Local LOCM +% businesses today are in a unique position. On the one hand, they are no longer the “only” shop in town, as customers have more options than ever before thanks to the ubiquity of e-commerce. On the other hand, local businesses can now compete with the big box retailers without having to match their budgets. New media has leveled the playing field in many ways. Still, I find that most local businesses struggle to understand and take advantage of this landscape.
Luckily, some smart manufacturers are stepping in to help educate local business owners. One such manufacturer, Shaw Floors, holds multiple events a year in order to do just that. As a leading manufacturer of flooring, they realize that their success is tied to that of the retailers who carry their products. I was recently invited to keynote at one of these events where I addressed online marketing for local businesses.
Here are some of the takeaways you must keep in mind if you are marketing your local business.
Running a business is a challenge on the best of days, but feeling like big box retailers are stealing market share can make it disheartening. It is important to remember that you have a unique advantage in the marketplace. People are rooting for you to succeed! In recent years, there has been a huge resurgence in customers wanting to shop local and support the community. Emarketer recently reported the following: “US consumers are choosing small businesses because of the personalized experiences they provide compared with larger businesses. According to April 2014 data from AYTM Market Research, personal service was the No. 2 reason US internet users preferred small businesses vs. large companies, cited by 52.7%. This trailed supporting the local economy (56.2%), but it led all other options by at least 23 percentage points. Lower prices did not play a huge role in choosing small businesses. In fact, 61.2% of respondents said they would pay higher prices to support small businesses.”
Let’s face it. Businesses are no longer the custodians of information. Everyone from medical practices to hardware retailers knows that customers come in armed with information. There is no lack of that anymore. What is still very necessary though is the help they need in making the actual decision. As we become inundated with information, we still need filters to turn it into actionable wisdom. That’s where a local business becomes indispensable. You can provide relevancy and support and wisdom to your customers. This is why even though there are tons of real estate websites, people still prefer to work with an actual realtor. To use another example, a customer may walk in with a few choices in mind for flooring, but only you can help them decide which is going to be ideal based on their family needs.
Educating customers and becoming the go-to source for them is going to be absolutely key for any local business wanting to succeed. And yes, this means you will have to invest in creating or curating content. Educating your customers and being sought after begins long before they ever enter your store.
Online Video. Do More of It.
Your local business needs more online video. There are a few tactics I can make such blanket statements about, but this is one of them. According to data from Syndacast, 74% of all internet traffic in 2017 will be video. From Vine to Twitter TWTR -0.66% to YouTube to Facebook, online videos get more views, more plays, and more engagement than any other medium. If you aren’t engaging in actively creating and sharing videos, you are missing a very easy ROI boat.
Decode Digital Signals.
Simply put, know your analytics. Big data isn’t reserved for big businesses. You have data all around you that you can analyze and learn from. For example, you should be looking at your Google Analytics data every month. This alone can tell you how many people visited your website, how long they stayed on your site, how many direct calls you received from people visiting your website. You can also see how many people are visiting your website from their smartphones. If the number is more than 50%, and your website is not mobile friendly, that’s the same as not allowing half your customers into the store.
Go After the Low Hanging Fruit.
Every business leaves money on the table by not fully taking advantage of their current assets or by not integrating their current strategies. I often ask my audience to raise their hands if they give back to the community in some way. In almost all my audiences, more than half of the people raise their hands. When I then follow it up, “How many of you make sure your customers know how you give back?” almost all of the hands go down. Make sure that your customers know how you support the community. Let them see how choosing to do business with you makes them part of something bigger than themselves.
This can be the biggest year for your local business. Just focus on the above.