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Why Online Local Marketing Can Make or Break a Small Business

Local marketing is likely to be a hot topic for small businesses in 2015 and beyond. One of the biggest strengths of small businesses is their presence in local communities. Often, local people in your city, town, or neighborhood will be happy to support your business if you give them a reason why you’re uniquely situated to suit their needs. There are a lot of great online tools (and traditional “low-tech” marketing techniques) that make it easier than ever before to maximize your local marketing presence.

The Benefits of Online Marketing for Local Businesses

  • Attract lots of customers

    Developments in social media and mobile devices mean that it’s now far easier to attract a large group to your business. Foursquare, for example, awards a ‘swarm’ badge to every check-in if you get 50 or more people to attend a business at a pre-arranged time. Many people like to be part of a group, and like to visit places that seem popular with others. Attracting a crowd can add a real ‘buzz’ to your business.

  • Get to know your customers better

    While many location-based offers are designed to attract new customers, location-based services are also a way to find out more about your existing customers. User reviews will tell you exactly what your customers are thinking, while take-up rates for particular offers will provide insights into customer preferences. For example, if you get 200 check-ins at your bookstore for one author event, and only 20 for another, it’s a good indication of how the 2 authors are trending among your customer group!

  • Reward loyal customers

    Every marketer knows that it’s more efficient to keep an existing customer than to try to win a new one.

    Check-ins give you a tangible way to identify your most loyal customers and reward them with discounts (every 10th coffee free), preferential treatment (the best seat or parking spot) or just recognition (a photo on the ‘wall of fame’).

  • Improve your search engine rankings

    Many location-based services rank very well in search-engine findings on the internet (i.e. they appear high up the page of search results). If you fill in your business pages on a number of location-based services (e.g. Google Places, Foursquare, Yelp and Facebook Places), you are more likely to appear high up in search engine rankings when somebody types in a relevant search term (e.g. ‘guided walks, Cairns’).

  • Attract new customers

    Location-based marketing is one of the best ways to convert foot traffic and online traffic into new customers. People who may never have heard of you, or may never have considered using your product, can be persuaded to try your business for the first time.

    Some businesses make a point of offering ‘newbie’ specials the first time a customer checks in. Once you attract a new customer, it’s up to you to turn them into a repeat customer by offering high-quality service and products.

  • Convert impulses to sales

    Location-based marketing helps to remove barriers to sales. Once a customer is physically close to your store, you have a far better chance of persuading them to purchase from you. Let’s say it’s a rainy day and a passerby is vaguely thinking that he might need to buy an umbrella. Your location-based message hits his smartphone, offering umbrellas at a discounted price in your nearby store. His impulse – to buy an umbrella – is converted into a sale for your business.

  • Become a 'local legend'

    A small business is unlikely to dominate any particular market in a city. However, strategic use of location-based marketing can make you a viral hit in your suburb or street – and this may be all it takes to double your turnover. By focusing your marketing efforts close to home, you can get the kind of market saturation that’s impossible on a broader scale.

  • Measure your results

    Location-based services can provide you with information about how many people check in for a certain area or business, who’s checked in most often and how many people have used an offer. This kind of information can be very useful in assessing the success of your location-based marketing program.

The Increased Need for a Strong

Online Presence for Local Businesses

Online marketing is a crucial tool for both large and local businesses alike. Over the past decade, internet marketing has become one of the, if not THE, most powerful business tools that can be used by local business owners and executives. Proper online advertising campaigns can help a small business owner market the company's products and/or services to a wider range of customers, which is key to boosting the overall profit of any business. Just like any advertising medium, managers must utilize all the internet has to offer, in the most productive way, if the company wants to achieve the desired results.

Times are changing and the desire communities have to support local businesses and mom & pop stores is starting to outweigh their desire to save a little money at larger retailers. Supporting local business is about supporting the community and the town you come from; in this unsteady economy, we all know the importance of customer loyalty in order for a business to have any chance of success.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do people look online to find local businesses? +

According to research done by Webvisible and Nielsen, the top resources consumers turn to to find local information include the following:
• 82% use search engines
• 57% use Yellow Pages directories
• 53% use local newspapers
• 49% use Internet Yellow Pages
• 49% use TV
• 38% use direct mail
• 32% use White Pages directories
The percentage of people using search engines and email newsletters is constantly increasing, while the percentage for newspapers, magazines, and radio decreases.

Q: Is positioning on search engines important? +

According to a study conducted at Cornell University, 80% of all clicks are designated to the top 3 listings. Most people stay on the first page of a search engine’s results–in the Cornell study, 98% clicked on a website on that page.

Q: Do people click on the paid ads? +

Yes. In the 3rd quarter of 2010, Google made 67% of their revenue from paid ads. They don’t make any money off the paid section unless people click: zero clicks would have generated zero revenue.

Q: How many people use Google vs. Yahoo and Bing? +

As of April 2011, Google had 65.4% of the market share, Yahoo had 15.9% and Bing had 14.1%. Yahoo and Bing together made up just less than half of what Google had.

Q: What is meant by “web presence”? +

The web presence of a business is the complete digital footprint of a business found on the Internet. While the website and the written, video and graphical content it contains is the cornerstone of a company’s web presence, there are quite a few other digital locations where a business might have a presence. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Links to pages and content on the company’s website from other places on the Internet.
  • Social media properties such as a Facebook Page, Twitter account, LinkedIn account (business and personal), company blog, Google +1 account.
  • Mentions of a business or website in social media – posts, links, tweets, +1’s, likes, etc.
  • Video content created and posted on video sharing sites such as YouTube.
  • Local business pages such as Google + Local;
  • Listings in business directories like Bing, Yahoo, Yelp, Merchant Circle, YellowPages.com, Whitepages, CitySearch and others.
  • Email communications with customers and prospects.
  • Press Releases to news and media outlets.
  • Content a business has created and shared on other websites.

Q: Why does my business need a growing web presence? +

Building a growing web presence will your business help reach more new customers and prospects while increasing contact with existing customers. Your competitors are growing their web presence, so if you aren’t growing yours then you are falling behind.

People search the web for a business, product or service in different ways. Some people use familiar search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo). Some people will utilize social media such as Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. Other people may use business directory services like Yelp, CitySearch or FourSquare. There are numerous additional ways Internet users find businesses and these methods continue to evolve at a rapid rate. The more places your business has a presence, the more likely your business will be found.

A growing web presence also helps develops trust and authority for customers and prospects. The more places people see you the bigger and more familiar you are in their minds. In addition, a broader web presence will also frequently enhance search engine rankings for many of the same reasons.

Q: Why do I need SEO for my business? +

Search engine optimization is an essential component of a business’s marketing and sales strategy. With the rise and rapid growth of the Internet and the demise of many traditional (offline) channels to reach customers and prospects such as the Yellow Pages, having a web presence has become increasingly important if not vital.

Reasons for developing and implementing a clear SEO and web presence strategy include:

  • To optimize your web presence and visibility.
  • To build better branding and positioning for your business, products and services.
  • To increase the online credibility and trust for your business.
  • To identify a business’ most effective keywords.
  • To rank higher in the search engines.
  • To increase traffic from potential customers.
  • To increase the number of repeat visitors and customers.
  • To Grow Your Business – $

The goals, project scope and budget for search engine optimization and growing a web presence can vary significantly for different businesses. However, the need and importance for having an optimized web presence will only grow over time. At the end of the day, if your customers and potential customers are not finding you on the Internet they are finding your competitors.

Q: What are Keywords? +

Keywords and keyword phrases are a central element of search engine optimization. In its most basic definition a keyword or keyword phrase is the text a web user types into a search box to find relevant information or content. Phrased another way, keywords are descriptions of the information people are searching for and can bring targeted traffic to your website.

Choosing the best keywords for your website and SEO optimization is very important for getting targeted traffic to your website with the greatest chance of converting them to customers and repeat visitors. Effective use of keywords is essential for ranking well and being found on the Internet. Keyword research is focused on locating the optimal keyword phrases for drawing targeted traffic to a website.

Keyword research can frequently be dry and very detailed oriented. To do it well it requires special software tools and experience. However, this type of research and the information it provides is the cornerstone of any successful SEO effort. Many people also consider the optimal use of keywords to be essential for creating and maintaining a successful website as keywords will appear in the website’s page content, in the off-page meta data and frequently in page titles and descriptions.

Q: What is Local Search? +

Local Search is the use of a geographic tag, such as a state, city, or zip code as part of the search phrase when performing a search. Local search is an efficient way for a search engines to deliver relevant, results for businesses, products and services within a limited geographic area. An example of a local search would be entering “italian restaurant chicago” into the search box on Google, Bing or Yahoo.

Businesses with a physical location such as restaurants, repair businesses, contractors, dentists and plumbers, can derive significant benefits from optimizing their web presence for local search opportunities. There are a growing number of online directories and locations where local businesses can develop a presence.

Google, Bing and Yahoo all have services that allow local business owners to create a business listing online with the most accurate, up to date information about their business, products and services. These listing will generally include a link to the businesses website, their phone number and a map showing the business location.

Q: I have a local business and most of my customers are within 10 miles of my business, do I need a web presence? +

This is a very valid question for small businesses. Especially if budget dollars are tight. One way to answer this question is to look at what your competitors are doing. In evaluating competitors be sure to look at both online and offline (brick and mortar or retail) competitors. If the products or services your business provides can be ordered or delivered via the Internet then your online competitors may be as important or even more important than your local offline competitors.

This is a good example of where, if your potential customers are not finding you, they are finding your competitors. Therefore, a good place to begin in answering this question is to determine how your customers and prospects are currently finding your business. If your business does not currently have a web presence then this could be an opportunity to reach many more potential customers and significantly expand your business. If your competitors have a web presence and you don’t, then you could be losing a lot of business to them now and in the future.

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