It's a no brainer. Local businesses that want to maximize their business results should implement hyper-local digital marketing.
More folks turn to the Internet than any other medium—including newspapers, TV, or word-of-mouth—for local information, according to the Pew Research Center. Furthermore, a whopping 83% of local search users contacted businesses offline, with 46% of consumers making contacts over the phone and 37% visiting the businesses in person, and half of all local business searchers eventually made purchases, according to TMP (15miles) and ComScore. Numbers like those demonstrate how digital marketing can take local businesses to a whole new level.
If you are a local business looking to grow (and who isn't?), follow this digital road map and get hyper-local (with amazing results).
National brands with local physical locations typically spend more time and effort on national marketing, limiting or eliminating the local message. However, that can be a mistake. Local efforts are instrumental in driving increased local business.
Many national brands that do "local marketing" rely on concatenated phrases, changing "Financial Adviser in Boston" to "Financial Adviser in Denver," for example. But that type of boring, generic marketing won't engage your target audiences or inspire them to take action. Instead, identify your most critical local markets, and deliver compelling localized messaging, content, programs, offers, and calls to action based on the area or neighborhood.
2. Go mobile
More than 250 million people access Facebook via mobile devices. Some 40% of Google mobile searches are local, and 70% of smartphone owners use their device while shopping in-store, according to Google and Ipsos OTX MediaCT.
The future is mobile—especially for local businesses. And businesses can reach the mobile population in many ways, including via mobile sites, apps, search, advertising, SMS, quick response (QR) codes, coupons, loyalty programs, and check-in offers.
Mobile technologies plus concentrated local efforts equals a winning strategy.
Where are your key audiences? What local outlets do they read, watch, and surf? Create content that's relevant and engaging to them. Publish a blog. Be a guest blogger. Work with local newspapers as a contributing writer. Syndicate to appropriate websites. Add links to your content via Facebook, Twitter, etc. Look for vertical aggregators, and assess which ones make business sense for your industry. Syndicate via a variety of sources to keep your business top-of-mind with customers and prospects.
Google had more than 11.7 billion US searches in January 2012. Of those queries, approximately 20% had local intent. That number jumps to 40% for mobile searches. So, make sure your prospects can find you.
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a huge business driver, and it should absolutely be used in local marketing efforts. Optimize your site for geo-terms. Display your contact information prominently on your site. Use geo sitemaps and hCard micro formats in your site code.
Paid search is also effective. Geo-target your paid search campaigns, include geo-based language in your ads and landing pages, and use location extensions.
Online local advertising is on the rise—big time. Borrell Associates forecasts 18% growth, with a projected increase from $15.7 billion to $18.5 billion in 2012. Advertise in local publishing networks such as WickedLocal.com or Patch.com. Or, automate your geo-targeted advertising using the Google Display Network, Facebook, or services such as AdRoll.com. And configure site retargeting to show your ads to people who left your site without a conversion.
6. Claim it
Claim your profile on Google Places and other online directories such as Yellow Pages (YP.com), Citysearch, and Yelp. Do the same for vertically oriented directories. For example, having a presence on TripAdvisor is very effective for hotels. To increase your success, enhance your listing with SEO keywords, and include photos for a better user experience.
7. Strike a deal
Special deals have grown in popularity in recent years. Groupon boasts more than 50 million subscribers, and it is the fastest growing company ever. Online daily deals are a unique way to get people to try your products or services.
If your local business lends itself to being social with your target audience, use social platforms such as Facebook and Google+ to share information, photos, videos, and news. Make your social media sites interactive to get (and provide) the most value. If your business is visually oriented, try Pinterest, the fastest-growing new social platform.
9. Be location-aware
Revenue from mobile location-based services is expected to reach $13 billion by 2014, according to Juniper Research. Foursquare now has more than 15 million users, who have conducted more than 1.5 billion check-ins. Consider customizing your offer to entice local prospects (e.g., a local restaurant may offer 50% off hot soup on a cold, rainy day).
10. Dial 'em up
No matter how digital you go, many local consumers prefer calling and talking with a person rather than communicating digitally. So, accommodate customers by setting up dedicated telephone numbers for different marketing channels and campaigns to track which efforts are driving business. Better yet, use a dynamic, "trackable" call service such as Who's Calling. Also, configure your mobile search campaigns for click-to-call.
11. Get reviewed
Positive reviews can help drive traffic to your business: 71% of US consumers have consulted online customer reviews of local businesses, and 67% trust online consumer opinions as much as personal recommendations, according to BrightLocal.
Make it easy for your customers to rave about your company. Add a form on your website, include a reminder in your digital communications, or carry around an iPad for in-person review requests.
The great advantage of "going local" is that you can partner with relevant businesses. A local boutique, for example, could work with a spa, offering a "makeover" package. Or, your business could partner with a local charity to generate awareness of your company and make your neighborhood a better place.
Use partnerships to reach your target audiences. Include dedicated pages on both businesses' websites, write blog posts, split the cost of online advertising, and promote incentives to both client lists. The possibilities are endless.
Everything you do digitally should be tracked, measured, and optimized. That will help determine which tactics are working (and which aren't), so you can adjust your approach accordingly.
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