Online Marketing Methods for Local Businesses

If you run a local business, one of the keys to your success would be to fully optimise an online presence for your business so that potential customers can find it. This can be a tall order for those who are inexperienced or frightened of all things technical. It may also seem unimportant initially, especially if you are just starting out and have a million and one other things to think about. However, when you think of how much the internet is now used to search for local businesses, some form of online presence is a must. Obviously if you can afford it, you could find an experienced web designer who can work with you to find the best solutions for maximum profit potential. They will have all the knowledge needed to give your site the best chances of making money, but they also come at a price. For those of you who have just started to think about marketing your business online and want to try some advertising on your own, there are several proven methods out there. Don’t worry if you are inexperienced. Like all things that are new to us, at first it can seem a little overwhelming. But with a little patience and perseverance you will start to master all the tools necessary to start selling your products or services online. Below are a few suggestions on products or strategies you could use to advertise your local business.

Google Places: This is probably one of the easier methods to pursue initially and the best news is that it’s free and you don’t need a website. Google, like most of the other major search engines, has for the last few years been structuring certain search results around businesses local to the person performing the search. Displayed in these search results will be a Google Map with up to seven local businesses matching the search criteria. For example a person searching for Hairdressers in Maidstone could be shown search results which include a map of the Maidstone area with seven businesses marked on the map. If the person clicked on one of these markers they would be provided with all sorts of information on that particular business. This information could include address, telephone numbers, opening hours, products carried, pictures and even video. As stated previously, it’s free to advertise your business this way. Search for Google Places and signup. Then submit a listing for your business. The more information you provide the better chance you have of getting shown on Google Maps for free.

Pay Per Click or Google AdWords: Most people are familiar with Google AdWords and for good reason. Almost 90% of web searches in the UK are performed on the Google search engine site, which makes AdWords an excellent advertising method for small businesses looking to attract the most clients.

The principle of AdWords is to drive business to your site by using specific keywords that can pop up prominently on search engines. It’s like placing an advert on the internet rather than in your local paper. There is a charge by Google to use the AdWords service, but this can be controlled and shut off whenever you choose. You can set a budget each day on how much you wish to spend and terminate your advert when you see fit, so the total spend is governed by you.

Social Media: This involves using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, to name but a few, to indirectly market your business. Initially this can be time consuming to get started but will hopefully reap benefits in the long term. The idea is to build a rapport with existing and potential clients, creating your own community.

For example a hairdresser might give weekly tips and advice on how someone can look after their hair, or a beautician may offer weekly makeup tips. You can respond to people’s questions or just join in with topics of conversation. Gradually using this method you will be seen as a person that can be trusted and an expert in your chosen field. As mentioned previously, this can seem time consuming but should be handled with good discipline and time management. This time and effort is what forms the attraction to existing and perspective clients. They will see someone who is willing to go that little bit further than other businesses in your field to build relationships which hopefully will pay dividends with your business.

Email Marketing: This is not spam mail, but the legitimate, acceptable way to market your business by contacting your customers and up-selling for a very low cost. In fact, a recent survey found that 75% of customers preferred to be contacted by permission-based emails, which means that getting promotional emails is something they want. You will want to research proven email texts that can hold the customer’s attention and bring in more profits to your business. And once you’ve decided on what to send, you will also need to track the results and apply the lessons learned to create more effective email.

Search Engine Optimization: Basically, you create your website with keywords in mind to maximize your website’s standing on search engines. You will need to research all the appropriate keywords and phrases to incorporate them into your site, which will place it prominently on search engines and maximize your visibility to the public.

These are just some of the many marketing methods and strategies currently available to local businesses. Some of them require more expertise than others and some are more costly. Hopefully this article will inspire you use some of these methods to advertise your business, or at least look into their viability. The path you choose will be dependent on your budget, time and experience but one thing you must do is claim some sort of online presence. Can you really afford to hand a powerful marketing advantage to your local competitors?