By Austin Andrukaitis, CEO of ChamberofCommerce.com. Experienced digital marketing strategist with more than 15 years of experience in creating online campaigns.
The line between online and offline experiences is blurred in today’s digital environment. Consumers support local businesses by ordering online from their websites. Your marketing strategy must move fluidly between the two worlds to attract more prospective customers and drive sales. But digital marketing can be intimidating for many local businesses. Without the deep pockets of national brands, how can you stay competitive?
The good news is that many consumers want to buy from local businesses. But you must proactively get in front of them and build relationships through touchpoints they already use—including digital channels.
Websites, email lists and online directories are table stakes. What else can you do to promote your business effectively in 2023 and beyond? Let’s take a look.
Boost your local search engine optimization.
Local businesses have an edge in claiming the coveted “position zero” at the top of relevant Google search results, which may show a map of local businesses near the searcher. Users can get directions to your store or tap to call right from their smartphones.
Claim and complete your Google My Business listing. Include detailed information, add photos and ask your customers to post ratings and reviews. Also, optimize your website with relevant local keywords to improve your organic ranking in local searches.
Up your paid ad-targeting game.
Most pay-per-click advertising platforms (e.g., Facebook, Google) allow advertisers to target audience segments based on zip codes or geographic regions. Besides selecting a location, you should target keywords and use languages relevant to your area.
Add the target location to the title and meta description of the landing page. Use Google Trends to identify popular keywords in your area and incorporate them into your ads. Also, leverage programmatic advertising to help maximize your ad budget by automating your bidding strategy.
Reach more people with video marketing.
Short video formats like TikTok, YouTube Shorts and Instagram Reels are popular, especially among the younger generations. But short attention spans also mean that your messaging must be clear, punchy and memorable.
Starting a YouTube channel is a great way to begin your expedition into generating video content. It’s relatively simple and low-cost and could be a great way to showcase your expertise while remaining accessible.
Besides live commerce, you can use live streaming to reach new customers with high-quality how-to tutorials and product demos. You can even conduct interviews and podcasts, and really sell yourself to grow your audience and expand your reach.
Partner with micro-influencers.
Influencer marketing allows you to associate your brand with personalities the audience already knows, likes and trusts. When influencers recommend your product to their audiences, you gain instant credibility that helps increase brand awareness and drive conversions.
But you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to get celebrity endorsements. Instead, work with micro- and nano-influencers with small but loyal followings. You can keep the cost low while reaching high-targeted, local audiences via various social media platforms.
Embrace user-generated content.
You can also build a social media following by sharing content relevant to your local audiences. Use locally-relevant and timely hashtags to improve your posts’ discoverability. Also, ask your customers to tag or mention you in their posts when they share their experiences with your business.
You can also tap into the power of UGC by encouraging your customers to post photos and videos of your products (e.g., a photo contest.) The tactic can help you reach their followers, building instant credibility and connections with a new audience.
Remember that posts on social media platforms are the new word of mouth. Often, people keep up with their friends more on social networks like Facebook and Twitter than they do in person. Every post one of your existing customers makes increases brand recognition in potential customers from the very community you want to reach.
Bridge the online and offline customer experience.
Omnichannel marketing is critical for reaching customers where they are. For local businesses, it means blending your online presence with offline channels to create a seamless brand experience across various touchpoints, such as in-store, website, social media, email, phone, etc.
You can launch a direct mail campaign with a QR code that takes prospects to your website or landing page, where they get an in-store discount when they subscribe to your email list. Or you can host a local event supported by an online component (e.g., an in-real-life scavenger hunt with clues posted to your Facebook page.)
Once you have a few customers on your email list, email marketing is a simple and effective way for small business owners to keep in touch with their local community members. Try offering discounts and incentives on occasion.
Leverage data-driven insights.
Big data and advanced analytics aren’t just for big corporations. Artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities are now available in many software-as-a-service marketing tools, empowering businesses of any size to derive insights from data without the high costs.
Identify the right key performance indicators to track for each channel and measure their effectiveness. A/B test your ads and bidding strategy to help allocate your PPC budget strategically. Also, leverage the insights to deliver a personalized customer experience.
Bottom line: It’s all about the customer. The foundation of successful marketing is about delivering meaningful experiences to your customers. Local businesses are uniquely positioned to take advantage of today’s blurring of the line between online and offline channels to meet potential customers where they are, nurture an ongoing dialogue and stay top of mind.