Local Business Marketing – Big Time Digital Marketing on a Small Time Budget

Small and local businesses regularly deal with stretching their small marketing budgets, and often have to place their bets on 1-2 marketing channels. With a smart phone in almost everyone’s hip pocket, the number of channels to target continues to grow every year. So how do you keep pace with these channels if your budget doesn’t experience the same growth each year?  Unless you are the major player in town and have little competition, this approach is seldom sufficient.

You need to reach out to new customers through other digital marketing channels.  However, the services and applications people use are so numerous, you could easily go broke trying to cover every possible source.  Here’s an idea – apply the 80-20 rule to target the most important sources.

The Quick and Easy

  1. The easiest thing you can do is to register all your locations in Google Places for business. In addition to registering your business, be sure to select the categories that best represent your business.  For example, you may want to enter ‘ice cream’ if you are a creamery, frozen yogurt shop, or ice cream parlor.
  2. Get listed on Bing for free.  Microsoft has made it fairly easy to bulk upload business information. The only catch is that you need a ‘Microsoft account’ to get started and can’t use any old email address to sign in.  Annoying, but still easy to do.
  3. If you are in the restaurant and catering industry, then Yelp is a must do.  Yelp is expanding into all sorts of local businesses, so getting listed will get you a head start even if your business is not a restaurant. Chances are that your business is already listed because Yelp gathers this information from public and other sources.  So get registered so you can manage your business profile. Why is this so important? Because this Yelp information shows up in other popular channels like Google Search and iPhone maps – more exposure for your business
  4. Claim your listing on Foursquare.  This one is easy, and it could also be much more than a passive channel for your business.  You can attract new customers through Foursquare specials. The one thing we like about Foursquare vs other similar promotional apps is that execution is easy. You can put in literally any sort of promotion, and as long as your store can honor it offline, you’re in good shape.
  5. Get listed on a select few of the local directories – yellowpages, local, and yahoo local.  These may not give you a major boost in traffic, but the data is used by other more popular services, so it is helpful to keep updated.

The Not So Quick

  1. Optimize your site for local SEO.  There are several small but pertinent changes that can help you rank up in a Google search result that is personalized based on location among other factors. Use schema.org to communicate structured data (such as location, hours etc) to search engines. Leverage the ability to submit structured data through the data highlighter in Google Webmaster Tools.  You could get away with a one-time engagement here.  Trim down your Facebook budget for a few months and hire somebody to get this done for you.  Poll your customers to see how they are finding out about you.  If they say Google, double down.  If they say Facebook, maintain the social media focus.
  2. Create and maintain a local Google+ page for each of your locations.  This provides you with a way to engage with existing customers through photos, events etc.  The not so quick part about this one is that you need to keep your clients engaged on these pages.
  3. Check if your locations are listed on iphone maps.  If they are not, then the (tedious) way to get your business locations listed accurately is to update them manually.
  4. Get listed and rated by Zagat. Though in a recent announcement, Google indicated that it is moving away from the 30 point Zagat rating system for restaurants, fact is that Google owns Zagat. So it will leverage Zagat reviews wherever it gets the chance.  The process to get listed and rated is not automated, but is straight forward.  What’s more, you can also manage your business profile just like on Yelp.
  5. Then there are getlisted.org and yext that list out services that your business should be listed on. I recommend not going getting carried away with these lists because the return may not be commensurate to your effort (remember the 80-20 rule).

 

Now we’d list out all the other ‘must dos’ because they are free, but fact is that your time is precious, and we have focused on the 20% that will get the most bang for your buck.  Know of other services/applications that have worked for you? Send us your thoughts and help us build out this list!