It is definitely the right time for you to shift towards digital mediums. Local businesses should build a digital identity. It won’t take long for customers to show up. Step out of your comfort zone, the internet has a lot to offer.
These days, with the pandemic revolutionizing how customers deal with businesses, everything is shifting online. If we look at stats - there’s an increase in site visits, in billions. Plus, the school moved online - Zoom is the norm now.
We have seen all sorts of changes. Multinational companies, small businesses—basically everyone adapted to the pandemic. COVID-19 has shown how businesses diversified their approach when needed, about time you do the same.
We realize that most local business owners hesitate at the sound of "digital marketing" and everything that comes along with it. But honestly, it is not difficult to get started – consistency and the right strategy are what you need to promote a business online.
Luckily, you're on the right page. Keep reading as we do a detailed breakdown of different advertising mediums and "free" methods to be aware of. Learn how to promote your business locally.
7 FREE Ways to Promote Local Small Business Online
Contrary to popular belief, you don't need a high budget to craft the perfect marketing strategy. In fact, organic growth is far more preferable. Setting up a business and then promoting products is easy enough when you have the right resources.
Luckily you’re at the right spot. Here, we’ll guide you through the most effective marketing mediums - none will cost you a single dime.
Promote Your Local Business With SEO
A conversation about marketing in this age is incomplete without search engine optimization (SEO) - do not underestimate its importance. A website without proper optimization will lead to “no traffic” and eventual collapse. Customize keywords, meta descriptions, header tags, and basically be original with the content.
It is a DIY process - won’t cost you anything. But professional SEO experts can always do it better and in lesser time.
Also, be as “local” as you can be - curate content according to actual events. Demographics play a significant part. When writing a blog post, make sure you include cities and neighborhoods - people will search for local businesses in their area.
A source once concluded that over 72% of customers end up visiting a store if it’s close enough.
Google My Business Listing
Now, consider Google My Business (GMB) and list your local business. Google launched My Business to help brands manage their online presence - all for free, no charges. Once you set up an account and monitor GMB performance, it’ll give you a lot of valuable insights.
On Google My Business - you can add a phone number, address, working hours, and so much more. It is easy to walk through the tool. Follow these steps:
- Set up a Google account (if you haven’t already) and head to google.com/business
- Enter your business name, area (be specific), and category
- Attach the website URL and contact number
That’s it. Verify your business at the last stage through email/phone and get instant access.
A business with no proper verification and spam information means - no customers. There’s a lot of competition out there. If your business’s address does not show up on Google, consumers will move along. Google My Business fulfills that gap - managing business listings.
Business Directories and Local Listing
Again. Your business needs to be seen, make it visible. Business directories are the main source to “search” - it is the default option for customers.
As soon as you update business information - research different platforms, and see which one suits bests. After Google, focus on niche-based directories, you will find people from the targeted demographic.
For small businesses, we usually recommended the following:
The name already suggests a “funky” tone - Yelp helps people discover businesses. The directory enlists restaurants, bars, dentists, anything.
Yelp does claim that 90% of people end up purchasing items after a “search” on the site, most within a week. Yelp might not be popular enough in the news but the site still gets 178 million users in traffic. Give it a try.
Why Apple Maps when Google already has one? Well, most iOS users rely on the default map for daily navigation and seeing businesses around town.
Be more direct with customers, keep them comfortable. Also, Apple Maps Connect is extremely cooperative with company data, utilize it for free.
Hear us out. Bing is the second most popular search engine and gets 12 billion search requests monthly. The platform specifically focuses on local businesses and highlights key points, like the address and all.
Take a look at Bing Places for Business - list your business instantly in a few steps.
An underrated directory site in our book, Yellowback is a classic name and still has a large enough audience - over 50 million searchers apparently.
Originally known as Yellow Pages, it was a publishing company - they went fully digital a few years back. You can trust them to have a dedicated niche.
Blogging to Promote Your Local Store
The first rule in the book - have a dedicated page for blogging on your site and publish articles. Businesses with a separate blog page get up to 55% more visitors and quicker leads.
Through blogging, you can bring a personal touch to the business. In the long term, it could lead to daily visitors.
And by personal, we mean - be direct with brand messaging. Use CTAs in a casual conversational way. For the algorithm, blog posts are perfect. SEO demands engaging content before anything else.
So… before you spend a “ton” on marketing services, just play around with the content for free.
Blogs should be a side product in your marketing strategy, just be consistent with the updates and you’ll see an increase in traffic.
Use Email Marketing to Promote Your Business Locally
A personalized email goes a long way. For local businesses, it is the best way to introduce yourself online. Think about it. Customers are tired of going through the same-old “spam” ads, they won’t convert. Be different and write customized emails for each customer.
If we rely on facts - billions of emails are exchanged every day - around 300 billion. And the figure is only projected to grow. Platforms come and go, but email was one of the “first” networking pathways - it is here to stay.
- Collect a list (signup forms, clickable ads, …)
- Choose the type of email you’ll send (promotional, retention, newsletter…)
- Be creative with the email design and content
- Keep checking performance insights
Trust us. Nearly every business uses email to distribute its brand message. Finding a list won’t cost you anything. Learn more about it here.
Also, do not forget A/B testing - keep changing your campaign strategy and see what works best. Each subscriber is different.
Social Media Marketing for Local Businesses
Ah, the epitome of digital marketing - social media. Every single customer you want to reach is on social media in one way or another - either for business reasons or personal use.
The first thing every local marketer does is - signing up on social media. After all, 3.6 billion people depend on social platforms for daily updates.
But before barging in, figure out how you want to present the business. The voice, design, target demographic… and the overall aesthetic.
For professionals, Linkedin would be suitable. Likewise, other mediums (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, etc) are perfect for a casual audience.
Each platform is “best” for different forms of content. TikTok, Snapchat, and Instagram are better suited for short ads while Linkedin should be used for long-form posts.
Fortunately, every site has dedicated business apps - you can easily manage the company and figure it out along the way.
Encourage User Reviews
Have you stopped a purchase even after making it to the cart stage just because of a random review? Exactly. Especially for eCommerce businesses, user reviews matter a lot. It’s an instant conversion point, a deal-breaker.
People would rather listen to a fellow customer than the brand itself - there’s unbiasedness.
The final purchase decision completely depends on the reviews posted on your website or social media. 90% of customers say so. Believe them. And don’t be afraid of reviews or comments - take it as constructive criticism and further “encourage” them.
You’re getting people to talk about the business for free.
Be quick with the responses to reviews, customers will understand your viewpoints. Be positive with the tone.
When you welcome feedback, it will show that the brand cares for customers and is actively trying to improve.
Become Involved in Communities - Forums Basically
You need to “network” around. Make your business known in online communities. Connect with other local business owners, entrepreneurs, startup enthusiasts - you all have a common goal, a similar journey. Learn from each other. Facing any problem? Trying to figure out a solution? Looking for alternate strategies?
Talk to someone over an online forum. People are more than willing to help out - as long as you don’t spam groups with promotional content though. Be authentic with your words. Word of mouth works here. Potential customers will subconsciously know your brand in a positive light.
Join Facebook groups, Twitter lists, subreddits, and Linkedin groups - you will find dedicated conversations. Snoop in and interact with everyone, their support will morally help you figure out the digital world.
5 Ways to Advertise Your Business
Considering current consumer behavior trends, you need to be on the edge every time. Free marketing tactics can only get you “so” far.
Customers are already focusing on established brands - there’s no chance you can win them over.
Unless… you use popular advertising mediums to promote your business. Keep reading.
Google Ads for Promoting a Local Business
Presently, as a small business owner, we assume individuals need to visit your store to purchase an item. But… the pandemic halted the entire process. Your business model is in shambles now - so what do you do?
Here comes Google Ads. It is the go-to platform for digital advertising. Google Ads connects users to brands—working as a search engine advertising platform.
Businesses usually pay to display their company's information and specific goal-oriented ads on Google Search Network (Youtube, Gmail, SERPs, etc).
With the help of Google Ads, you can promote products to certain demographics - that's the benefit of targeted advertising. It ensures that your product reaches the right audience. To provide further clarification - here’s what you get with Google Ads:
- Pay-per-click ads
- Wide range of audience
- Aftermath analytics
Facebook Ads for Local Business
Facebook ads are one of the most reliable methods to promote your local business after Google Ads. It is simple, easy to set up. Facebook Business Manager handles all marketing aspects quite easily.
The options you get range from increasing brand awareness to leading customers to direct CTAs.
Trust the experts. Even companies such as Nike, Apple, Amazon—and basically every major brand utilizes Facebook to its “full” extent. Figures show us that the platform houses 2.8 billion potential customers with entirely different buyer stages.
Capitalize on it. On Facebook - you get better CTRs, a bigger audience, and quick results. In the end, it is cost-effective as well.
In total, businesses spent over $20.7 billion to advertise their product or service. Remember that Facebook as an advertising medium isn’t limited to eCommerce startups - every local business should sign up.
A quick overview - how to set up local ads on Facebook.
- Pick out a traffic objective (conversions, catalog sales, or store traffic)
- Create a campaign and figure out the budget
- Select your target audience and configure the ad template accordingly
- That’s pretty much it. Keep a track of user insights and the revenue now
Pinterest Ads for Increasing Local Store Sales
Pinterest has untapped potential. Marketers are moving towards the platform now, it has surely built up a name for itself. The interface of Pinterest makes it the “perfect” medium - it is a discovery place.
Users (Pinners, you may say) are trying to find ideas, browsing through different pins anyway. Insert your name in-between.
Upon survey, it was concluded that Pinners are five times more likely to visit your store after seeing a pin online. After all, most users use the platform as a research tool for future buying choices.
Example: Let’s assume you operate a clothing store and a potential customer is looking for a specific set of clothes. On Pinterest, they might search for “blue shirts” - showcase your product as a pin, it’s the perfect opportunity. Remember that Pinterest demands high-quality images, make sure that they are up to the mark and deliver the intended message.
Lastly, keep a note of what your targeted audience is pinning - do research.
Create a Pinterest profile with “audience” oriented content. In terms of business, your Pinterest profile is the ideal spot to insert keywords - this will assist you with getting found on the platform and even on Google.
Add catchphrases/keywords to your profile name, board titles, profile depiction, and board portrayals.
Then be consistent. Set up a posting timetable and plan your content in advance at all times, use a scheduling tool so it goes out at the right time.
Use Influencers to Create a Buzz for your Small Business
Influencer marketing is everywhere nowadays, you’re missing out, look around. In marketing, it is understood that a customer is far more likely to listen to a trustable source - it can be celebrities or even a local blogger. Yes.
The term “influencer” isn’t limited to Hollywood actors, even those with a small but “niche” following have a dedicated audience.
In your case, micro-influencers have customizable packages and are more than willing to cooperate, perfect for an emerging business. And the ROI is high enough.
Stats show that influencers with a small following have a higher engagement rate, far more than well-known celebrities.
A perfectly curated campaign can lead your business to higher ranks. Keep the following goals in mind:
- Brand awareness
- Create trust
- Lead to conversions
- Gain enough data
One word by a familiar influencer is more effective than any sort of advertisement - 61% of people find it trustable.
Consumers are smart enough to figure out when a brand is being too “fake” - the algorithm can only help to an extent. Be genuine, you’ll see organic growth. Focus on one goal at a time - your campaign should lead to one conversion (newsletter, sign-up, buying, etc.).
Utilize the Old Direct Mail
The classic mail approach might seem old-school but for local businesses, it is the best strategy. And even in general, in a tech-savvy world - you can try standing out by sending customized postcards, brochures, catalogs, or any other promotional material to customers.
Direct mail shouldn’t be the primary channel but definitely an add-on. When combined with digital marketing, customers will appreciate the detailed approach. Research shows that 70% of people perceive mail as more personal and unique - hence it is memorable.
There’s less competition and more room for creativity. You can create all sorts of designs with actual objects and engage with customers unlike ever before.
Direct mail keeps on being an unbelievably helpful tool for organizations. Nonetheless, similar to all publicizing, this strategy works best when the message is clear, creative, and is distributed smartly.
Many businesses that work on their online campaigns while also working through the direct mail method, can tell that this makes all the difference.
Types of direct mail to keep an eye on:
- Wraps and circulars
Restart Your Small Business Online After COVID-19
Don’t worry. The pandemic has affected nearly every major business out there, many are on the brink of bankruptcy. You can overcome the losses and restart with a fresh strategy. The economy is slowly returning to its normal pace, the virus is settling down. Plus, the digital realm has only skyrocketed during the pandemic.
It’s not the end - go digital. Here’s what you need to look after.
Check Financial Insights: Where does your business stand? Go through financial statements and check yearly revenue. How far behind are you from last year? Numbers will show the ground reality - maybe you are exaggerating.
Reconsider Business Model: This is our main point. You cannot return to the same mundane way of dealing with customers, think ahead. Go online. Sneak around. See what your competitors are doing. Focus on the Market gap based on current circumstances.
Budget Needed for Revival: In most cases, businesses would need large working capital to stand up again. But for an online setup, you just need to take care of a few costs - domain, hosting, inventory, and payment mechanism. There will be recurring charges on the way but it still won’t be as costly as the rent of a store.
Note that 90% of the feedback you’ll receive from customers will be positive. People always find online shopping more convenient. Your “digital” move is helpful for them.
At this stage, we hope you know the ins and outs of setting up a local business online. Once you figure out how to promote your business locally for free - climbing up the digital hierarchy won’t be difficult.
If any of this seems complicated, don’t worry - we’ll take care of the entire process. Your local business has the potential to be the next Amazon - a step in the right direction will lead to it.