When you run a local business, standing out from the digital noise is no easy feat. Not only is your addressable market limited, but you’re often up against national businesses who have wider resources to dominate conversations and search rankings online.
Here are a few ways that your local business can stand out online using some of the latest technology innovations, social networks, and digital marketing tactics.
Use Data for Audience Insights
In addition to being a great way to connect with your customers, social media can also give you great insight about what your audience likes and dislikes.
Before you invest in a fancy digital analytics or social media listening tool, do the basics: use the monitoring dashboards available for social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. See what kind of content is resonating best with your audience, and, in some cases, who is consuming your content (for example: Facebook provides a demographic breakdown).
Set up a Google Analytics account to see who is visiting your website and create Google alerts for your brand’s name and top keywords to see who is already out there talking about your product or service.
The data you can glean from these sites will tell you not only what kind of information your audiences seek from you so you can better tailor your product and services, but where they are so you can better target your integrated marketing efforts.
Use Geo Targeting to Reach the Right Prospects
Digital advertising can be extremely cost effective when you do it right. There is a lot to like about Facebook’s cost-per-click (CPC) campaigns: you are only paying for the people who actually click over to your page or website. For this to work though, you have to be extremely targeted.
If you are a photographer and you want to advertise your wedding photography services to a specific geographic area, be sure you are targeting not only your geographic area, but people in your demographic (let’s say for this purpose it’s women, 24-35) who also like bridal boutiques, wedding venues, and other wedding related businesses.
Advertising can be another way to get more out of your social media efforts, as long as you’re using geographic targeting to make sure you’re getting as much benefit as possible. If you have a local business, there is no sense advertising to people who live 1000 miles away.
Use Your Domain Name to Tell Your Story
We live in a digital world of information overload. If you want to stand out, you need to stand out immediately. Next to the name of your business, the second most important branding tool is your domain name.
Businesses and brands have long been using country code domain names—we have all seen domains that end in .co.uk or .co.nz. Now, there are even more meaningful, specific domain name extensions for businesses to use to tell the world who they are, what business they’re in and in some cases, where they are.
Local businesses in New York can register a domain with a .nyc extension. Likewise for businesses in Vegas (.vegas), Boston (.boston) and Miami (.miami). These are great options for companies that want to speak to a geographic region, but use them with caution. As your business grows, you don’t want to outgrow your domain name and be stuck with something that feels outdated.
Your other option is to use something that is specifically suited to your business: the Phoenix-area catering company Amici Catering opted for www.amici.catering instead of a long and hard to read .com address because the domain extension immediately tells the world they’re a catering company. Some other great examples include: www.artof.fitness, www.driftaway.coffee, www.myne.boutique and www.warriorpoet.clothing.
There are hundreds of options in literally every industry I can think of to give brands and businesses the variety and choice they need to stand out among a sea of .com and .net domain names.
These names are all descriptive and meaningful, and we know that meaningful names tend to be more memorable. When you’re a local business, especially if you’re just starting out, having an online calling card that will help people remember you will be an invaluable asset.
Create Strong Partnerships
If you have a local business, some things are more challenging for you than they are for national or global companies. Other things are simpler, like where to go to find the movers and shakers that are influencing your desired audience.
Sometimes, national businesses try so hard to be everything to everyone that they’ll wind up trying to “boil the ocean.” Though this can happen to any business owner regardless of size or scale, serving a specific region forces you to streamline your marketing efforts.
For example: why would a catering company that serves the Phoenix region want to hire a NYC-based chef to be a spokesperson? Well, they shouldn’t. But, they might hire a prominent Phoenix-area chef with strong local credibility and influence. They could then co-create a few of their signature recipes, pitch segments about the chef making the recipes to local media, team up with local bloggers to throw a media event, or offer up guest blog content to other vendor partners to broaden their reach.
When your business is local, it can be tempting to compare yourself to global brands. Instead, focus on your community, both in person and online, to guide you. Your community is your strongest asset and will help you build your local presence and grow your digital footprint, too.
Thoughts on new and traditional media, current events, life in Chicago and the occasional small Chihuahua photo.