Although the market for niche products is widening, for many small businesses, providing a service locally is their sole source of income. Shops, tradespeople, solicitors and many other sectors earn their livings by servicing their local communities. Although it is possible for local businesses to put in tenders for work in other parts of the country, such work would have to be very lucrative; even then, a small business will have to weigh up whether it is worth losing local custom (and goodwill) to work elsewhere. For most small businesses, then, advertising their presence on a business directory with local listings is essential.
Google My Business
As a way into the world of digital marketing, easily the best way is with Google. As most people in the UK have a smartphone and / or tablet on them at all times, Google is never far away; and it is often an unplanned search which results in business for local companies. Even when looking at something on Google Maps, local businesses appear without being searched for. Although it’s possible Google might find your website, you shouldn’t rely on this; a much better way is to register yourself, and don’t forget to include your website address. The basic service is free, and only takes a few minutes, once you’ve confirmed your email address. The signing on process just requires business name, address, opening hours, type of business and a short description. It is also worth using Google’s My Business tab, as this allows you to keep up to date with internet traffic coming your way through Google, and to make any changes you see fit.
As well as using Google My Business, social media platforms can be an excellent way of advertising locally. Although this sounds counter-intuitive, in fact apps like Facebook are packed with features which target local areas. As this gives them the chance to earn advertising revenue from local businesses, so it can also help those businesses with its own software and algorithms. The important thing here is that, as a business owner, you yourself tell the social media company who it is you want your advertising to reach; this could be people within a specific area, of a certain age group, gender or a wide range of criteria. As social media apps (and the devices which access them) have location software included, this cuts out the time it takes for people to find a business within a certain distance of their current location. It makes sense, therefore, to take advantage of this built in technology to drive business your way.
Other Business Directories
After registering with the global internet giants, the next step for many small businesses is to look for online directories which specifically target their geographical area. These directories themselves compete with each other, as well as with the big name players. This competition is good for business, as it keeps directories and listings fresh, which has the bonus of increasing everyone’s SEO rankings. It could be that a new local directory offers an especially useful feature others lack, which you can try out free for a certain period; it’s almost guaranteed that other businesses similar to yours in your locality will make use of this advertising. As long as your details are absolutely accurate, it could well be that a new directory site is a better place to be than an old one. As long as you monitor the situation carefully, and only stay after the trial period if you decide it’s worth it, keeping listings fresh is always a good strategy.
Reviewing and Tracking Effectiveness
Once your business is established on the internet and has a high local profile, it’s extremely important to review your profile and see which sites are proving the most effective in bringing you business. In marketing terms, this means keeping an eye on the cycle; from taking action (i.e. registering with a business directory or updating your offering), allowing this action time to take effect – usually at least three months – and then making any changes you think necessary. You may decide that your listing/s are having a beneficial effect, but could be better, in which case you might want to “tweak” them; or if they’re not working, start again.