Winning in your local market: 4 steps to more local customers
If you’re the owner of a local business, you know just how fierce the competition for new customers has become in 2019. To win more local customers, local businesses need to execute on several fronts, including both online and in-store.
In our 2019 survey of local businesses, we asked 50 small businesses about their current local marketing initiatives. What we found is that although most small business consider customer acquisition and growth a top priority, most are not actively executing on at least 50% of key local marketing initiatives.
In this post, we review 5 drivers for local marketing customer acquisition success. Before reading the post, try to take 30 seconds to evaluate how your business is performing in terms of your local marketing and customer experience execution. Specifically, try to answer these 2 questions: 1) What exactly are you doing right now to generate new customers? 2) How is each of your marketing or customer experience initiatives performing?
All set? Let’s move on.
#1 Deliver an engaging website experience
Most of your future customers will visit your website at some point prior to making a purchase. For many first-time visitors, you’ve only got about 2 seconds to impress and convince them to stick around.
Simply put, your company website is one of you best opportunities to dazzle your buyers and tell your unique story and brand experience. It should deliver a compelling visual experience and just enough content with the right message to get visitors to take action.
But that’s just start. Depending on your business objectives, your website also needs to be optimized for user experience. That means that it’s easy to browse and leads users toward specific goals, such as a click to call, reservation, coupon download, or in-person visit.
If your website accomplishes both objectives with flying colors, then you’re a step ahead of most local businesses. If you’re not sure, its important to start tracking all website traffic and figure out what pages people are visiting and what your conversion rate it (such as reservations, leads, of calls).
Most importantly – and this can take some work to accomplish – you want to know what % of your website visitors end up visiting your actual storefront.
#2 Social Proof
Leverage the power of Social Content, User Generated Content (UCG), and Testimonials to build trust and deepen buyer engagement.
People like and trust the experiences of other. That’s what makes Yelp so powerful and social media such an important part of our lives. When it comes to your business, social content such as videos, testimonials, or imagery can make a huge impact on your customers.
Instagram offers a great example. By integrating your Instagram right into your website or landing pages, you can deliver an ongoing flow of real customer experiences. That’s exactly what DessertWeek did when it launched its second annual event in LA.
The one thing I recommend to every single business – local, national, or B2B – is to create at least one showcase testimonial. To make it effective, it needs to be original, authentic, and impressive. There may be an abundance of testimonials online, but there are very few that are truly effective. If you can go the extra mile, it is guaranteed to pay off many times over.
Once you’ve created your social content and assets, make sure to use them on your website, Google My business, social media – anywhere you can!
Execute on Local Search and Search Engine Optimization
With an estimated 97% of all business searches starting online, 46% of searches related to local topics, and 50% of local searches resulting in visits to physical locations, there is no underestimating the important of local search. Brick and mortar businesses simply can’t afford to ignore Google of local search optimization any longer.
Here are 6 essential steps to improving your business’ local search rankings and growing your share of local search traffic:
Google My Business – if you haven’t already, register your Google My Business listing and make sure your profile is properly setup. Next, ensure your profile that stands out visually and matches the quality of your website. Because Google My Business now allows visitors to call you, message you, visit your website, or leave a review all in one place, your business profile should stand out from the crowd.
Local Listing Management & Citation Building – Make sure your local citations are accurate, including online directories and social platforms. The accuracy of such listings directly impacts local search results. It’s a tedious process, but one not to be missed. Make sure to include industry specific directories and local publications in your research.
To take your listing strategy to the next level, look for back linking opportunities from local partners, business platforms, local organizations, etc. To build your brand authority with Google, you want to build as many quality links from other websites or publishers as possible.
Optimize for Voice Search – According to Comscore, an estimated 50% of Internet searches will be done by voice. That’s a big deal and offers an opportunity to businesses who plan for voice search to gain an edge.
Unlike typed searches, voice searches tend to be longer and simpler than text searches. Optimizing for voice search is not necessarily complicated, but does require a careful analysis of voice searches and long tail keyword analysis. With a little bit of content optimization, your website can be better positioned to capture more voice search queries.
Create Targeted Landing Pages with Localized Content – Targeted landing pages with localized content represent are one of the most underutilized SEO strategies. Whether your businesses has 1 single locations, multiple locations, or services local audiences nationally, landing pages offer an effective way to both win at search and improve buyer engagement.
To explain it works, we’ll use one local real estate business that only targets locally and one national solar company who targets localized searches. For the real estate example, see how Gary Belk of Urban Focus built unique content on neighborhood landing pages to target web searches. Each neighborhood landing page includes a unique video and original content for that specific area only.
Next, we move onto a SunRun, a national solar energy provider who wanted to target localized searches in every geography they serve. To achieve this for the Oakland, CA area, SunRun created a unique landing page and URL specifically for searches that used the keywords “Oakland” and “solar”. In fact, SunRun created over 100 localized landing pages for just California alone!
As previously mentioned, landing pages don’t just help with search, they also can help drive conversions. For example, if your restaurant has a following for 1 signature dish that stands above the rest of your menu, a reservation landing page that shows just that single dish – and is optimized for search – can help you improve both search and reservation conversion rates.
Wrapping Up Local Search – Remember, your business’ search rankings are dynamic and will constantly change. To stay on top of your positioning, it’s a good idea to run Google searches on both web, mobile and Google Maps every month to find out how you rank for the most common search terms. Alternatively, you can use a tool like Moz Local to automate your tracking process.
Generate Better Yelp and Social Reviews
Love them or hate them, local businesses must contend with Yelp. Not only is Yelp incredibly popular, it also dominates local search results.
To demonstrate this point, look at the Google search results for “Best Café in Palo Alto.” After scrolling past the 3 Google Places results at the top of the page, Yelp holds the top 3 spots. Not until scrolling to result #6 did I arrive to Café Venezia, which by way is arguably the best café in Palo alto.
To make reviews work for your business, its best to implement structured reviews process that is tested and adjusted over time based on results.
In other words, don’t take your Yelp and reviews strategy lightly. Generating quality Yelp reviews takes work, the right methodology, and proper execution.
Here are 4 considerations when implementing a Yelps reviews program:
Identify for highest potential targets – Try to identify which customers are most likely to leave a positive review – According to yelp, you should not ask for Yelp reviews. That’s not entirely accurate. While it is true that you should not ask every customer for a Yelp review, many businesses have been extremely successful soliciting review in person or using review platforms.
If you decide to ask for reviews in person, start by working with your staff to figure out how to ask those customers most likely to leave a positive review. Maybe the process begins with a question by a cashier or waiter regarding the customer’s experience that day. If the customer answer’s that their experience was “perfect”, that a good review candidate.
Ask without really asking – When communicating directly with customers at your retail location, instead of directly asking for the review, create a story. For example: “We’re making a big push to celebrate our 5th year in business this month and would love some help to get the word out. Feel free to tell any friends about us – or share your experience on yelp.” Most importantly, if your staff is making the ask, make sure to carefully micro-manage the process and ensure its being done the right way.
Use Email – Email is also an effective channel to generate positive reviews. A lot of businesses have turned to review platforms to help automate the review process. Whether you use software platform or handle your email in house, the goal is still to identify which customers are were satisfied with your service and ask them for a review. If you don’t already have an email list built, now is a good time to start.
Respond to all reviews – It’s a good policy to respond to all reviews, positive or negative. For positive reviews, stay polite and personal. For negative reviews, it’s about damage control. Sometimes it helps to keep things light and interject a little bit of humor. Make sure to let the reviewer know you’ve heard them loud and clear and the problem has been rectified.
Deliver a better in-store experience – The best way to improve your reviews is to deliver a positive experience. Look at your reviews program as an opportunity to revisit your customer experience process and look way to improve your in-store operations.
Is staff fully invested in your business and delivering the best possible service to your clients every time? If not – or you’re not sure – then there’s probably room for improvement in the area of client service.
Hopefully, this post offers some new insights into how your business can win the battle for local customers in your market. If you’re wondering how your business stacks up against other local businesses, you’re invited to take our local business marketing survey to find out.
We’ll send you a personalized email with the results. You can also get in touch with us to learn more about the Optimyz customer acquisition services for local businesses.
Mordy Karsch is Chief Optimyzer at Optimyz Interactive. He writes on topics related to content, strategy, and customer acquisition.Get in touch with Optimyz