Let me start off by saying that digital marketing for local and small businesses does not need to be difficult. Many of the companies I’ve worked with in the past see it as a daunting task that is going to take too much time, money and a team of people to do. Sometimes they are right, but a majority of the time they are just trying to do too much at once. Internet marketing as a whole encompasses a broad set of activities, but local and small businesses do not need to do all of them. They just need to find specific strategies that work for them and capitalize on them.
This blog will be most helpful for local and small businesses such as electricians, plumbers, heating & AC Services, house cleaning companies, restaurants, lawyers and other small business types.
My goal is that you get at least one takeaway that will help make a positive impact on your business's digital marketing efforts. If you still have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments section.
OK? Here we go...
Tip #1: Your Website - Keep it simple
Your website is the face of your company online. It’s a marketing brochure for your brand, services, what your company stands for and the kinds of clients you work with. It should contain all the most important things about your business. This makes it easy for someone to find the information they need before making the decision to contact you.
In regards to creating a website, there are plenty of great companies out there that will outline and build a site for you. Just make sure you do research before contacting them so you know what to expect. The best tip I have for building a site is to... keep it simple.
Keeping a website simple can be very good for user experience, website upkeep and management, and especially SEO (search engine optimization). Here is an example of a basic outline that will encompass everything a viewer should know about your company. This outline will still leave room for you to expand your site and create more content with SEO in mind.
- Individual Service Pages (including pictures and/or video of past work - if applicable)
- FAQ Page
- Testimonials / Success Stories / Reviews
- Resources (if applicable)
- Could be used as a “self-help” or “how-to” section for certain business types
- About Us
- Contact Us
One thing to keep in mind is the kind of imagery and copy on your site. A lot of companies decide to use stock imagery and fairly generic copy. I would recommend going another route because this is a big opportunity for local businesses to show that they are human and their company has personality. This is where you can beat big brands for new business. To break this down a bit:
For imagery, use images from real projects or services you’ve done in the past. Spend some time ideating what kind of imagery you want to show on your website. Then hire a photographer (yes definitely spend money on these) to get the pictures you desire for your site.
For the copy, hire a copywriter who has done work previously for businesses in your industry. Make sure you give plenty of input so they know exactly what you are looking for and they stay in-line with your brand voice. And be sure they are experienced in writing copy with SEO in mind -- that is very important. ;)
One local site that has done well in both categories is Johnson Roofing & Gutters (the name is just a coincidence and I have no affiliation with them).
Last but not least, make sure your website works on all screen sizes so people can view it on all devices (computer, tablet and smartphone). A responsive design or having a separate mobile-specific version is a must. Also, If you already have a website, I highly recommend going through the Technical SEO Audit Checklist for Human Beings to ensure it is healthy and will perform well in search engines like Google and Bing.
Tip #2: Reviews - Your customers are your biggest advocates
Reviews are VERY important for your companies reputation, especially online. Positive or negative reviews and how you handle them can be a customers deciding factor when it comes to their decision to contact you. This is why it is a good practice to respond to every review you can.
Similar to using real images of your work and developing copy that gives your site personality, replying to reviews shows people that you are human. Local and small businesses need to show they care about the customer. If someone gives you a positive review, say thank you. If another person gives you a negative review, respond like you would if someone gave you negative feedback in-person. This shows that you care about what people are saying about your company and you want to engage with your customers even after working with them.
Here is an example of a company that does a good job replying to reviews on Yelp.
I would like to highlight two things here:
- This company replies to all review types. Even 5-star reviews get attention, which is important because it shows the customer you care about their feedback and their business is important to you. This is a tactic that can help you get a customer for life.
- The response to a bad review doesn't just stop at an explanation. It goes one step further and asks the person to get in contact with the general manager (contact info included), so they can learn more about the experience. This is a good tactic to (hopefully) change someone's opinion after a not-so-great, or misinformed experience.
Along with the above, reviews can be very helpful for SEO and your company's ability to rank above the competition. Be sure to ask for reviews on site like Google, Yelp and Facebook so you have a diverse review profile on a number of websites. Once you receive reviews, monitor them on a weekly basis so you can reply to them and engage with past customers. A good resource to learn more about why reviews are important is MOZ’s resource on Local Reviews and Ratings.
Tip #3: Social Media - Own your channels and grow your audience
Businesses of any size should be using social media. Create a company page, update it with all necessary information and use it on a regular basis. Social media sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter can be very helpful when marketing a company. Plus, they are great sites to promote your services and post original content such as blogs and video. Use them correctly and you can find and engage with your target market (aka customers) and grow your following. Social media signals are starting to have an effect on SEO, too.
Some websites may have already created a generic page for your business. It’s good to do a sweep of all the main local and small business profile sites and check to see which ones have done this. Once you’ve identified the sites with your profile you can simply request to take ownership of the page and update it with all the correct information. Here is a small list of sites to check:
- Better Business Bureau (BBB)
- Angie’s List
- Merchant Circle
- See more on this comprehensive list from HubSpot
Now that you’ve taken time to create and/or round up your company profiles, update them with the most accurate data and include photos if possible. Then identify the ones that will be the most effective and start using them to your advantage.
Tip #4: Email Marketing - Keep them short and sweet
Email marketing is one of the best ways to market your services and content to a quality audience. People who sign up for your emails are asking you to communicate with them. You can do this by highlighting specials and deals you may be offering, letting them know about new blog posts or resources on your site, or just sending a monthly update on what your company has been up to and what’s ahead. One easy tip to keep in mind is to keep them short and sweet.
When used correctly, email marketing can be one of your highest converting marketing channels. Keeping your emails shorter is a good way to keep people engaged, while still getting your message across. People can get overwhelmed when presented with too much information. If the goal is to get someone to click on a link, write an enticing description and present an appropriate call to action (CTA). If your business has a new deal or promotion, tell them exactly what it is and how to get it.
Example email opener from Flatstick Pub that covers that month’s events
One more thing to keep in mind is to not overdo it with email marketing. If a company sends too many emails people could become uninterested or annoyed. This can cause people to unsubscribe from your mailing list, which is counterproductive to your goals for doing email marketing in the first place.
Tip #5: Content Marketing - Find your audience and plant some seeds
While content marketing is not always the most ‘important’ online marketing task it can be very helpful for many reasons:
- Building thought leadership by answering questions around the web
- Growing your online footprint by being active on Forums and Q&A sites like Quora, Reddit, and industry-specific sites such as AVVO (lawyers and attorneys) and HOUZZ (all kinds of home and garden discussions)
- Both organic and paid social promotion of services and original content
- Link building by creating relationships with bloggers and online influencers
Content marketing for local and small businesses can definitely take time to get right. It’s one of those tasks that’s easier to do when you have some spare time to spend on it. You need to identify “where to play”, meaning you need to find the right websites that have the discussions and content for you to engage with. This is also a very good way to identify new blog and page topics for your website. If someone has a question that requires a longer answer, write about it and post the full answer on your site. Then, you can answer the person on the site you found the topic on and refer them to the full answer on your site. Chances are that same question has been asked elsewhere, and now you have the “answer” on your site that you can point them to.
A couple things to keep in mind before embarking on any of these tactics are to:
First, make sure you have specific goals. This could include obtaining more organic or referral traffic, growing your social media following, or getting more qualified leads. Each of these tips can help you meet your goals and succeed in the ever-changing digital space.
The second thing to remember stems from my note in tip #1 about websites. Keep it simple. Don’t overthink things, which can cause less action to happen. Don't be afraid to dive in and get familiar with each space. The sooner you start taking action, the sooner you will start finding digital marketing success for your local or small business.