Times are changing. As the internet and digital marketing continue to grow into 2020, it’s your job to make sure your business marketing adapts with changing trends.
So where should you start?
With so many different places you’ve been told to post and so many strategies to start using, I know how confusing it can get.
Instead of adding to the confusion, I wanted to cut through the noise and give it to you straight.
This ultimate digital marketing checklist, for local businesses, is your tool to check whether your business is on the right track heading into 2020.
Take your time to work through the list of strategies and determine whether you’re really making the most of each one.
You may already be using a few of them, or on your way to implementing all of them. Either way, these are the real digital marketing strategies you should be working on as a local business.
Claim Any Beneficial Online Listings or Profiles
One of the easiest places to start is to look at what online listings and profiles you’ve claimed for your business.
There is no denying that there is an overwhelming number of channels, websites and platforms we use to communicate in this day and age.
For businesses getting started online, it can be a good first step to go out and claim different online listings and profiles across the internet, that are beneficial for your business.
These listings and profiles may include…
Search Engine Listings (Google My Business & Bing Places)
Social Media Business Profiles(Facebook & Instagram Business Pages)
Online Business Directories (Local Search or Trip Advisor)
There are a number of benefits to claiming these listings and profiles, from building trust to building an online presence and driving traffic to your business.
Although this won’t necessarily have customers flooding in, it’s comparable to setting up your shop front. Without first claiming these listings, you won’t have a presence to work with.
Search Engine Listings, such as Google My Business and Bing Places, are important because they are a major tool for assisting customers to find products and services they need.
Especially as a local business owner, your target market is likely using Google to find out who is in their area. Without claiming those search engine listings, you won’t show up when a potential customer goes to search for your products and/or services, and they may just end up going to your competition instead.
Social media profiles are also important, as they provide you with a platform to generate awareness about your business and speak directly to your customers. I’ll talk more about social media later in the checklist.
Finally, online business directories are another important avenue to claim, as there is likely to be a percentage of your customers using them to find you. This gives you a leg up on the competition who don’t bother to claim these listings, and provides you with added search engine ranking benefits.
Ensure Your Business Website Is Mobile Friendly
Mobiles have made our lives incredibly easy, allowing us to access the internet while we’re on the go.
As of February 2019, mobile devices accounted for 48 percent of web page views worldwide – and that’s only increasing into 2020.
With this increase in mobile users, it’s crucial you start adapting your website to ensure the best user experience when people visit it.
The first thing to ensure is that your website is responsive.
A responsive website is one that’s designed to smoothly adapt and fit to the device or display settings each user has when viewing it.
That means whether someone views your website on their laptop, tablet or phone, your website will adjust to display the website in a visually appealing way.
The good thing is that most of the popular website builders, that you’re likely using (WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, etc.), are offering themes that are responsive.
However you still need to check yourself and ensure that users are seeing the content in a clean and visually appealing format across each device.
This takes me onto the next point. Your mobile friendly website needs to be easy to navigate and understand.
Make sure the information and images you use across your website are clear and easily readable. This means clean fonts, colours that are easy to read, and text that isn’t too wordy.
In terms of navigation and links, make sure that people can easily access the most important information on your site.
Make it easy for people to find important parts of your website, such as your services, products, pricing and contact information.
This means making sure buttons, tiles and other navigation elements stand out and are easy for people to tap on their device.
Improve The Quality of Content You Post On Social Media
How often is your business posting on social media? For most local businesses, the answer is typically whenever they find the time.
However social media can be a powerful tool for building awareness and expanding the number of local people (or even globally) who know you exist.
If you’re not currently posting consistently then work towards creating a plan that ticks off a few key things, which help identify the following:
Who are your ideal customers and what social media platforms do they typically use?
What content ideas would your target audience want to see? (Informative, entertaining, personal)
What types of content will you post and how frequently will you post?
The key is to create a consistent stream of content that your ideal customers find valuable, in some way, and want to engage with.
Try to avoid just posting sales and discount offers. Overly sales messages or blatant advertisements don’t work as well as you’d hoped and won’t build a positive connection with your ideal customers.
Instead find creative ways to make content that is informative, entertaining or personal.
This will help people connect with your business, see you as an expert in your industry, and trust you enough to possibly work with you when the time is right.
Picking the right platform can be hard for businesses as well. Here’s some suggestions though if you’re a local business owner.
Facebook is still an important place to be posting as a local business. Think of it as another platform that helps confirm you’re a legitimate business, and offers great paid advertising options.
Instagram is a great way to connect with local customers through hashtags, location tags, and other engagement strategies. Using a mix of normal posts and stories can help keep you top of mind with local followers.
LinkedIn is powerful, especially using it to position yourself as the business owner of your local business. Building a strong network on LinkedIn, with other local people, can help you get your name out there and position you as an industry leader.
YouTube is another valuable avenue for local businesses. This can be a great way to build awareness for your business as a local industry leader, and drive traffic to your website and business.
Each of these platforms is worth thinking about for your business, but will require different types of content and strategies to reach local customers.
Post More Frequently Across Social Media
The majority of businesses I see aren’t regularly posting to social media. Local businesses tend to post once a month or never at all.
Frequency is an important part of social media marketing, because you want to be staying in front of your followers to keep your business top of mind.
We’ve talked about the quality of content you put out, but that won’t help if your customers only hear from you once a month.
Quality posts that are consistently put out across social media help to nurture the relationship your followers have with your business.
It creates familiarity with your business or brand, and helps position you as the leader of your industry. Why?
This is because your customers are seeing you more frequently than your competition, and you become the first business they think of for your services.
Now I want to restate that this only works well when you have quality content.
If you’re just posting sales messages or ads on a frequent basis, you will more likely lose followers or have disengaged followers. These types of posts don’t provide value or build a connection with your followers. You’ll be seen as the business who just spams them, rather than the business who brings them value.
Frequency depends on a few factors you should think about.
Firstly, how often can you reasonably create content and post? When working with clients, I try to get them to a point where they are posting at a manageable rate for them.
For you this may be three times a week, while for others it may be every day. Start with the frequency you can reasonably manage, then go from there.
Next, think about how often you’re posting on different platforms. Different channels have different thresholds for when your followers start thinking “this is another valuable post” to “this is too much, stop spamming me!”
Posting a normal Instagram post every day is reasonable, where as posting five normal Instagram posts is likely an overkill to your followers.
However, posting five Instagram stories every day isn’t necessarily too much.
Find a steady balance by looking at how your posts are performing. If you start seeing less engagement on your content, you may be posting too frequently or your quality of content is dropping.
When posts are high quality and posted at a regular rate, you’ll see steady engagement. This is because followers won’t feel overloaded and will bother taking the time to engage.
Finally, a lot of people ask me about when is the best time to post? This is a very open question, as many factors can influence this such as when your audience is online, how engaged they are at that moment, and who else is posting at that time.
A key tip is to take a look into your insights across each platform. Any decent insights tool, even those native to the platforms, will tell you when your audience is usually online. Plus, don’t be afraid to just times you wouldn’t usually post to get feedback on what works.
Run Locally Targeted Ads to Your Ideal Customers
Say you’re posting content and you have people clicking through to your website on Google. This is fantastic news for your local business.
However, have you ran and local digital advertising to help you out?
Running locally targeted ads can be beneficial, because you can zero in on your ideal customers, and either make them aware you exist, build trust with them, or send them to specific offers.
This however will all depend on what platform you’re using, as each platform has its own pros and cons, depending on what your goal is.
Google Ads for example is great at sending people to specific offers related to your business. The good thing here is that you’re appearing in front of people at Google who are already searching for related products or services to what you have.
This means they’re already more qualified to buy from you, and will likely convert better because of this.
The negative to this is that it barely builds your brand awareness, unless they end up clicking through and learning about your business.
Facebook Ads on the other hand can be useful because it allows you to be visual, and this gives you the power to build your brand in front of your target audience.
You can put creative visuals and messages that resonate with your ideal customers, so that they are more likely to stop while using social media to engage with what you’re doing.
The negative to this is almost the opposite to Google Ads. Most of your customers who you’re targeting through Facebook or other social media sites aren’t necessarily in need of your services right at this moment.
Whereas on Google they were actively searching for related things to your business, while on Facebook they are typically looking for entertainment.
This means an ad that is trying to send them to an offer straight away won’t work as well, because the customer isn’t as qualified. However, building brand is easier because you have the visual elements that can get people to stop and listen to what you do.
Without going too in depth into online advertising, another important thing for local businesses is retargeting.
Retargeting is the ability to show ads to people who have already shown an interest or have engaged with your business before.
This is beneficial for local businesses like yours because someone may visit your website, like your post on social media, or be on your email list – and you can target them.
What this does is allowing you to target people who are already qualified to some degree. Each action is a stronger form of qualification, and the stronger that potential customer is qualified, the more likely they are to claim your offer or make a purchase.
This is why retargeting is quite effective for your business. If someone has already visited your website and looked at your products, they may just forget about you… But if you then send them an ad the next day, after they’ve looked at your website, it keeps you at the top of their minds and increases the chance of a sale.
Create a Strategy to Acquire More Positive Reviews
In our busy lives, reviews and testimonials are beneficial because they allow us to quickly determine what’s worth our time.
For example, if you run a local restaurant, there is likely to be a lot of other restaurants that you’re competing with for business.
Now when a hungry person, who lives in your city, jumps online to find the best place to eat – Here is what happens.
They see your business, with let’s say 47 positive reviews on Google. Compare this with your closest competitor who only has 10 positive reviews. Who would you pick?
It seems straight forward, but the majority of local businesses don’t have a strategy for acquiring more positive reviews.
Most just wait passively for their customers to leave a review, or go above and beyond hoping it stands out enough that someone leaves a review.
This isn’t worth it. Yes, you need to be delivering unbelievable customer experiences. However you also need to pair that with a proactive strategy, to follow up with customers, after these experiences.
The best way to do this is to send follow up emails or texts to your database. Or, if you work closely with your clients or customers, you can ask them in person.
Typically, you want this to be after they’ve purchased from you and had an experience with your staff or used your products.
Following up a few days, after someone visited your hairdresser, might make sense. However if you did the same after someone just purchased a new pool from you it might not make sense.
The key is to think of the timeframe that’s right, to send a message asking for a review, whether it’s a few days, a week, a month, or a few months after purchasing from you. Pick a consistent time, after someone has become a customer, to ask for a positive review.
Also, try to ensure you send these follow-up messages to people you know have had exceptional experiences with your business.
If you know someone didn’t have the best experience (which I hope isn’t the case), you may just be setting yourself up for a 1 star review.
Start a Helpful Blog & Use Local Keywords to Rank Higher
Websites are valuable platforms for local businesses, to help your customers find helpful information about whether to work with you.
However an underutilised feature, for local businesses, is the blog.
I’m sure you’ve already heard about starting a blog for your business at some point. However this strategy is still beneficial for local businesses because it does a few key things.
Blogs are a form of content that you can use to draw in your target audience, by creating articles that would either be interesting or helpful for those people.
Another key benefit of using a blog for your business is that it can help you improve your search engine ranking. This allows you to outrank your competition on places such as Google for different search terms.
To keep things simple, I suggest you start by coming up with some ideas around what you can write about for your blog.
The best way is to think about what problems your ideal customers are having, and try to write about ways to solve those problems. Think about what they would click on to learn about, that is related to your business and industry.
For example, if you’re a local accountant you may write about ways that business owners can save at tax time, or answer frequently asked questions you get from clients.
Another important thing to consider is making sure your blogs include relevant keywords to your area and line of work.
The reason is that when Google and other search engines scan your website, they’ll see the relevant local keywords. This will help you rank higher for those terms when your customers go to search for them.
Try to include the name of your city, the suburbs you operate in, the areas around your city or names of local attractions that are relevant. Using these in examples throughout your content is a quick way to include local keywords.
You can even use it to talk about your own business and who you help. For example, Manexo Media is based in Cairns, Australia and we help businesses across Far North Queensland with social media and digital marketing.
Also consider where you’re including keywords outside your content. Try to include them in your Page Title, URL, and Meta Description where possible.
Content from your blog can also be shared out across your social media channels and through your email database.
This is useful because the people who follow you, through these channels, likely want to read the helpful articles you write. Plus by consistently giving them great content to read it builds a stronger connection with those people.
Now if they’re ever in the market to buy your products or services, you’ll seem like the best option, because you’ve proven through your blog that you know what you’re talking about.
Create a Consistent Way to Capture Leads Through Your Website
We’ve talked about making sure your website is user friendly and starting a blog. However another useful strategy, for local businesses, is to proactively use your website to qualify potential customers.
Qualifying customers is all about getting them to put their hand up and say “Hey, I’m interested in some way with what you do!”
There are many different ways to do this and involves getting potential customers to show some sort of engagement with your business.
In this case, we want people to provide us with some form of contact information, typically an email, that will allow us to stay in touch with them.
However, most people won’t just hand over their email address for no reason.
We need to give them an incentive in order for them to give us their email or contact information. Doing so allows us to acquire a lead for our business, which we can nurture and build a stronger connection with until they are ready to buy.
The exchange for their email address is simple. We need to provide them with something that is valuable enough, which they would hand over their email address to get.
Some businesses use case studies that provide insights into how potential customers can get better results or solve their problems. This is valuable because it’s insider information that helps them.
Similar ways might include access to a webinar, a download link to an informative eBook, or the ability to sign-up for a short course.
These and many more informative style pieces of content can be valuable, when targeted towards your ideal customers, and may influence them to exchange their contact information to receive the content.
However, you can also get creative in how you collect information.
You may use an online calculator that potential customers can input their information to generate results about the best options for their circumstances.
Or, it may be a free quiz that allows potential customers to learn the best strategies for them based on their answers.
Although I don’t necessarily recommend this option, it may also be offering visitors a discount coupon, if they sign-up for your newsletter or exchange contact information.
Each of these strategies has one thing in common. They’re providing value in return for the contact information of a potential customer.
This means once someone does hand over their email or information, you need to use it wisely.
Simply spamming them with ads and sales offers will just lead them to unsubscribe. You need to continue to provide value, through your content, that positions you as an expert in their minds for when they are ready to buy.
Regularly Email Your Database with Valuable Content & Offers
Continuing on from the previous point, is making sure you regularly keep in contact with your database.
This is typically done through email, but is expanding to include direct message platforms such as Facebook Messenger or even text messaging.
The real benefit of regularly sending direct messages to your database is that it keeps you top of mind. It also builds a stronger customer relationship, when you continue to give them value over time.
Say you write a helpful blog post every month and send it out to your database. Within that database, let’s say 10% of them read each blog post every month. Although those people aren’t buying from you at this moment, they’re consuming your content.
This is still providing them value. It’s helping position your business as helpful, because you’re giving valuable content to them for free.
It also positions you as knowledgeable in your area of expertise, so when the time comes, you’re the top person in that customer’s mind on who to buy from.
Now don’t be afraid if your database isn’t opening every single email or message you send. They may not have the time every week or month for your email, but if they know it’s valuable they will continue to engage when they’re ready.
Don’t just send them ads as well. As much as you want to advertise to your database, try to refrain from doing so, until you have a really special reason to send them an offer.
You’re technically training your database to expect certain things from your emails. If they expect every email from you to be a pitch, to buy your stuff, they won’t bother opening them.
Then it just positions you as that annoying company that spams them, with sales offers every week.
Instead try to be the company that sends them helpful hints, tips and videos on how to improve their lives or business.
Then when you are running a special promotion, that’s when you can send that out. Now because you built up all those positive connections with your database, by giving them value, they’ll be more likely to open your email and purchase.
Work on Being Featured Through Local Publications, Blogs or Other Sites
The final checklist point I want to talk about is working on gaining positive PR for your business, through local publications and blogs.
There are likely a handful of publications and blogs in your city or area that may give you a platform to be featured on.
Just like being featured in the paper may give your local business publicity, so can being featured online.
For example, local papers and magazines are starting to move towards putting up more articles and stories online. If you can get featured online in the same way you might get featured in their physical prints, you can gain exposure through their platform.
Think about what these publications are looking for and how you can fit what they need.
Some may be looking for an industry expert, and you could provide local segments or articles for them that helps the local community.
For example, you might be a local physio and you work with a local news publication to provide short tips on improving movement and flexibility.
This gives the publication more traffic and attention to their site, and allows you to get exposure through their platform.
Another great strategy, for local media, is to do something out of the box or something that gives back to the local community.
These publications are looking for news stories that local people want to read, so if you can get media attention around your business, in terms of a new project you’re launching, an interesting story about your business, or some initiative you’re running – they may just want to talk about you.
Now let’s talk about local bloggers or influencers. If there are bloggers who may create content within your industry or related industries, you could reach out for a few reasons.
You may reach out to see if they’d be willing to have you guest post on their blog. Many people are open to sharing exposure, through guest posting on each other’s blogs.
This can get you exposure to a brand new audience, and if they have local readers, this can give you the attention you’re seeking.
Another way is to ask influencers or bloggers to experience your business and to write about it. You may pay them through monetary means to do so, or just by giving them a free experience with your business.
For example, if you’re a local day spa you may invite a local beauty blogger to come to your business and write about their experience. This gives you exposure and they receive a free day at your spa.
Although being featured by publications and influencers can be less straightforward, it can be worth the effort because your business gains awareness from a whole new audience who may not know you.
However, it’s important to consider what level of exposure you’re getting and to what type of audience.