In this start of fourth industrial revolution, the local business landscape has transformed dramatically, especially in how customers learn about local businesses. So, our approach to local business marketing must also change.
In the past, we mainly rely on advertisement and local bulletin to learn about new restaurants opening in our area. Nowadays, we get the same information from influencers, Google search, and social media, among other digital platforms. The marketing strategies that worked a decade ago simply won’t be as successful in 2019 and beyond.
With that being said, here we will list 10 best marketing approaches for local business owners. You can use these tactics as a building block when planning your marketing strategy.
1. The free Google My Business listing and local SEO
Without a doubt, the search engines and especially Google is now a very prominent part of our lives.
For local businesses, embracing this fact is even more important as more and more people are now using mobile and voice search to find local businesses.
When we are about to look for a local business, for example, when we are looking for an available restaurant in the area, it’s quite often that our first action is to simply ask Google. Mainly we will ask something like “best restaurant in X (city name)” whether by typing or by using a voice search.
With these queries, Google will first show advertised content (paid search ads), followed by an authority content from relevant portal (in this case, TripAdvisor) according to the niche, and followed by results from Google Maps.
It’s also worth noting that Google only shows three of these results before you need to click “more places”. So, our aim is to get on these top-3 results, dubbed the “3-pack”, which will give you major boosts for conversions.
To achieve this, there are only 3 key steps to follow and optimize:
1. Listing your business on Google My Business
Google Maps basically only listed businesses that are included in Google My Business (GMB). So, the first and the most important step is to list your business on GMB.
This is a fairly straightforward process to list as many information of your business as possible. You don’t really have to optimize for keywords here, aim to provide as accurate and comprehensive information for your audience.
Use well-taken photos of your business, preferably those taken on your premise (or nearby), as Google will check its metadata.
Last but not least, verify your listing. Typically, Google will send a postcard containing your verification PIN to your business’s physical address. So, it’s important to list a valid address.
Long story short, fill as many information as you can and optimize it. You might want to check out this guide on how to optimize your Google My Business listing.
2. Get more citations
Citations are to local SEO what backlinks are to traditional SEO. The more citations you have, the higher your ranking will be.
So what actually are citations? In a nutshell, a citation is any mention of your business’s name, address, and phone number (NAP) in an indexable textual format (yes, Google can parse images, but not as well) on the internet.
You can get a citation when,for example, a blogger mentions your business with your complete NAP information.
The easiest way to get more citations is to list your business on various online directories. Google My Business, discussed above, is arguably the most important online directory here. Then, go for major online directories like TripAdvisor, Facebook Places, and Yelp, among others according to your niche.
The most important thing when building your local citation is to maintain a consistency of information. Meaning, you should use the same NAP information on all of these listings (including and especially your Google My Business). If, for example, you change address, you will need to update all these listings at.
3. Get more positive reviews
The quantity of positive reviews is a very valuable currency in the world of local SEO. You should especially aim to get more positive reviews on your Google My Business/Google Maps listing, but reviews on other sites are also accountable.
The best way to get positive reviews is obviously to actually deliver a good product and or/service. However, here are some tactics you can try:
- Ask at the right moment, for example when they just made a repeat purchase or when they just mentioned your product on social media.
- Offer incentives, for example by giving a discount or freebie in exchange for a review
- People are more likely to leave a review on brands that often respond on existing reviews (including and especially the bad ones). Assign someone to respond to these reviews quickly and politely.
2. Social media and influencer marketing
Besides proactive search on Google (or other search engines), how do people commonly learn about local businesses? In this age of social media, the answer is from the posts of those we followed, which can be our friends/family members or influencers/content creators.
Local businesses should embrace this fact: businesses with strong social media presence will thrive.
To do this, there are three main approaches we can try:
- Building your own social media presence by posting great, engaging content and by investing on social media ads. Nowadays, however, most likely you will need to spend heavily on advertising, especially if you are a newer business.
- Getting others to mention your business (or better, if your brand went viral). This can be tricky, but in general, if you provide excellent product and/or service, people will always talk about you.
- Work with the influencers to promote your brand. Influencers can also influence their followers to talk about you.
Nowadays, arguably going with the right influencer is the most effective and affordable way to promote your brand on social media.
How, however,can we implement a proper influencer marketing? Here are a few principles:
- The most important thing is indeed about finding the right influencer for your business. This can be easier for certain niches/industries than others, but there are many tools that can help you in this stage.
- Don’t solely focus on mega-influencers and celebrities, in fact, smaller influencers can bring more benefits while also being more affordable. Micro-influencers can offer a more genuine message for their followers, often with a higher engagement rate.
- Just because you feel that an influencer is right for you, doesn’t necessarily mean they are willing to work with you. Building relationship is a very important aspect of influencer marketing, and you should expect to invest some time on this stage.
- Set KPIs and measure the right metrics for each influencer campaign. If it works, you might want to develop another campaign with the influencer. If not, move on. Trial and error is an integral aspect of influencer marketing, so don’t give up.
3. Referral/affiliate marketing
The most ideal phase of marketing is when your customers turn into your brand advocates , which is, when your customers are satisfied about your product/service and recommends it to their peers.
Achieving it, however, can be easier said than done, and this is where referral marketing—or affiliate marketing— can give you a shortcut.
The idea is to offer incentives to your customers—or even, random people— to promote your product/service. You can acquire new prospects and customers when they are the ones doing the actual work.
The key to a successful referral marketing, is the incentive. That is, offer too much, and you might get low-quality referrals and scams, offer too little, and you might not attract anyone. Finding the right balance is the key to success.
More than 80% of consumers admitted that peer recommendations are one of the most important influences in their purchase decisions. Referral marketing can utilize this fact and generate a sustainable, long-term revenue cycle.
4. Give back to the community
As a local business, being part of the local community is one of the most effective ways to get more awareness from your local audience.
Giving back to the community through charitable involvements can be effective, especially in today’s environment where consumers are more likely to connect to businesses that share similar social values.
A genuine social act will also help in establishing a positive image, and you can also ask your existing customers about which social causes or charities you should support.
This doesn’t have to be big or world-changing. Something as small as providing food for a public school event (if you are a restaurant) can be a valuable experience.
5. Content marketing
People only purchase something from a brand they can trust, and consistently publishing relevant, engaging content is simply one of the best ways to establish credibility.
On the other hand, since consumers nowadays use primarily the internet to find local business, content marketing will also tremendously help in boosting your local presence.
This is the main idea of inbound marketing, which is, attracting people towards your business by putting your valuable content available.
Admittedly, content marketing is easier to implement in certain niches/industry over the others, but with the increasing popularity of videos and podcasts, there are always ways to provide relevant content about your niche to attract your audience.
Here are some important principles in implementing content marketing for small businesses:
- The goal of content marketing is to establish credibility that you are a trustworthy brand—or even better, a thought leader of your niche—. So, don’t use your content mainly to push your product/service, but to provide relevant information. For example if you are a restaurant, you can provide health tips or even cooking classes.
- Keyword research will help you in developing content that will attract enough audience. The idea is to create content for keywords with high enough search volume, yet manageable competition.
- Content development is only the start of your journey, as promoting your content is just as, if not even more important. Use various channels to promote your content, with the aim of getting more traffic and backlinks.
- SEO is still the most effective way to promote your content. This is why aiming to get more backlinks is important. Optimize your content according to the SEO best practices. However, focus on delivering value for human readers. If your content is genuinely good, it will always climb the ranks of the search engine(s).
The five tactics we have shared above are by far, the most effective ways to market your local business. The key here is to understand how your local audience is finding new local businesses, and use these channels to meet them.
Also, continuously monitor your marketing progress by tracking the right KPIs. This will help you maximize your marketing investments and to adjust your strategy according to the market situations.