Why local marketing works for small service businesses

Everyday, we see many small businesses that still do not have a website in 2015. The culprits cover the small business spectrum, for example,  builders, electrician, dentists, dry cleaners, fancy dress costume, dog groomers, hairdresser and clothing retailers. This is awfully tragic for a business like us that exists specifically to help these types of local small businesses to sell more and make more profits by taking advantage of all the Web has to offer.

These local small service businesses appear to wrongly believe that an online presence and digital marketing will not help their business to get more customers. Put simply, they completely ignore the online world we and their customers and prospects now all live in. This way of thinking is stopping these businesses selling more, making more profits and growing.

This post is based largely on extracts from an excellent post by Larry Alton at Relevance, who explains why local service businesses need local marketing in particular and how it can work for their business.

Small service businesses need local marketing

Small service businesses need local marketing – source flickr

Here at smallbiz-emarketing, we get it: many small businesses are scared off developing a real online presence because many believe that it costs a lot of money to get a website and that it costs even more extortionate prices to get digital marketing. When the budget is tight and you are just surviving, spending more money can feel like the last thing you want to do.

70% of small businesses use Facebook for marketing – Merchant Circle survey

It makes perfect sense to have social media presence. After all, millions of people connect to social networks everyday. However, relying on social networks to grow your business and your profits is more often a mistake than good judgement. If you are one of these businesses here are eight great reasons you should think again:

  1. Facebook is making it harder for you to reach your page’s fans without paying to advertise (Tim Parker). Consequently as few as just 2% of your organic (not paid for) posts will reach your network of followers. Organic posts are not likely to be seen by anyone outside your network. The other social networks are going the same way, reducing organic reach of posts.
  2. Social network users rarely click the ‘buy’ button while on social networks; that is not the reason people log into social networks.
  3. If you are not do not have a website, your potential customers will not be able to find you (through organic or paid search), so they will not be able to buy from your business.
  4. Your website will help you to stand out from your competitors.
  5. Your website is more than an online presence. It enables you to collect prospects’ email addresses and nurture them to become paying customers.
  6. Most businesses are online and are making more money because more people can find them.
  7. Building a website and digital marketing are now really affordable and can be done on a small budget.
  8. Having an website and expert digital marketing is an investment for your business that will get you more business in the long run, so it will bring return on investment and will more than pay for itself.

It would be wrong tell you that making the Web work for your business is going to be easy or fast, but the sooner you start the journey to adding online visibility to your business the quicker you will get the benefits. To reach the maximum number of your prospects you have to be visible where they are whenever they are looking for your product or service.

As not all of your customers are on any one digital platform, you will get the highest return on your digital marketing investment by using multiple digital marketing techniques, otherwise you risk missing out on  a significant proportion of customers, selling more and making more profits.

Marketing, advertising, public relations – for some organisations, these basic business terms can be intimidating. And in most cases they’re intimidating because they’re foreign or unknown. After all, many businesses in service industries thrive on word of mouth and referrals. As such, they don’t believe they have a need for marketing.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Marketing – specifically local marketing – is a critical component of long-term success and every business owner should pay attention.

What is Local SEO?

Local SEO is the process of optimizing your business so it shows up in the search engines to people searching locally for your services – Hin Lai.

Research that shows that the proportion of searches for local businesses has exploded in recent years show how important local marketing can be to your business.

Whether you’re a dentist, restaurant, or yoga studio, the only customers that matter for your business are people searching within your town or city, and because of that, you need to focus your SEO locally where it matters.

Local marketing stats for local small businesses Croydon Surrey London

Local marketing stats for local small businesses

The Value of Local Marketing

Local marketing is important for a number of reasons.

According to marketing expert Laura Lake, “A local company needs a targeted marketing strategy to attract a new set of customers who may not realize that there is a local specialty business in the area.”

In other words, the big national brands will force you out of town if you don’t make your presence known. They have large marketing budgets and everyone knows who they are. Your business, on the other hand, is small and unknown.

But, you have one thing going for you: you are local.  People love working with local businesses. They enjoy giving back to the community and perceive “mom and pop” companies as more attentive and honest.

Another added benefit of being local is that you have a piece of magic that commerce businesses can only dream of: you can have a face-to-face interaction with your customers, which let’s you build genuine relationships, far deeper than the fickle relationships built online.

Through local marketing efforts, you can establish, identify, and make your company known. And despite what you may think, it’s not time- or capital-intensive to develop a basic local marketing strategy.

For example, Sydney Emergency Plumbing advertises their services by maintaining a blog and giving special offers to surrounding neighborhoods. Other companies choose to invest in more traditional print advertisements (e.g., State Farm, whose local agents often rely on billboards to build their brands).

Calculating the value of local SEO for your business

Trying to explain things like rankings, organic search and keywords to small service businesses very often gets a glazed  look on faces. So I now explain local search using Greg Gifford’s simple maths calculation that you can see here:

This is how we’d explain the SEO equation to a car dealer in the suburb of a larger metro area:

Let’s assume that there are 20 used car dealers and 2 new car dealers actually in your suburb (town).  There are 17 spots on page one of Google if you count the organic results and the map pack… but after the recent Pigeon update, there are a lot of directories showing up. After we remove the directory spots, that leaves 11 or 12 possible spots.

22 dealers – 12 spots = 10 dealers that won’t be on page one, just in your suburb…

But, you obviously want to target the larger metro area to bring in more search traffic. There are 8 suburbs in your metro, so let’s adjust the math:

22 dealers x 8 cities = 176 dealers

But, we also need to account for the dealers that are in the main city in your metro area. Since it’s a much bigger city, let’s conservatively say that there are three times as many dealerships there. Now, our equation looks like this:

22 dealers x 11 cities = 242 dealers

That’s 242 dealers fighting for the 12 spots on the first page of Google search results — which means 230 dealers won’t make it to page one.

Thanks to the recent Pigeon update, it’s extremely hard, if not impossible, for businesses not located in the main city of a metro area to show up in the map pack for queries targeting that metro area.

If you want your site to beat out the hundreds of other dealers fighting for the top spots, you’ve got to send the right signals to Google so that you can outrank competitors. That means you simply must have great content, you must have an awesome user experience, you must optimize your content for local searches, you must be active on social media, and you must be getting great reviews.

The simple equation quickly demonstrates to dealers that they’re not going to rank high simply because they have a website.

Local Marketing in the Modern Marketplace

While there’s nothing wrong with traditional forms of local marketing (billboards, newspaper and magazine ads, mass mailers, radio spots), most service industry businesses will find their money is better spent online. Start by emphasizing local SEO. Here are some tips:

  • The first step is to claim your Google My Business page. Think of this as your virtual real estate. This is how people will find you online. Be sure to include descriptions, photos, contact information, location information and anything else that’s relevant.
  • Next, fill out your NAP (name, address, phone number) on all websites, social media profiles, and online directories where your business is listed. After all, people need to be able to contact you after they discover you.
  • Seek out local reviews from satisfied customers. Online reviews go a long way and help remove some of the hesitancy associated with doing business online, especially for service-based businesses.
  • You’ll also need to optimize your website, blog, and landing pages. Target local keywords and adjust title tags and URLs to reflect your location. These elements will help drive traffic to your site.
  • If you have the budget, experimenting with pay-per-click advertising can be effective when used in conjunction with local search terms and targeted audiences.

7 Reasons to Pursue Local Marketing

According to data and research compiled by multiple industry sources, there are seven basic benefits of local marketing:

  • Maintain brand control and consistency
  • Increase relevancy through customization to local markets
  • The ability to execute national campaigns at the local level
  • Improved speed of bringing products and services to market
  • The ability to reach local prospects with individualized pain points
  • Increased revenue and channel engagement
  • Access to more marketing materials

If you haven’t yet invested in local marketing, do what thousands of other businesses are doing and start targeting your immediate community. Start with local SEO and then expand as your budget allows.

We’d love to get your feedback and comments about this post. Is your business raking in the money thanks to getting online? What challenges have you had in getting e-commerce to work for your small business? Please let us know by leaving your comments in the section below.

Other posts you may enjoy:

Beginner’s guide to starting a scalable business online – part 1

Small business’ marketing vicious cycle

Sorry excuses for not doing marketing & 5 social marketing myths busted

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