More than three-quarters of small business owners say the pandemic has hurt their operations. Despite that, many remain optimistic about the future.
One of the things that the last six months or so has showcased is the value of business communication. It’s been essential for business owners like you to keep customers up to date about when they can shop with you and how.
The changing business landscape also shows the importance of online marketing for local businesses. People’s habits have changed. Traditional marketing tactics may no longer reach your audience.
If you haven’t yet adopted an online marketing strategy for your small business, it’s high time to hash one out.
This guide reviews the benefits of small business online marketing. Then it goes over the tactics and techniques you should be using to make sure you’re reaching your audience.
Why Online Marketing for Local Businesses Matters
Many local business owners haven’t adopted online marketing for one reason or another. They may be convinced it’s not in their budget. They might think traditional tactics are better for reaching their audience.
The fact of the matter is online marketing is one of the most effective tools a small business owner has.
Moreover, online marketing for local businesses works. Time and again, the statistics show the effectiveness of online marketing.
- The majority of Google searches are looking for local information
- More than 85 percent of people who conduct a local search visit the store within the next day
- Almost 80 percent of location-based mobile searches result in an offline sale
Online marketing is also the most common way for people to learn about local businesses. The majority of people say they learn more through search than any other method.
Shifting Consumer Behavior
Now consider that these numbers originated before lockdown. When businesses closed up and people started working remotely, the landscape shifted again.
People who had to commute to the office may have heard ads on the radio or seen billboards along the highway. They may have driven past your location or noticed your sign. They may even have discovered your business when they left the office to grab a bite to eat.
Consumer behavior shifted rapidly online in early 2020. People weren’t listening to the radio in their cars or seeing billboards. They were listening to ads on Spotify and watching them before their YouTube videos.
Many businesses have reopened, but it’s likely that consumer behaviour has changed forever. People discovered that they liked working from home, so they may not be going back to the office. They might never listen to the radio again.
They’re also more likely than ever before to search for a business online. They’ll want to know about your opening hours or if they can buy online instead of visiting you in-person.
People want to be prepared, so they’re seeking out local business information online. They’re also more interested in supporting local businesses and their community. “Shop local” and “buy small” movements have people looking closer to home to fulfill their needs.
Yes, Your Audience Is Online
If you’re not using online marketing, you may very well be invisible to most of your audience. Some small business owners still aren’t sure of this fact. They may believe most of their audience is offline and discovers them in other ways.
The truth is most people are online. Most Americans have access to the Internet, and most own a mobile device of some sort. The mobile market is still growing, with more devices set to come online in the next few years.
Many people are also switching toward being “mobile only” users. They only access the Internet through the use of a mobile device.
Screentime usage varies across demographics, as does platform use. Even in the 55-65 and 65+ age brackets, though, people are still online.
You’ll need to adjust your strategy to reach your target market. The good news is online marketing is infinitely adaptable.
Discover Your Target Audience
The first step of creating an online marketing strategy for small business has to be defining your audience.
You can start by looking at your current customer demographics. Who shops with you? Who is your ideal customer?
You may want to create different buyer personas. These “ideal” customers represent the different demographics you market to.
Once you’ve defined your target audience, you can begin to discover more about them. What platforms do they use? How do they spend their time on the Internet?
An example is social media platforms. Social media is most popular with younger people, but they use different platforms than older people. They may be on Snapchat, Instagram, or even TikTok.
By contrast, older people tend to be on Facebook. If you’re selling to professionals, you may want to check out LinkedIn.
You can also begin looking at the kinds of marketing they respond to. What messages resonate with your ideal customers? What are their pain points, and what information are they looking for when they hit Google?
The Foundation of Online Marketing: Local SEO
Any online marketing strategy worth its salt should incorporate search engine optimization. For small businesses, local SEO is even more important.
Why is SEO so important? It allows people to find you via search engines, and it powers your other marketing initiatives.
SEO helps your website rank higher in the search engine results. Most people click on one of the top three links on Google. Very few ever reach the second page of search results.
If you’re not ranking, then you’re invisible to people who may be looking for you or your products.
SEO is the solution. It optimizes your content to help you rank higher and get your website in front of the people who are looking for you.
Local SEO is focused on helping you reach a local audience. “Near me” and other place-based searches have increased over the last few years.
Suppose you own a pizzeria. You don’t necessarily want to rank for “best NYC pizza place,” unless you’re located in New York City. If you’re in Memphis or Colorado Springs, you’ll want to rank for those locations.
Local SEO is designed to help you do that. It makes you more visible to the people who are searching for your business, and who are most likely to pay you a visit.
SEO also helps you provide a better experience for users when they visit your website. This improves trust and confidence, which makes people more likely to visit your site.
If you’re planning to use a content marketing strategy or search engine marketing, then SEO can give your campaigns a boost.
Choosing Your Formats
Next, you’ll need to make some decisions about the other kinds of online marketing you want to use. SEO is almost non-negotiable, because it affects every other type of marketing you can do.
The other types of online marketing should be carefully considered. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Some will suit your purposes, while others will be less helpful for you.
You’ll want to think about the following:
- Audio ads
- Video ads
- Content marketing
- Social media marketing
- Search engine marketing
Social media marketing combines organic posting and ads on social media platforms. Search engine marketing usually consists of pay-per-click ads on search engines like Google.
In either case, video ads can be used. Audio ads are more popular on streaming sites like Spotify and Pandora.
Content marketing can incorporate videos, blog posts, and infographics, among others.
Usually, a combination of these marketing strategies is your best bet. Video ads can be used on Instagram and Facebook, as well as YouTube and Spotify. You can even make them from video content you create for your website or YouTube channel.
PPC ad campaigns can also be run on other websites. You may even want to consider running ads in apps.
Pick Your Platforms
Finally, you’ll want to give some consideration to the platforms you use to market. Where you market generally reflects where your audience is.
If your audience is all on Instagram, there’s not much sense in putting all your ads on YouTube. Often, your audience will be split up over many platforms.
Search engine marketing and SEO can complement each other. Ads and organic posting on social media work together, all while boosting content marketing.
Again, you’ll want to be sure you’re putting your marketing budget where your audience is. That way, you’ll be more likely to reach them.
A Marketing Mix as Unique as Your Business
Online marketing for local businesses is more important than ever. The good news is there are many different ways to market your business. Almost all of them are budget-friendly for small business.
Not sure where to get started with your online marketing strategy? It’s time to consult with the experts. Getting the right marketing team on your side can give you the insights you need to drive your business forward.