While plenty of solopreneurs run online-only businesses, many of the over 33 million small businesses in the U.S. are brick-and-mortar enterprises serving local customers. Every year, new entrepreneurs join their ranks by opening restaurants, vintage clothing stores, print shops, and dozen of other kinds of stores.
Of course, for first-time entrepreneurs, there are a lot of steep learning curves. They must figure out how to hire good employees, manage their books, and market their businesses.
If you’re trying to work out that last one, keep reading for the do’s and don’ts of local business marketing.
The days when local businesses could ignore the Internet met their final end with the Covid pandemic. The pandemic forced consumers to rely on the Internet to find and order nearly everything. While customers now visit stores in person again, they find new businesses online.
Getting traction with your local business endeavor relies on several online components that help make your business findable through online searches.
There are a number of major business directories online. You don’t need to appear on all of them, but you should claim your profiles on a few of the biggest, such as:
These directories make it easy for people to find you and Google indexes them. Just make sure you get your business name, phone number, and address the same on all of them.
Don’t overlook the value of search engine optimization. While the technical requirements can seem finicky, optimizing by those guidelines typically leaves you with a website that runs faster and provides a superior user experience.
On the content side, optimize your blog posts and website copy with some local keywords. With that said, make sure you provide quality content on your site.
Don’t forget about adding images to your site and content. Just optimize the image size for faster load times. Search engines reward image inclusion, but penalize you for slow load times.
You can do some things to speed this up by starting with a good website design that incorporates SEO best practices from the ground up.
People do a surprising amount of searching for local businesses on social media. That makes something like a Facebook business page a form of local business advertising.
It’s a chance for you to interact with and get feedback from your actual customers. You can even test run ads on a small scale there.
It can also help establish that your business has some popularity, which search engines seem to reward.
Turning local businesses into successful, self-sustaining businesses isn’t an overnight process. Neither, for that matter, is business marketing.
Your average customer must see multiple repetitions of a brand before they remember it. If you’re running ads in the local paper or on the local TV station, it can take a while before people in the area even remember the name of your business. That’s before they even start thinking hard about giving your business a try.
Your average SEO campaign will typically take months before it starts generating results and upwards of a year for highly competitive industries. In other words, you can’t expect or plan on getting overnight results.
With analytics software available at every price point from free right on up to very expensive, you don’t have a lot of excuses for ignoring data. Of course, most business owners cite time limitations as the major hurdle.
Analyzing your marketing data is one thing for which you should make the time. Ignoring the data means that you never know what marketing channels produce actual results for you. You literally throw money at the problem and hope for success.
By digging into the data, especially over time, you can figure out things like your cost-per-acquisition for each channel. You may discover that you’ll get more bang for your buck by dropping one channel and doubling down in another.
Big, established brands run their marketing based in part on the fact they already have good brand recognition with customers. Those brands can assume that customers will know that an ad belongs to them based solely on a logo, for example.
You cannot make those kinds of assumptions in your local advertising, especially not at first. Minimally, that means that you must do things like including the name of your business in every ad and marketing campaign.
Beyond that, big brands market to huge market segments composes of millions of people. Their ideal customer profiles won’t look much like yours.
Your marketing must speak to the needs, wants, and concerns of a very specific and limited population.
You can leverage technology in a number of ways to support your marketing efforts. For example, CRM software can help you streamline your sales process. You can also look for email list management services that help you automate marketing activities like email campaigns and newsletters.
These days, video technology comes pretty as well. You can get high-def cameras at a very reasonable rate given that most smartphones come with one equipped. That, along with free or low-cost editing software, puts basic video marketing within reach.
You can even up your game with a dedicated high-def camera, tripod, and paid editing software if you want to get serious about video marketing.
Getting a handle on local business marketing is one of those challenges that entrepreneurs with brick-and-mortar businesses must embrace. Without it, you’ll struggle with getting people in the door. Just keep in the mind the do’s and don’ts.
Do get your online marketing in order, leverage technology, and pay attention to what the data tells you. Don’t model your marketing on big brand campaigns.
Most importantly, don’t get impatient. Local marketing takes time.
The SMBHub offers website design and marketing services to small and medium businesses. For more information or questions, contact The SMBHub today.
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