It’s not unusual to hear small business owners lamenting that they just can’t compete with Walmart and Amazon. And it’s true that these mega-retailers have advantages of scale that are well out of reach for everyone else.
That being said, local businesses have unique competitive advantages that, if promoted properly, can make them an attractive option to today’s customer.
Yodle Insights, a marketing research firm, found that nationwide 82% of all shoppers have done business with a local company. Even better, nearly every other customer (48%) reported planning to do an increased amount of business with local companies in the year to come.
Search & Reviews Drive Local Traffic
Mobile search results are generally reflective of the searcher’s current location and can include both sponsored and organic content, as well as links to review sites, such as Yelp or TripAdvisor. Positive customer reviews impact Google’s algorithm, which means better-reviewed businesses are listed higher in search results.
For this reason, it’s vitally important for every small business to monitor and actively engage with all reviews posted about their businesses. Prompt thanks for positive reviews and professionally addressing less than complimentary comments help demonstrate community engagement and make it easier for customers to decide they’d like to do business with you.
Do not be afraid to ask your customers to leave reviews on their favorite review sites. Yodle has found that 89% of customers would leave a review if asked, yet only 7% have ever been asked.
Your Customers Are Going to Visit Your Website Before They Ever Visit You
Eight out of every 10 customers researches stores online before making an in-person visit. With this in mind, it’s important to highlight your community connections on your website. Pictures of your storefront are a great idea, as well as imagery highlighting your business’ participation in any local community events. If you sponsor an event, are conducting a fundraiser for a local cause, or just have amazing pictures of your hometown, share this on your home page, about us page and any community oriented pages you may have. Make sure to work your community’s name into your copy whenever appropriate: this will also help Google’s search engines rank your site appropriately.
Social Media Engagement = Increased Local Traffic
We often think of social media as a way to connect with family and friends who are far away, but local social has a powerful impact. Identify the most active local voices on social media. This can include your community newspaper, radio station, media professionals and other organizations. Monitoring these accounts and engaging when you have something of value to contribute to the conversation can help raise your local visibility: for example, during a scorching summer day, a community bookstore mentioned they have great air conditioning and don’t mind browsers at all. The result? Six people just happened to stop in for the first time ever after that post – and three of them bought multiple books.
An added bonus of paying attention to local social media is it can often be the very first place you learn the news first. While it’s important to verify facts before taking action on them, having a heads up on everything from traffic snafus to celebrities coming to town can make it easy for your business to respond appropriately. Upon learning a golf star was vacationing in the area, one pro shop sent a welcome gift basket – a gesture that was rewarded by a visit from the star, complete with pictures that made for great social media fodder.
One thing that’s important to remember when promoting your community connection is that local lasts. People value the history of their neighborhoods – and in this fast-paced age, history happens quicker than it used to. Make sure to share your milestone moments, such as a first year in business or being recognized by local media as a ‘best of’ prominently throughout your digital presence. These moments aren’t just for you. They’re telling your friends and neighbors that there’s something special about their community – your business!