When you’re a small business, every penny counts. Funds for marketing are limited, which means you can’t throw money at campaigns in the same way that global brands do.
But here’s the thing: marketing isn’t all about how much money you spend.
As a small business, you have something at your disposal that many big brands don’t: local marketing.
In other words, millions of people are looking for local businesses like yours online.
In this post we’re going to take you through seven steps that will help you create a local marketing strategy that wins you new customers.
- How to set goals
- How to improve your website
- How to sharpen your SEO
- How to create a content marketing strategy
- How to focus your social media
- How to find new marketing channels
- How to measure marketing effectiveness
But before we get into all of that, what exactly is local marketing?
What is local marketing?
Local marketing is the process of optimizing your website and online marketing to target your local area.
Since Google focuses on showing users location-based results first, it’s an opportunity to get ahead of non-local competitors and attract new customers.
If you rely on local customers, you need to embrace local marketing.
Okay, on with the strategy.
Step 1: Set ambitious growth goals
“Marketers who set goals are 429% more likely to report success than those who don’t. And 81% of those successful, goal-setting marketers achieve them.” — Co Schedule
Goals are the target on the wall – a thing to aim for rather than shooting blind. In local marketing, they’re the backbone of your entire strategy and the most important factor in helping you grow your business.
According to a small business survey by Staples, 80% of small businesses don’t keep track of their business goals. That high percentage shows that it’s clearly not an easy thing to do, but by taking the time to set your goals you’ll be putting yourself ahead of much of the competition.
The key thing to bear in mind about setting growth goals, however ambitious they may be, is that they have to be set in reality. Setting the bar high is great but your goals need to be obtainable.
The easiest way to do this is with SMART goals.
SMART is an acronym that stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.
Let’s break each of these elements down.
Specific: Your goals need to be metric-based. Saying, “I want to sell more products” is too vague. How many products do you want to sell and what is the deadline?
Measurable: If you want to track your progress, goals need to be quantifiable. “I want an X percent increase in website leads.”
Attainable: For growth, your goals need to be challenging, but achievable. If leads through your website increased by 10% last month, set a goal to increase them by 15%, not 50%.
Relevant: Your goals need to be relevant to what you’re trying to achieve. Is it worth trying to get more followers on Twitter or Pinterest if neither of these channels currently bring in revenue? Set goals that play to your strengths.
Time-bound: A deadline focuses the mind and makes teams work harder to accomplish goals. Trying to increase sales by 30% by “some day next year” won’t produce the same kind of growth that increasing them 5% every month will.
How to set local marketing goals
Write down your goal, keeping the SMART framework in mind. A good goal-setting formula looks like this:
Our aim is to reach [number] [metric] [time frame] by [deadline].
For example, if you’re trying to grow your Facebook following, your goal might look like this:
Our aim is to reach 1000 new Facebook followers every month by June 30, 2019.
The next step is to choose the metric that best fits the stage of the funnel you’re looking to target — awareness (top), consideration (middle), or purchase (bottom).
- If you want to get your business discovered, consider focusing on website traffic or growing your social media following
- If you’re trying to convince more people to choose your business, look at increasing clicks on ads or improving email open rates
- If you want more people buying, set goals around purchases, getting quotes or calling you for information
Once you’ve decided on the goal, use a goal setting template to define how you’re going to hit your target. Look at your average numbers in the past three months and set out your final goal.
You’ll then know how much of an increase is needed in the months leading up to the deadline.
Step 2: Build a better website by understanding your customers
Whatever goal you set, the ultimate aim is to encourage more people to buy from you. The tool that’s going to help you achieve this is your website.
To drive conversions, your website needs to give customers what they want. This comes from understanding their needs and desires.
You can do this by:
- Asking them through satisfaction surveys and customer service calls
- Being where they are by using and monitoring social media channels
- Analyzing the data in your analytics and CRM and looking for patterns in demographics, preferences, and customer behavior
- Building customer profiles by asking yourself who buys your product, what problems they have and why they would choose you
Now you need to implement what you’ve learned about your customers in order to convince them that you’re the best choice. Your website will need strong headlines, good copy, well-placed calls-to-action and social proof to do so.
A great example of all four of these things in action can be found on the Basecamp homepage. Okay, it’s not a local business, but it’s a site you can take a lot of inspiration from:
The headline is intriguing, it makes you want to read more. The copy is fun, while selling the benefit of the product. Then there’s the call-to-action: “Try Basecamp free for 30 days.”
A customer reading that might be happy enough to sign-up immediately. Or they might need some further convincing. Scroll a little further down the page and they get exactly that, in the form of social proof — testimonials from real users:
Another good example from the local marketing world is Anytime Fitness.
A simple headline that tells you what’s on offer, followed by a call-to-action that will help you track down your local gym.
And finally, Mr. Rooter — a local plumber that makes the benefits of its service clear from the start: “Upfront, Flat Rate Pricing”, “Never an Overtime Charge”, “Courteous, Uniformed Professionals”.
Build your site with the customer in mind. Make your headlines:
Furthermore, your copy and calls-to-action must be:
And finally, use social proof wherever possible. 86% of consumers say they read reviews for local businesses and 57% will only use a business if it has a 4+ star rating.
Step 3: Get your SEO house in order
The benefits of SEO (search engine optimization) are well known. The more prominent your website is in search engine listings, the more leads and sales you’ll get.
For a small business with a local marketing strategy, SEO offers listings in local pack results, which appear with sufficient local intent:
As well as organic local results:
Done right, SEO helps you grow your online presence, generate leads, and win customers.
- The Google 3-Pack appears in the top spot in 93% of local searches
- 18% of local mobile searches lead to a sale within one day
- 7 out of 10 customers visit a business or make a purchase based on information found online
- Search beats social media by 300% as a traffic source
The challenge here is that more local businesses are taking local SEO seriously, which means more competition to rise to the top of the search results. You need to get your “SEO house” in order if you’re to succeed.
Here’s a quick checklist you can use to help your business rank higher in the search results:
- Optimize page titles and meta descriptions (50-60 characters for titles, 155-165 characters for descriptions)
- List your business in local directories (such as Yelp) to boost SEO. Make sure all of your business information — name, address, and phone number — is present and correct
- Make sure your website is mobile-friendly. 88% of local business searches on mobile call or visit a business within 24 hours
- Add local keywords to your titles, meta descriptions, headers, URLs, and anchor text to boost SEO
- Add keywords to image alt tags to boost image search rankings
- Compress images to improve page load time (page speed is an important ranking factor)
- Claim your “Google My Business” listing. 56% of local businesses haven’t claimed theirs yet, despite Google prioritizing local businesses in local searches
- Optimize your “Google My Business” listing by choosing a relevant category and providing in-depth, accurate information on business description, opening hours, and types of payment accepted. Also, make sure to include your company logo and 10-15 high-quality images
- Ask for customers to review your business on Google and Facebook (if you have a Facebook page)
Another way to increase search presence is through link building.
Link building carries more weight than any other ranking factor. It tells Google that you’re popular and people are talking about you. The more high-quality links you have from reputable, trusted domains, the better your search ranking will be.
To increase authority and generate relevant traffic from search engines, get local sources to link to you. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Have a presence in online directories, Facebook, and Google My Business
- Get reviews or features from local bloggers or influencers in your niche
- Submit company news stories to the local press and industry publications
- Use Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your business (if someone has mentioned you, ask them to link to you)
- Analyze the backlinks of competitors – sites that have linked to them that might also link to you
Taking simple steps to improve on-page SEO and build links will put you ahead of a large percentage of the competition.
Step 4: Add value and educate your audience
According to a report by the Ecommerce Foundation, 88% of people conduct research before making a purchase online or in-store. Another report by Demand Gen found that 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before talking to a sales rep.
People want to know they can trust you before committing. They want to know how your product or service can help them and why they should choose you over your competitor.
How do you convince them? By adding value and engagement beyond the product or service.
Educate customers on your brand and products or services and show them you care by giving away content that enhances their lives.
You can achieve this with a good content marketing strategy.
How to create a content marketing strategy
Content marketing expert, Jay Baer, put together an excellent slide deck on how to create a strategy your customers will love by following these seven steps:
- Define your objectives
- Define what sets you apart
- Establish which metrics you’re tracking
- Define your audience
- Research audience needs
- Decide on the type of content to produce
- Amplify your content through social media, influence, employee and customer sharing
Once you have your strategy in place, you can focus on the two biggest content marketing assets: blog posts and lead magnets.
These will help drive traffic, increase awareness, and form an important part of your email and social campaigns.
Creating a Blog Post
Blogging helps build relationships with customers, connect people to your brand, and increase awareness.
- Businesses that blog have 434% more indexed pages
- Websites with blogs receive 97% more links to their website
- A blog is the 5th most trusted source for accurate online information
Here’s how to create a post that offers value to readers:
- Plan out your post by researching the topic and creating an outline
- Create a headline that captures attention. Check out Hubspot’s post on headlines that get results
- Use subheadings and bullet points to break up content and make it easier to read. Write in short sentences and short paragraphs
- Include images. Blog posts with images get 94% more views
- Edit and proofread to ensure there are no typos. Grammarly is a great tool for this
Creating a Lead Magnet
Lead magnets are free content that you give to visitors in exchange for an email address that can be used to engage subscribers and turn them into paying customers.
Popular types of lead magnets include:
- Whitepaper Reports
- Video tutorials
To create a lead magnet worth downloading:
- Decide which prospects you want to target
- Identify the problem you’re going to solve
- Decide on the lead magnet you’re going to create
- Create an eye-catching headline
- Design lead magnet landing pages with strong calls-to-action
According to Gartner, by 2020 customers will manage 85% of their relationships without talking to a human. Content marketing is fast becoming the most important sales tool.
Step 5: Use social media strategically
Social media is a big part of your local marketing strategy in terms of sharing content and reaching your audience. It’s also important for customer service. 71% of people who had a good social media service experience with a brand are likely to recommend it to others.
There’s a tendency, because of the number of users on each platform, to sign up to every social media site.
That’s a bad idea.
The important thing is not to be everywhere, but to be where your audience is.
Spreading yourself too thin makes it hard to be present and consistent on each channel. And if you can’t post regularly you probably shouldn’t post at all.
Pick a small number of social media sites that are going to be the most beneficial for engagement and focus on those.
Finding the right social channels for your business
To find out which channels are most worth your time ask yourself:
- Why am I using social media?
- What is the outcome I’m looking for?
- Who is the audience?
- Which type of content will work best to meet my objectives?
When you’ve answered these questions you’ll be able to choose the right platform(s). Base this decision on:
- Reach — how much of your audience use the platform?
- Reasons — why does your audience use this platform?
- Resources — how much time, effort, and money do you need to invest to meet your objectives?
Step 6: Identify and test marketing channels (plus bonus tips and techniques)
Two of the biggest problems you’ll encounter in your marketing campaigns are competition and saturation.
Take Facebook, for example. Five years ago, the platform was a great way to build a following for a business. But more businesses started using it and users began seeing too many business posts in their feed. So Facebook flipped the switch and made it harder for business pages to achieve an organic reach.
To counter that, businesses turned to Facebook Ads to reach customers. And now ads are more competitive than they were last year.
Keep identifying and testing new platforms to find out what works for you and your audience.
Bonus tips to find and test new marketing channels
- Use tools like SEMRush and QuickSprout to spy on competitors and see which channels they’re using
- Subscribe to marketing blogs to learn about new channels. Some blogs to add to your list are: Search Engine Land, Search Engine Journal, Moz blog, Neil Patel, Econsultancy
- Give free channels at least six months of your time before measuring return on investment. Growth tends to be slower on these channels
- Spend more money on profitable channels
- Don’t waste time or money on channels that don’t bring in new customers unless they offer long-term value
- Continually tweak campaigns to test new keywords and remove keywords that aren’t performing
Some channels you test will be good, others will be a waste of time. Keep experimenting and you’ll find platforms that offer positive results.
Step 7: Measuring your ROI & growth using analytics
And so, the final step in your local marketing strategy: running the numbers.
For local marketing to be successful you need to know what’s working and what isn’t. Google Analytics has the answers.
The data you can pull from analytics will help you identify which channels deserve your time, which marketing tactics work best, and which should be dropped from your strategy.
To measure the effectiveness of your marketing, look at the following metrics:
- Landing page conversion rate — this can be found by going to Behavior > Landing Pages in and analyzing Goal Conversion Rate and Goal Completions in Google Analytics
- Social media traffic — this can be found by going to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels in Google Analytics
- Email marketing performance — look for open rates and click-through rates in your email marketing platform to see how people are engaging with your emails
- Lead conversion rate — measure lead success by calculating number of sales / number of leads. So, if you had 200 sales from 1000 leads, your lead conversion rate would be 20%
- Feedback loops — use feedback loops to collect customer feedback through social listening, phone calls, questionnaires, and emails. Listen to complaints about where you’re going wrong in your marketing and make changes to improve ROI
Wrapping it up
There’s a lot of information in the steps we’ve laid out in this post so let’s recap:
- Set achievable goals using the SMART method
- Build a website that gives customers what they want
- Improve SEO by optimizing your website to include keywords and building links
- Create content that gives value to your audience
- Stick to a small number of social media channels that offer the best ROI
- Continually seek out and test new marketing channels
- Measure campaigns and use the data to improve
Local marketing doesn’t necessarily have all the bells and whistles of a big budget global marketing campaign, but it’s no less important and every bit as valuable.
Targeting a local audience is the best way to scale your online presence, build awareness and become an established brand in your area. Following the steps and local marketing ideas in this post will help you achieve your goals.
All screenshots via author, taken February 2019.
Image 1, 2: via Basecamp
Image 3: via Anytime Fitness
Image 4: via Mr. Rooter
Image 5-6: via Google SERPs