It happens at the start of every year: After the ball drops, local businesses are eager to activate their marketing plans; but, after a busy holiday season, even the most experienced marketers can be overwhelmed.

Some questions we've been hearing a lot from local businesses:

  • Where do we begin our 2019 marketing?
  • Should we continue paying for PPC, even as prices creep up and more platforms are added?
  • Has digital media eroded the benefits of traditional outlets, such as billboards?

Yes, you can cut through the clutter and boost your brand

Over the past 40 years, my law firm grew from modest beginnings to a recognized law practice with local offices in two states. Even though as attorneys we are bound by more restrictive advertising and marketing standards than most local businesses, and even though we're in a highly competitive industry—with some of the highest pay-per-click (PPC) rates—nearly every year, we have been able to connect with more clients.

Here's how we are able to do it. And you can, too.

PPC is the new 'cost of doing business'

Prior to my law career, I worked in advertising as a brand strategist, helping national advertisers determine what messages, media, and creative would push a consumer's "buy" button. Much of that knowledge and experience applies to marketing small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

Early on, I encouraged clients to use the marketing advantages of PPC campaigns. Today, PPC and search engine optimization (SEO) are among our firm's most effective marketing investments. They're mission-critical: If you're not on the first page of Google, Bing, or Facebook, you're all but invisible to potential clients.

Measure PPC success in customer awareness, not just cost per click

It is rare to push through the clutter of online advertising without PPC.

Investing in PPC campaigns leapfrogs you ahead of organic search results. They are the bread-and-butter of your local business because they give customers an easier connection to your products and services.

Today, most entrepreneurs wouldn't imagine opening a business without some online presence, like a website and Facebook/Instagram page. You should feel the same way about PPC advertising: It has become a basic cost of entering a market and being competitive. It provides a boost to your traffic early, and it helps people notice you, or keeps you front and center to your target market.

SEO is the slow-burning coals that keep your business steady; PPC is the burst of lighter fluid that helps the fire grow.

Define and nurture your brand via various media

Online marketing campaigns are a vital part of your strategic marketing. There are, however, equally important ways to identify and strengthen your brand using other media. You can miss potential customers if you focus only on digital communication. That is especially true in the case of older demographics who are not as comfortable in a point-and-click environment.

Make sure your marketing budget considers the right media for your target market:

  • Television (broadcast, cable, online TV... you can start small)
  • Radio (broadcast and streaming)
  • Print (newspapers and magazines, including digital issues)
  • Billboards, roadside posters, other out-of-home ads
  • Social media (Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, others)
  • A content-rich website
  • Other collateral (brochures and press releases)

Deliver meaningful content that strengthens your brand

Today, potential clients will check you out online. Your advertising gets their attention, but many potential clients/customers will seek out your website or reviews to learn more before signing.

In the end, all the advertising in the world does not matter if you cannot deliver something relevant or helpful to the person who clicks on your website.

When current or potential clients click or call, they should receive the information they really want. On our website, we work hard to provide visitors with relevant and timely information. That means linking ads to relevant pages full of helpful information. Sometimes it means giving away some of the tricks of the trade and helping people solve their problems without your direct involvement. However, we find that it all pays off in the end when clients know they have an authoritative, helpful source of information in your business and website.

Delivering meaningful content not only strengthens your brand but also creates a direct pipeline to another essential element: cross-selling.

Let customers know you have their best interest in mind

When you focus completely on the customer, cross-selling comes naturally. When your business is set up to serve customer or client needs, then you naturally find other areas where you can help them get more of what they need and often can find additional revenue opportunities for your business.

For example, our website helps people understand auto wrecks, workers' compensation injuries, and even new laws related to Uber/Lyft, mopeds, e-scooters, and texting while driving. We found that some clients (or sometimes their loved ones) need help getting the Social Security benefits or Veterans Disability benefits they're owed; so, we also offer legal assistance for those who need help with those benefits, even though we first served them as injury lawyers.

Increase cross-selling opportunities naturally

Your customer base offers cross-selling opportunities. That is why your marketing campaign should include many opportunities for dialogue with clients. Do you offer a safe place for clients to supply feedback and ask questions? This is where social media can shine: Platforms such as Twitter and Instagram are ideal for interaction.

You will find cross-selling opportunities when you listen to your customers.

Embrace your natural advantage as a local business

National and international businesses have to have broad appeal; as a result, they can get a little generic in their marketing. Local businesses have a great power that the national brands don't: The local players understand the needs and trends of their community. That is a huge advantage over national brands.

If you can connect your product/service benefits to the specific needs of the local community, you'll make instant connections to potential customers. What's more, it's great for SEO to connect local topics of interest and important news stories to information about how your product/service could play a role in that story.

All you have to do is nurture a tangible connection that makes your business relevant to issues on the local news and in the local community.

Community partnerships go a long way in brand awareness

Brand-building is not just about your advertising. A brand is the sum total of all the experiences that a person has with your product or service: a deep, emotional, and loyal connection that people associate with your brand.

In our case, we support community organizations, sponsor charitable events, and offer a college scholarship. It's the right thing to do, but it also deepens the emotional connection that people associate with our practice. And it feels great to give back.

When your potential clients see you care, they care about you, too.

All the best for successful marketing campaigns in 2019!

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image of Ted Sink

Ted Sink is an attorney and a group planning director at creative ad agency mcgarrybown.

LinkedIn: Ted Sink

Twitter: @tedsink