The internet helped companies of all sizes to connect with customers around the world. However, it is not just companies with a global audience that benefitted from the internet. Local businesses can also benefit from the internet by incorporating digital marketing into their existing marketing strategy to market to local customers. In fact, there are now specialized digital marketing strategies that are very effective in targeting local customers online. Below are a few ways to market to a local audience online.
Marketing to local customers online
Building a website is necessary even if you only work out of a physical location. Local customers want to see your hours, location, and offerings (such as your menu) on the go and at home. A website provides a digital presence you own and control. That means you can share reviews, offer solutions, and answer questions to encourage purchase. As we discovered during the pandemic lockdowns, owning digital real estate allowed businesses to quickly pivot to online sales and curbside pickup that would have been much slower without an existing website. Of course, building a website isn’t enough. People must find your website and that’s where SEO comes in.
SEO stands for search engine optimization. It involves using various techniques to boost one’s rankings on search engines like Google and Bing. The most effective SEO technique involves creating valuable content on a consistent basis then integrating keywords that represent user intent into the content.
Local SEO opportunities also exist and can provide enhanced visibility by appearing prominently in results along with maps to show the physical location, such as the one below.
Start local SEO through Google My Business and verify your physical location. Like any SEO plan, however, you must still conform to other aspects of SEO to reach these top listings. Companies such as TESSA Marketing & Technology can help you with local SEO campaigns that involve targeting ‘local keywords’ used by customers in your area and improve your rank. Local keywords might include terms like ‘barber near me’ or ‘local barber’ which trigger local results, as well as more unique keywords relevant to your area, such as using the name of your town or region as a keyword.
Google Maps advertising
When looking for local businesses, many customers now use tools like Google Maps on their mobile device or even when searching on a desktop/laptop. Such tools pinpoint business in the area on a digital GPS map or even allow users to explore what’s nearby. Helping your company appear on Google Maps involves creating a Google My Business account as mentioned above. You can also advertise using local search advertising to show your business when users search Google Maps. You can find guides online to help your get started with local search advertising so your business location is featured on Google Maps.
Before using a new local business, many customers consult online reviews and star ratings to help them feel comfortable that the business can meet their needs and that they can trust the business. You should work hard to ensure you’ve got some positive reviews (ideally much more positive reviews than negative reviews). You can help encourage positive reviews by reaching out to past happy customers and asking them kindly to leave a review.
Google My Business makes it easy for local businesses to garner and share reviews and star ratings. In fact, your star rating appears in search results, so do everything you can to get the most stars possible. That means auditing your service and product quality to ensure you deliver on customer expectations every time. After the audit, put new procedures in place to fix any holes detected and have a process of constant review to ensure your customer service procedures are followed at all times by all employees. Training in these customer service procedures should be a big part of onboarding employees.
Social media also plays a role in local online marketing – particularly sites like Facebook that offer location-targeted ads. You can also use local hashtags such as #Cleveland on sites like Instagram and Twitter to connect with local customers. Consider creating pages on a couple of social platforms, being careful to only create platforms that match your customer profile and your bandwidth for new projects.
Creating platforms is just the first step. You must create posts that provide value to users on a consistent basis; 1 or 2 a day for Facebook and up to 15 a day on Twitter (this is where your bandwidth factor comes in). Your posts must engage users and present your brand in its best light.
Try to relate some of your social media content to local events – talking about local festivals and news stories can help to steer the local conversation towards your business. You can even cross-promote with other non-competing local businesses.
Online local news
While few people read physical local newspapers nowadays, many local news publications thrive with an online audience. Getting featured on your local news site provides a great boost to your reputation, creates greater awareness, and generates buzz for your brand. To get featured, you need to approach your news outlet with a story that is newsworthy. This could include the opening of a store or some amazing work you’ve done with a customer or charity.
Local news also offers advertising opportunities that are very cost-effective. You can even find hyper-local advertising opportunities through platforms such as local groups on Facebook or Nextdoor, which has editions for many local neighborhoods.
Thus far, we discussed ways you can use digital strategies to support your physical business. But, the opportunity works in reverse, as well. Covid-19 helped increase the popularity of QR codes that connect your physical location to your online presence. This way of forging a connection between the business and customers was contactless, making it the perfect way for customers to access your menu.
Many companies started to use QR codes as an effective mobile marketing tool – by printing them on flyers, posters, and business cards years ago but the pandemic made customers more comfortable using them for lots of other tasks in addition to looking at the menu. With QR codes, you can quickly direct people to a specific web page without the nuisance of mistyping or laziness. You can send users directly to the site to like your page, post a review, or any other web-accessible site, even those you don’t own.
QR codes are great for local businesses as these tend to be the types of businesses that use flyers, posters, and business cards the most. Take your print marketing strategy into the 21st century.
Marketing to local customers involves a combination of online marketing and offline marketing tactics. These are just a few of the ways available for local businesses to reach more local customers.
Need marketing help to support business growth?
We welcome the opportunity to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE with our data-driven, results-oriented marketing strategies. Sign up for our FREE newsletter, get our FREE guide to creating an awesome website, or contact us for more information on hiring us.
Hausman and Associates, the publisher of MKT Maven, is a full-service marketing agency operating at the intersection of marketing and digital media. Check out our full range of services.