As customers, the Internet provides us with a vast array of options to choose from.
In the case of businesses, this involves your competition that may be just a click away. However, business owners can rest easy knowing that they can win over their audience with simple engagement techniques.
Many businesses have capitalized on this technological transformation; however, several businesses continue to think that online marketing is akin to their traditional marketing.
The fact is that technology has revolutionized online consumer behaviour and the presence of consumers on the internet. Staying ahead of your competition depends on how you embrace modern marketing trends.
Now, you are probably thinking, “of course my business needs to stay relevant in this day and age”. But what does being relevant mean for local businesses in 2021?
This article will highlight the five main local strategies that I have followed for my local agency, WebLime. It includes tips you can use to drive engagement with your customers.
It is not enough to provide high-quality products and services today, businesses need to also think about running local marketing campaigns like building citations, leveraging their network, creating a Google My Business profile, or collaborating with non-profits.
The Power of Local Networks
It’s easy to ignore marketing yourself as a small business because you don’t have the time to dedicate to it. But if you don’t invest in yourself, how will anyone know about your business? You can’t expect sales to roll in if you aren’t putting in the time to make them happen.
Small business networking is one of the best ways to learn from other entrepreneurs and gain more customers. It’s not very difficult to participate in, but you do have to take the initiative.
There are two ways to meet other small business owners: in person or online. I find that online networking is much easier to manage, especially if you’re not looking for a partnership or co-branded products.
How can networking benefit you? You might hear about a great service provider offering a special rate or have the chance to partner with another business to expand your own. Both of these situations could save you time and provide a much better ROI than if you tried to do everything on your own.
Meet People Online
Whether it’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or YouTube, there are various ways small business owners can connect.
In today’s world of social media, we don’t always have to meet someone in person to be friendly with them.
Just because you are a small business owner doesn’t mean you can’t get involved online with other entrepreneurs. The truth is that successful entrepreneurs learn from others who have been successful.
One great strategy is to find local businesses online and promote them. This is a business-to-business (B2B) strategy that should be used to find connections with other companies that can help increase your sales and awareness.
As you make these connections, always let them know up front what it is you do. For example, if you are a Maryland-based printing business, create a list of potential companies in that industry to reach out to and partner with.
Everything is one Zoom away!
However, if you are an offline-meetings fan, you can always network and create a partnership over a coffee. Join a coworking space and chat with folks around you. Chances are, you will meet like-minded people that might need your services or can refer you to their friends.
Join Networking Groups
Business networking is one of the most productive ways to generate referrals and leads.
It’s also a rewarding way to increase your return on investment through stronger relationships with customers and prospects. And it helps contribute to the overall growth of your business through its many benefits.
One of the most beneficial things you can do for your business is to interact with other business owners, and learn how they are getting the word out about their business.
It’s a great opportunity to ask them questions and learn from their experience. You will not only develop more networking contacts, but your business will grow as well.
I’ve found that there are no shortcuts to building such networks.
But the network you start today is likely to be considerably different from a year or two down the line because it will grow as you do. If you’re not getting out and meeting people in person, your opportunities for developing valuable relationships will dry up.
How do you find networking groups and associations to join?
The best way is to get out of your home or office and talk to local business owners. Make friendly small talk about how their businesses are doing. Ask them if they know of any profitable business networking groups in the area. If they give you a blank look, then ask which business group or association they belong to and contact the organization for information on further groups.
Sometimes your local Chamber of Commerce provides a great vehicle for this kind of networking.
Be Active on Social Media
Social Media is an amazing tool for local businesses and small business owners. It provides the means through which you can show off your skills, but also convey personality and be vulnerable in front of people.
Customers tend to trust genuine people first, then businesses.
Consider picking one platform to get started with, and try to build relationships and chat with people. You can also choose to target a very specific audience.
If you’re building websites, you might have more luck targeting small business owners in Maryland, than targeting the worldwide population.
Meetups Are Still Huge
Since Covid, a lot of meetups are happening online.
However, now that things are starting to settle down, you should start considering joining meetups in your local area.
The type of event I’m talking about is often marketed to people who are either looking to start their own business or improve their life in some way.
Now, whether you’re struggling to find the perfect job or you’re just getting started with entrepreneurship, these are the kinds of events that are attracting thousands of people every week and helping them meet new people and launch new businesses.
If you are not familiar with meetups, it may be tempting to dismiss them as yet another fad.
But, although they have been around for decades, most of the meetups that are currently providing opportunities for personal development are making a bigger impact on the world than ever before; and their influence continues to be felt in new and interesting ways.
Many of today’s top entrepreneurs attribute much of their success to the courses that they took or the groups that they joined while participating in meetup groups when they were starting.
Whether you are looking to network with people who have similar interests to you, improve your social skills and confidence or get help starting a business, you will be able to find a meetup group that fits in perfectly with your lifestyle and learning goals.
Google My Business – The King of Local SEO
If you are a local business and don’t have a Google My Business account, you’re missing out and lending your online real estate to someone else.
Business owners who want to use the potential of the internet to reach new customers or promote their brand should set up a Google My Business listing.
Business owners can create and manage their business listings on Google My Business, and Google has made the process as simple as possible. Once you’ve set up your listing, Google My Business will appear as a panel in Google search results. It will display contact information and a link to your website and show ratings and reviews for your business.
The benefit of having a Google My Business page is that you will not only show on the map in search results but also appear in the Knowledge Graph if you have more than one location. This gives users an accurate idea as to what your business looks like, your set hours, and when it’s most convenient for them to visit.
Once you’ve set up your Google My Business account and claimed your listing, it’s time to get optimizing.
There are several elements you can include in your GMB listing. The main thing to remember is that there are fields you must fill in, including a phone number, physical address, opening hours, and website URL. Spaces can be used for additional information.
You should aim for as much relevant information as possible as Google says this helps them evaluate relevance. The more relevant information you add to your GMB listing the higher it will rank in Google for your search terms.
However, you should not forget about reviews.
Improving your business online often starts with how you’re viewed by local customers. This goes beyond just providing directions to your location and instead includes other aspects of your company such as whether or not customers can leave a review on Google or Yelp about your company.
If a customer is searching for a company that provides services in your area, they may be much more likely to choose to do business with you because they have read good reviews about you versus your competitor.
Build Citations to Build Credibility
Besides a Google My Business account, citations are a must if you are a local business looking to acquire more customers.
Local citations are online mentions of your business name, location, and phone number, and other information that might be relevant to your potential customers.
A citation isn’t limited to just any mention of the local business. The information about the business must be verifiable and be local. Simply including the business name in a quote or mention does not count as a citation.
Contrary to popular belief, citations are not simply the business cards of the online world. Citations are web pages that come up in search engine results when your business name or address is searched and they contain that information. They can be found on every platform, from social networks to local directories to review sites.
Accurate citations carry the most weight in the validation of a business’ information.
When Google looks at local businesses, they evaluate whether or not the data they’re collecting is accurate. If it is, then a business’ information will be more trustworthy and the listings for that business are more likely to show up in SERPs.
Local SEO may seem complicated from an end-user perspective, but the reality is that it’s relatively straightforward for businesses.
For businesses with reliable local citations, the natural result is a positive impact on search engine results. For businesses missing these citations, the impact can be negative. It is that simple.
Collaborate With Non-Profits
As business owners, our best experiences often happen when we’re working with others who share our passion.
By collaborating, we can share resources and knowledge, develop a shared voice, and build awareness of the bigger issues in our community.
For these reasons and more, business owners should consider partnering with local non-profits through several marketing initiatives.
One of the biggest advantages of collaborating with non-profits is media coverage.
There are many great causes in which to rally behind, and the way you do that as a brand is by partnering with a nonprofit. You want to be one of the leaders in your community. You want to help raise awareness for a cause you believe in. But nonprofits need help from private companies to make their causes come to life, and that’s where you come into play.
If you think about it, you’re already spending money to do business — why not give back while doing so? It’s a pretty simple partnership: you either donate products and services and/or sponsor a nonprofit to help it meet your goals.
With the right partnerships, your business can give back to the community while benefiting from a positive image and even receiving community praise without spending a dime on marketing.
Regardless of the economic conditions or competitive landscape, there are always opportunities to market your business.
The first step in doing this is by strengthening your online presence.
It is becoming more and more apparent that the online world is just as strong as the physical one.
And while some business owners have been quick to recognize this and turn to technological tools as a way of isolating themselves from such threats, others have been slow and reluctant.
As a local business owner, you need to experiment, take risks and try new things to have the flexibility that will enable your business to survive and prosper.
There’s a significant amount of work to do to be truly agile in a time of uncertainty. But we’ve seen that companies that succeed in this environment can shift priorities and move quickly from one opportunity to the next, cutting their losses when needed while pursuing new opportunities with greater speed.