that is new and unknown.  It’s not as satisfying as a sale that is closed in-person.  It’s not as concrete as those in-person interactions that come with a customer that walks in the door of your business.  We’ve heard it all before from our clients.

But online marketing gets customers to your door, both in-person and via the internet.  Online marketing builds trust with your customers before they pick up the phone or walk in—if you take these do’s and don’ts to heart when marketing your business online.

Do invest in a solid website.

A mobile-friendly, aesthetically pleasing, and functional website is worth its weight in gold.  A solid website is the foundation of a strong marketing plan with pages full of information that your audience wants to read—and you want to direct them to (more information on the musts of a solid website can be found here).

Don’t create a website and neglect it.

The days of producing a solid website for the sake of having a website is over.  Nowadays, that website needs to work for you.  It needs to have content optimized for search engines so your website shows up at the top of results and on search engine maps.  It needs to have a solid contact page that you can direct your customers to when they have questions.  It needs to have links to your social media pages so potential customers can continue to connect with you.  It needs to have content that answers your customers’ questions and scores points with search engines (more info on regular content here).

Do get the attention of search engines.

Keep two key audiences in mind when you write content for your website: your customers and search engines.  More than 90% of all online searches start with a search engine so it makes cents (pun intended) to optimize your website content and invest in search engine optimization (SEO).  SEO technology gets your website to the top of users’ search engine results within 10, 20, or 50 mile radius (more information on local SEO in this post).

Don’t start marketing without an integrated plan.

The key is integrated.  Your marketing efforts need to be strategic, and an integrated plan that coordinates your online and offline marketing tactics is key (get started with these tips for drafting a marketing plan for your business).  Draft an integrated plan that is flexible enough to bend with the trends and inclusive enough that your brand message is clearly heard in your online (social media, content marketing pieces, etc.) and offline (post cards, ads, etc.) channels.

Do invest in mobile marketing.

Marketing for mobile devices is not just a fade.  It’s not going away.  To the contrary, smart phones, tablets, and other mobile devices are a wave of the future that we all need to get used to and cater to.  If you have a website that isn’t mobile friendly, it’s time to contact a website design company to get a new, mobile-friendly website (built with these website must-haves) online.

Don’t think you have to reach everyone.

Stop trying to reach everyone; instead target your communications for a better return on your investment.  Who are your customers? What information do they want? Where are they online? Where are they offline?  How can you reach them? The answers to your questions should guide your targeted marketing efforts.

Do outsource your online marketing efforts if you don’t have time.

Even with the best of intentions, many a business owner or manager has run out of time to carry out even the most well-thought out marketing plan.  The internet is full of blogs and social media sites started by businesses who abandoned them because of lack of time.  If you find you don’t have enough time, don’t hesitate to outsource your efforts to the local experts that can meet your needs and your budget. 

Don’t cheat and copy and paste the same text on all your social media sites.

Sorry, you’re not fooling anyone when you post the same text to Facebook and Instagram.  It’s not effective. People can tell you’re haven’t created information specific to them, and it’s not going to perform as well.  If you feel a little out of your league (knowledge and time-wise) on a social media channel, contact a marketing company that can use the same voice as you already use and get results when you feel you’re in over your head.