If you’re looking for the best ways to reach local customers, take a cue from large national corporations and franchises with multiple locations. A new report by BIA/Kelsey for Surefire Social says such companies are increasingly using social media first for local promotions, relying on it more than traditional methods such as newspaper advertising.
For example, nearly six in 10 (57.9 percent) of franchise businesses surveyed say they use Facebook for local promotions, and 32.6% use Twitter.
In addition to social media marketing, digital marketing of all kinds is becoming more popular. Some 38 percent of companies in the survey report they use Google sites, while 37 percent use email marketing.
Of course, traditional methods are still popular for local marketing channels are digital, of course. A bit more than 43 percent of companies use newspapers to market their business locally and 38 percent use sponsorships.
How can your small business follow the lead of large national corporations and franchises to reach out to the local market?
- Get social. There are many ways to target local customers on Facebook. For example, my city has an official Facebook page where members often ask each other to recommend the best handyman, Thai restaurant, hair salon…you name it. Smart local businesspeople check out the page regularly and when someone asks about their industry, they’ll offer to contact the person for a quote or give them a special deal.
- Get local. Today, customers go online when they’re looking for a place to eat, shop or get their cars serviced. But they’re not just on social media—they typically head to search engines first. Make sure your business is listed on local directories such as Local.com or Google+ Local. Put in as much information as you can about your business—the more detail you provide, the easier it will be for customers to decide whether to give your business a try.
- Harness the power of online reviews. Don’t fear a negative online review—the power of positive reviews can far outweigh the risks of one or two negative comments. Get your business listed on the review sites that matter to your industry, whether that’s Yelp! or Angie’s List, and monitor your reviews daily so you can respond to both complaints and compliments.
- Boost your SEO. When customers search for what you sell, make sure your website comes up top in their search results by constantly fine-tuning your website’s SEO. Use keywords with local flavor such as “Brooklyn gastropub” to attract local customers, or get even more specific with neighborhoods as keywords.
If you’re not SEO-savvy, it can be worth hiring an expert to help out. Don’t have the budget for a consultant? Talk to the experts at SCORE to get free advice on the best ways to target local customers and boost your business. You can get a SCORE expert on your team by visiting www.score.org.
Especially in professional service firms, sales typically rely on you, the owner. All inquiries, good and distracting, get forwarded to your inbox. All contracts need your review and all price considerations require your analysis. The busier you are, the more these activities are likely to get delayed, or even lost.
And there is an even greater cost to being rushed and distracted, reactive versus proactive. Instead of driving the sales process toward your goals, you are at risk of losing the high value customers, and wasting time with tire kickers and freebie seekers.
So instead of being the entire process, take a step back and deliberately design the experience for your prospects:
- Map your sales process. From initial inquiry to final contract and new client onboarding, look at all activities, and flows. Do NOT put in employee names yet.
- List characteristics of those who are NOT real prospects. These may be those who are just tire kickers, too early in the buying process, looking for free advice or have no budget.
- Create screeners (to use early, rather than late in the process) where you can quickly sift out the bad fit clients, with professionalism and information, and send them on their way. (Those that are too early for now can be captured in your email database for ongoing nurturing.)
- Create templates. Think of all the communications you deliver, from quick response emails to lawyer-reviewed contracts. What is the desired outcome of each? Create templates that not only save time but clearly communicate your value and speak to your ideal customers.
- Assign roles for each step. Look at using administrative staff, customer service or even virtual assistants as often as possible. By assigning roles, rather than names, you assure backup and the ability to fit the task with the person.
- Restrict your role. You should only be involved in selling or closing pre-screened, good fit customers. You should also be involved in any extraordinary contract changes. This not only saves you time, but elevates your role.
- Review every six months. Look back and review all inquiries, wins and loses. What could be improved in communications and process?
How do you keep yourself from being the bottleneck in your sales process? Share below.