For local businesses, successful marketing is the key to building and growing a sustainable business. And in an increasingly digital-first world, online marketing is a unique opportunity to engage with your customer base.
Local businesses are the bedrock of any vibrant community and offer a place for residents to come together and socialize, whether at a coffee shop, restaurant, gym or hairdressers, while supporting local jobs and entrepreneurs. However they often face stiff competition from well-resourced big brands and franchises, that can leverage large marketing budgets and aggressive pricing strategies.
Luckily, most people would prefer to support a friendly local cafe than another Starbucks – but it is up to local business owners to put in place an online strategy for brick and mortar marketing.
Digital Marketing for Local Businesses
Local SEO (Search Engine Optimization) should be your number one priority online. This is by far the most likely way that you will be found online. For example, when John is looking for a cafe/gym/barber shop/vegan Mexican restaurant his most likely move is to open Google and put those exact words into the search engine. He may even add ‘near me’ – but Google already knows where you are, and is smart enough to show results in your vicinity.
Setting up a Google My Business listing is the first step to becoming findable in Google.
Facebook and Instagram are the key platforms to be on for local business social media marketing. They work hand in hand with each other (as both are Facebook-owned), and Facebook business pages are ideally set up to capture all the important info of your business – location, opening hours, check-ins, menus, photos, and everything else you have to offer.
Email Marketing / POS
Where many brick and mortar businesses miss a golden marketing opportunity is as Point Of Sale. With a system like Clover or Square you can set it up to ask for your customers email address and ‘Opt-In’ to marketing communications for data compliance.
To make this an effective strategy, it is important to offer content that people really want to encourage them to sign-up. News on exciting events, new menu items, and regular special offers are enticing and will encourage repeat custom and build loyalty.
While Google and Facebook listings serve most of the same purpose, don’t neglect having your own website. Assets you own (such as your website and data) are far more valuable than assets you rent (such as your Facebook page) for the very reason that you own them.
If you depend on your Facebook page, and they make a decision to shut down that serve, then you lose everything. But if you invest in your website, you’re investing in an asset and in your brand, and you ultimately choose what to do it with it.
The same goes for email data. By building a database of customer email you have a direct channel to communicate with your audience no matter what. But if you depend on Facebook then you may suffer if they change their algorithm – as they have done in the past!