Small localised businesses often avoid technological growth solutions on the assumption that the global Internet isn’t a practical tool for reaching clients close to home. After all, what’s the point of spending time and money advertising your local landscaping business to people halfway around the world?
Online marketing, however, doesn’t have to target a global audience, and this erroneous assumption could well be holding your business back. A comprehensive growth strategy needs to integrate online tools to reach its full potential, regardless what kind of business you’re running. Unlike online businesses, however, small brick-and-mortar businesses need to take a specialised approach to the issue. Built properly, a local online marketing campaign can reach a far greater portion of your local target audience than a sign in the street or an ad in the phone book ever will.
Social media is your tool for community engagement
Social media marketing has been hailed as a revolutionary force in marketing for over a decade, but many businesses that have dabbled with it find that they have serious difficulty in connecting with their audience. That is, in large part, because successful social media marketing relies on directly and actively connecting and engaging with individuals in your target audience. This makes it fundamentally different from traditional advertising. Fortunately, this difference also means that small local businesses have a distinct advantage over larger competitors that they can and should take advantage of.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social platforms inherently rely on the relationships you can build with other users. Small businesses can reach out to their audience within a shared context that makes it much easier to connect on a personal level. Larger businesses have to engage in relatively general feel-good branding exercises to appeal to a large and diverse audience, but smaller businesses can use social platforms to engage with their neighbours, customers, and even their local government in ways that are directly relevant to that group.
Ads on social media
Sponsored posts on Facebook, Twitter, etc… are inexpensive and allow you to specify your audience far more accurately than any paper ad. For example, you can create a Facebook post that will be shown only to people within 10 km of your business, who have already expressed an interest in your industry, and who are within a specific age range. This way, you only pay to show your ad to people who are actually likely to be interested in your business.
Local search engine optimisation
Most businesses today have a website, but many of those aren’t doing their respective businesses much good. Often, that’s because that business’ target audience can’t find it. After all, a local coffee shop isn’t going to rank above a global giant like Starbucks for someone doing a general search for coffee. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s time to give up.
While positioning yourself above a business like Starbucks might be tough, businesses can seize an advantage against big brands to give them a fighting chance. By listing their addresses on Google+ and on their websites, and tailoring their website content in general to reflect location based keywords such as, perhaps, “coffee in Chiswick London”, businesses can signal their relevance to that location. Google’s algorithm will recognise this, and lend additional weight to your business for people who are searching from IP addresses that place them near you.
This allows businesses to rank their websites for keywords in their local area that they would never have a chance of being considered relevant for when placed in competition with the entire Internet.
Pay per click ads
SEO and social media take time to establish and begin generating returns. For faster results, businesses can always turn to pay-per-click (PPC) ads. These work by displaying your advertisement for specific keyword searches, and incur a cost every time a user clicks on it. The price varies by keyword, and is determined by demand for representation under that keyword.
This puts localised businesses in an advantageous position, because the localised keywords they can use will be far less competitive than more general ones. For example, an ecommerce store that sells electronics worldwide would have far more trouble building a cost-effective PPC campaign than a solar installer that operates in a single city. That’s because the former is competing with many thousands of competitors for the same keywords, while the latter can simply use localised terms that only very few other businesses could be interested in.
Driving growth online can seem impossible as a small business when you’re facing bigger businesses with massive marketing budgets. However, the web isn’t just for big businesses, and, in many respects, small businesses have real advantages over their larger competitors. By embracing your local role online, you can assert yourself in your area far more cost effectively than an industry giant that’s hoping to use their general authority to muscle in on your target market.