A store in an attractive location, a bit of word-of-mouth advertising — for a long time, that was enough to build up a loyal customer base. In our digital society, things look very different. In the worst case, even walk-in customers are too busy with their smartphones to notice your local business.
For local businesses, too, it’s therefore no longer just a matter of having a local presence. Even well-run businesses that have a loyal customer base are reaching their limits with a purely local marketing strategy. Prospective customers are digitally inspired to try out competitors, buy products and use services.
Here are the most important tips in online marketing for local businesses.
1. Your website should be accessible everywhere!
The websites of local businesses, in particular, should be accessible while on the move. The trend toward mobile Internet use can hardly be overestimated in its importance for local businesses and service providers.
The “mobile first” trend in digital marketing is especially true for local businesses. All of your company’s key websites should be optimized for mobile and tablet access. Not only visitors to your website will honour an appropriate concept, the search engines also appreciate a good presentation on mobile devices and will rank your pages higher in the search results!
2. Place your company in the search engines
The search engine is one of the most important digital contact points between local businesses and potential customers. Digital searches for a hairdresser, coffee shops or restaurants are usually conducted with the help of Google.
Place your business at the top of the search results for the right keywords. This pays dividends in terms of both your company’s presence and its digital reputation. Good rankings in search engines can trigger a massive increase in customer inquiries, visits and sales. Google’s plan to make search results increasingly customized to the searcher and their location makes search engine marketing even more interesting for local businesses.
Whilst the classic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) approach primarily aims to optimize the website for specific keywords, Local SEO pushes good positioning in specific regions. So with Local SEO you reach exactly those people who are in the vicinity of your company, and who are interested in exactly the products and services you offer.
3. Use social media
Social media connects your local business with existing customers and relevant audiences. Social media activity also improves your ranking in search services and strengthens overall visibility. In addition, local businesses can promote themselves and their products very efficiently in the form of ads on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the like.
Act as an important contact point in your subject area — network with the accounts that are relevant to your business and your customers. Post on your core topics and position yourself as an expert. Or run ads with content that’s precisely aligned with your target audience’s interests. Address your social media ads to the exact people you want to reach.
4. Manage your listings in online business directories
Local businesses don’t just boost their digital presence through their website and building social media accounts. Numerous online business directories, review platforms, map services, and apps also carry the data of local businesses. This visible data is particularly relevant for prospective customers and customers as well as for the search engine.
The so-called local citations stored here contain the name, address, telephone numbers and other details about your company. If this information is not up to date or incorrect, it can scare away customers and prospects. In addition, search engines penalize inconsistent entries and downgrade the company in the search results accordingly.
5. Take care of customer reviews
It’s no longer just about how customers talk about you. Even today, how customers rate you online is extremely important. Online customer reviews have a huge impact on potential customers’ buying decisions. Bad reviews can cause local businesses to lose sales in a very short time. Positive reviews can mean a decisive competitive advantage.
Local businesses should not simply let customer reviews wash over them. Active reputation management pays off! Monitor what is written about your company on the portals. Respond to both positive and negative reviews. Respond to praise, suggestions and complaints. Learn something about your customers and draw important conclusions for the further development of your business.
6. Communicate as an expert
Content marketing is one of the big online marketing buzzwords in recent years. Content marketing means that companies and brands, away from just promoting products, publish content to build a reputation with their target audience. Companies then act like publishers and publish blogposts, videos, guides and journalistic articles on topics related to their core business. In the best case, the company is perceived as a competent, inspiring or trustworthy contact with special expertise.