Connecting Local Businesses with Local Customers
Internet marketing is critical for local businesses looking to
connect with prospects. While many have been slow to adopt Web
marketing initiatives on the whole, change is coming.
According to the U.S. SMB Spending Forecast by BIA/ Kelsey, by
2015 SMBs will allocate just 30 percent of their marketing budgets
to traditional advertising (down from 52 percent in 2010),
with the remaining 70 percent going to digital/online media.
From review and online directory sites, the myriad daily
deal platforms, pay-per-click and display advertising offerings
— there is no shortage of opportunities. Local businesses need
channels and platforms to connect with their future buyers. But
which is the best for your audience and most appropriate for
If you have been hesitant to engage in local Web marketing,
you are not alone. Know that there are solutions for those just
starting out as well as edgier, more aggressive approaches for
more seasoned marketers. Let’s take a look at a few of the most
popular options on the market today.
TIER ONE: Local Search-based Advertising
According to a recent study by strategy and communications
agency Cone Inc., 85 percent of consumers research products
or services online before they make purchasing decisions. Since
“search” is users’ primary tool of choice for finding information,
local business owners should aim to position themselves
within the online channels providing search functionality to
Offerings from Google (Places) and Local.com, for example,
both prove to be valuable options in their ability to drive results
— so consider starting there if the aim is to increase online
visibility and website traffic, as well as foot traffic into a
Business owners can enhance their local profiles by upgrading
their listings and advertising to audiences on these sites.
While Google Places listings are free and payment won’t influence
position, Google now offers Adwords Express, a locally
targeted advertising program designed specifically for local
businesses wanting additional exposure.
Google is clearly the main source of traffic for websites but
there are others which can supplement a Web marketing campaign’s
traffic acquisition objectives. When a business upgrades
its listing on Local.com, for example — which reaches, according
to the company’s own count, more than 20 million consumers
a month, driven in large part by its distribution network
of more than 1,000 partner sites — a business can all but assure
itself of greater exposure and do so on a variety of sites
(premium listings at Local.com start at $49.95 a month).
With the right combination of location, budget and creative,
Web advertising through search leads to immediate conversions
as well as long-time loyal customers.
Local business marketers can accelerate their exposure by further
expanding their locally focused ad campaigns beyond vendors
such as Google or Local.com. There are many options which
deserve consideration including SuperMedia, CitySearch and YellowPages.
com. These directory-based advertising platforms offer
small businesses a cost-efficient and effective way to position
themselves in front of their prospects.
TIER TWO: Daily Deal Promotions
For local business marketers that seek a more aggressive approach,
consider advertising in the white-hot, hyper-trendy daily
deal market. Daily deal sites have risen in popularity with the faltering
economy and consumers are hopping on board in droves.
A recent Hitwise survey shows that 87 percent of consumers are
satisfied with their deal purchases and plan to return to the business
from which they purchased the deal.
“Groupon has transformed the way local businesses market
themselves around the world, harnessing the power of the Internet
to successfully grow their businesses,” says Julie Anne Mossler,
a Groupon representative. “Never before has there been a form of
marketing with such tangible exposure and trackable ROI. Unlike
radio advertising or print ads that offer little proof they work, with
Groupon you know these customers are going to come through
your door and hopefully find a reason to come back.”
Although creating a deal on a site like Groupon exposes a
business to a large and new audience, it’s not always a good fit.
There have been numerous reports of local businesses collapsing
under the overwhelming demands that can go along with a
successful Groupon promotion. If you’re willing to take the risk
and have the ability to convert one-time visitors into long-term
customers, daily deal vendors including Groupon should be in
your local Web marketing mix.
TIER THREE: Local Meets Social Advertising
As for advertising on social media sites, by now everyone should
know that social media provides businesses with an extremely
large audience (Facebook now has more than 750 million active
users worldwide) and for many that has been the primary draw
towards participation. Aside from setting up multiple social
media accounts — such as a Facebook page, Twitter account and
a LinkedIn group, businesses should also advertise on these wildly
popular Web destinations.
For instance, creating an
advertisement on Facebook is
straight-forward and relatively
inexpensive. Businesses can
choose their budget as well as define
which audience the ad will
reach, such as location, age and
interests. Twitter too, while still
evolving its advertising options,
is gradually releasing more “promoted
tweets” into the Twitterverse.
Nonetheless, at a minimum
budget of $5,000 a month, this
option is not viable for small businesses
— at least not yet.
Ready to Go Local?
For local businesses looking to capitalize on the Web, know
that there are options. Dependent on your own marketing style
and the size of your budget, search, daily deals and social provide
the best choices, but advertising on the most highly trafficked
sites is where business owners should really concentrate
About the Author:
Allison Howen is an associate editor at Website
Magazine, focusing primarily on the coverage of
social media and e-commerce.