If only you could just do what you do best and have customers come to you without having to do any marketing. Between providing your customers with exceptional service and managing the endless list of things you need to do when running a business, it’s hard to make the time to tackle marketing and maintaining your online presence. When you’re not an expert in digital marketing, it’s also hard to know where to even start, with strategies and new platforms rising up each year.
Well, stick around, because we’re about to show you how to make your life a whole lot easier.
We’re going to cover the latest trends into how potential customers find local businesses, how you can build your digital footprint and connect with your local customers, and how using the right all-in-one marketing intelligence platform can help you attract, convert, and retain more local customers all the while reducing your marketing expenses and helping you grow the business profitably.
Part 1 – Mapping the Customer Journey
Originally, when people searched for a business online, they would type what they were looking for into a search engine on a laptop or desktop computer. That was the only option available.
Nowadays, people browse and buy via social media, they use mobile search, search by asking questions, and search by image. There’s also voice search to add to the mix, thanks to the advent of Amazon Echo, Apple’s Siri, and more. People are no longer buying just through their laptop or desktop, and they might not be home when they are searching, or even looking at a screen. They are using multiple devices to find what they want, decide on which company to use, and complete their purchase.
From a consumer point of view, that’s fantastic. There are so many options now; so many ways to find what they want and need. It’s convenient and, if businesses have gotten their end of things set up properly to walk the customer through to the point where they can buy, it will also be easy.
Some of these changes can be attributed to the pandemic, when people had no choice but to search online and have things delivered. But, having discovered the convenience of searching and buying that way, customers are unlikely to fully go back to how they did things before.
If you’re not convinced, take a look at some of the latest local search stats:
- “88% of consumers who do a local search on their smartphone visit or call a store within a day” – SEO Expert Brad
- “97% of people learn more about a local company online than anywhere else.” – SEO Tribunal
This new way of searching is also fantastic for businesses because there are so many ways you can be found now.
However, it’s not enough to stick with the old ways of marketing and reaching out to your customers. You have to be up to date, consistent, and show the correct information for your business everywhere you can be found on the internet.
That means your existing new customer acquisition strategies have to change. It’s a new world post-pandemic, but it doesn’t have to be a bad one for your local business.
It’s hard to maintain your digital footprint, but with so many people searching locally and via other means than just a straight Google search, you really need to be there to be found. If you aren’t, and your competitors have got this sorted, they’ll be found and bought from, when it could have been you.
- “80% of consumers lose trust in local businesses if they see incorrect or inconsistent information.”
- “68% of consumers would not use a local business if they found incorrect information in listings.” – both from BrightLocal.
We’ve talked about your digital footprint, but what exactly is that? Your digital footprint is made up of everything about your business online, and that’s not just what you say about yourself, but also what other people are saying about you.
Your digital footprint consists of three parts:
1) Your basic brand data
Your business name and logo, website address and email, phone number, street address, and things like how long you’ve been in business, and any awards you’ve won.
Your website and social media, business directories, maps, and review sites.
Reviews crop up again here, as they are content that’s created by both you, (with your replies) and the customer. Added to that, are blog posts, articles, photos, videos, and social media posts, as you’d expect. And it also includes digital ads, such as Google ads, and Google posts (posts you can add on Google My Business).
Notice how very little of that is about your website. In fact, 73% of customer engagement happens off your website. That doesn’t mean it’s not important, because it absolutely still is, but it does mean that you have a whole host of other things to consider, too.
Here’s what to think about when looking to increase your online visibility and create the opportunity to reach and connect with more local customers:
How often do you publish new content on all of your platforms? Do you keep your website and your directory listings up to date and how often do you post on social media? We’ve all seen websites where the last blog post was written two years ago and the Facebook page is a ghost town, and that’s not going to cut it now. Customers are looking for fresh content, immediate connection, and answers right now! If they can’t find them with you, they’ll move on to the next local business they can find.
Do the search engines (particularly Google as it’s the largest) know that you provide your services in the areas your customers are searching in? It’s vital to make it clear everywhere you can that you offer wedding cakes in Wilmington or car repairs in Colorado.
On your website, and on Google My Business and Facebook, you can post about your business hours. It matters that you are seen to be available when someone is searching for a business like yours. People don’t want to wait, once they’ve decided to search for a particular service. They tend to want answers now.
Are you creating valuable and useful content that clearly provides answers to the questions people are searching for? Are you using the search terms your customers do in your content and do you know what people are asking about your type of business? Think about how you can improve your content across the web, and provide an excellent, highly relevant experience for your potential customers.
Are you considered an expert in your field? Is your content on your website good enough that people refer to it and link back to it as a great source of knowledge on your type of services? If not, look into improving your content and acquiring backlinks from other sites.
Think about how you can more easily reach your local customers and strategize to plan your local online marketing.
You might want to include in your plan things like the next piece of content you’ll post on your site, what visual content you will post next on Google My Business, and which ads you will run, where, and what objectives they will have. Also, look at your processes for acquiring more online reviews and what tools you could use to make that easier, and check if your website is optimized for local and voice searches.
You can’t do everything at once, but you can put together a plan that covers your next steps and implement it. Take it day by day, month by month and you’ll see the results will be beyond what you imagined.
Part 2 – Your Digital Footprint
During the pandemic, things changed for us all, businesses and customers alike. Customers couldn’t just wander into our offices, stores, and garages to meet us, look us over, and decide if they liked us. Any connection that was going to be made was either by telephone, an email or online because it had to be. Likewise, local search became even more important because customers couldn’t just hop in their SUV and pop down to the local stores. The only way to get what they needed was online.
That made your digital footprint far more important than it ever was, and it’s still the case now. Yes, stores and businesses are opening up now, but things will never fully go back to the way they were now that customers know how easy and effective a quick local search can be.
That means you need all your digital ducks in a row, and you have to be ready.
So, back to your digital footprint. We’ve covered it a little in the previous section, but now we’re going to dig into eight specific things that you need to make sure your digital footprint is the bee’s knees:
1) Google My Business
Google My Business (GMB) is a vital part of your digital footprint, which is why it comes in at number one on the list.
With GMB, you can create a business profile on Google that allows you to add your contact details, info on services, opening hours, your service area, and more. You can gain reviews and connect with customers directly, and your business will appear in search, on Google Maps, and more.
While it is yet another thing to fill in and keep updated, you really do want to prioritize this one. You can get around 35% more clicks to your website by uploading photos and videos to Google My Business. And with 56% of local businesses not having claimed their Google My Business Listing, and 40% not having made a single Google post, you’re more likely to be found in search if you use it.
NAP stands for Name, Address, and Phone number, and this is another area that’s vital to get right. If you’ve added yourself to business directories, put your contact info on social media, and added it on your website, it absolutely must be exactly the same everywhere it occurs.
Main Street, Andor County, Colorado
If any of this information is incorrect or displayed in a different format, you’re giving the search engines, and your customers, doubt as to whether that’s the same business, and doubt isn’t a good thing.
3) Local Directory Listings
Local directory listings are more important than you might think. If you’ve ever hesitated to add your business to a reputable directory, it could be worth a rethink.
What you’re looking for with every effort you make online is visibility. You want to be found by potential customers when they are looking for what you do, and the more local directory listings, or citations, as they’re known, the more visibility you have, and the greater your chance of making a connection with potential customers.
In addition to visibility, local listings also establish trust and can help to build your brand. If you’re in every directory, and everywhere your potential customers turn, they’re going to start to recognize your name. We’ve all heard that people need to know, like, and trust you, before they’ll buy. Well, getting in local directories can give you that first step on the way to buying.
Google also takes local listings seriously, using them to establish how trustworthy your location is. The more Google can establish that you really are X business in Y town, the more confident they will be about pushing you up the rankings in local search.
4) Your website
Your website can be one of the first things your potential customers see, so it’s got to be good.
- Make sure your site looks fresh and modern, and that it reflects your brand.
- Check if the information on your site is up to date and correct.
- Test your site speed. Did you know some customers expect your site to load in only 2 seconds, and if it takes 3 seconds or more, 40% of them will move on to another site? Google’s Page Speed Insights will check your site speed and give you suggestions on how to improve it.
- Is your site fully optimized for mobile and responsive? If it’s not, you’re missing out on traffic and sales. Google also has a handy mobile responsiveness checker.
- Are you using https:// protocol to secure your site? If not, 82% of people won’t browse an unsecured website.
- Coming back to your NAP (Name, Address, and Phone number) again, this information should be listed consistently, and prominently, on your website, too.
- A good Call-to-Action form can grab attention at the top of your home page.
- Do you have a schema? Incorporating local structured data can help the search engines decide what your website is about.
- Can your customers easily browse your site and find what they need?
- What is the buying experience like? Can people smoothly add services to their shopping cart and checkout?
- Are you posting quality content consistently? With good content, you’ll be found more easily in the search engines, and customers are more likely to trust you as an expert.
Here’s a quote for you, if you’re not convinced that content makes a difference to your sales: “90% of people say user-generated content (UGC) is more impactful than promotional emails or search results.”
What is user-generated content? Reviews, testimonials, recommendations, posts, and other forms of content, such as video, created by people who aren’t part of your business.
In addition to user-generated content, you should also be writing your own relevant content that’s optimized for the search engines. From SearchEngineJournal, “If you want organic search visibility, rankings, and traffic, you have to commit yourself to the grind of consistently creating optimized content.” Visibility, rankings, and traffic are exactly what you want to be found locally by all those potential customers.
6) Social Media
With social media, again it’s about relevant, useful content. If you share your website content on your social platforms, you’ll get a wider audience that may share and interact, as well as visiting your website. This can increase your organic traffic and grow your visibility.
Word-of-mouth is something all businesses love to aim for. It’s great when it gets to the point that your business is well-known and trusted enough that people refer you to people they know. But now, more and more people are finding out about companies on social media, so it’s not something you can ignore.
One other huge bonus for customers is that they can ask questions directly on social media and get support quickly. It’s personal, helpful, and, handled properly, can make your customers feel looked after and valued. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that social media is expected to become the main channel for customer service.
7) Digital Advertising
It’s possible to get excellent results from running paid ads. You can choose what your objective is, including building brand awareness, making a sale, and acquiring newsletter sign-ups.
You can opt for Google and Bing ads to appear at the top of the search listings, or if you know your customers are on a particular social platform, you can choose ads to target them right where they hang out, perhaps on LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, or Facebook.
Check out Surefire Local’s Online Advertising 101 Workshop for a great starting point to develop and launch a paid ads strategy.
Remember how important user-generated content is for customers? Reviews are where it’s at if you really want to increase your visibility.
Aim to get reviews on sites with high domain authority like Google, Facebook, and Yelp. 48% of customers only look at reviews that have been posted in the last two weeks, so this is an ongoing task, but it is worth it as 97% of consumers read online reviews to judge a local business. Try to get at least 3 new reviews every month to keep things current.
One other fascinating statistic is that 48% of consumers simply don’t expect a business to respond to their review at all. Make the time to respond to your new reviews within 24 hours. It really is worth it. You’re making yourself stand out as a business that cares, especially when you take the time to respond to the negative reviews and try to resolve them.
Whew, that’s a lot, isn’t it? A whole lot to think about, and so many different platforms and things to manage. So how can you simplify your digital marketing so you build a sustainable, consistent digital footprint, without hiring an army of people just to take care of that?
Well, there is a solution to help you with your new customer acquisition strategies, and that’s what we’re going to talk about next.
Part 3 – Growing Your Business
When you’re not a marketer, trying to even contemplate all the things you have to do to get to grips with local search can seem overwhelming.
You started your business so you could do what you’re good at, maybe even something you love, and here you are with a list of ‘to dos’ that could be a full-time job on top of providing your service.
You need to put your customers first, convince people to trust you and buy from you over your competitors, keep up with getting reviews, and respond to customers on Google My Business. Then there’s getting the right kind of high-quality traffic and making sure you have a consistent brand image and voice across multiple digital channels. And what about making videos and creating great photos when you have no experience at all?
Before you decide it’s just not worth it, we can help. With Surefire Local’s all-in-one marketing intelligence platform, we can streamline your local marketing, help you automate some of your tasks, and engage your customers to drive revenue growth.
How? It’s our mission to help small businesses grow by making marketing easier, so our software is designed to do just that. You can manage and grow your digital footprint right from your dashboard, all in one place.
- You can use insights to create better content and target your ideal customers better by finding out where they are coming from. Find out how to optimize your GMB profile for better results.
- There are so many features you’ll love on our platform, including a place to control your full content creation workflow, and to write and schedule your social media.
- There’s space to record notes of your conversations with customers, allowing you take note of the language they use and the questions they ask, to help you develop new content and target more customers.
- Make life easier for yourself with our gallery feature, where you can save and share videos and images to your website, social, and GMB.
- Manage your reviews, including sending review requests, sending reminders and posting replies directly from our software platform.
- Manage over 80 directory listings all at once!
- Use our platform to send email campaigns and measure your responses.
76% of local marketers see a positive ROI within a year after adding automation, so why not book a demo and see how small businesses just like yours are enjoying a 385% ROI with a full-service marketing platform. See how you can save time and energy but still grow your business and have full control over your local marketing. Book now!