3 Easy Ways to Attract More Local Customers Online
Is your local business really the most attractive option in town?
Your best friend from college is in town for a one-day conference and you decide to treat her to a locally-roasted cold brew from your favorite cafe.
But wait. They have those weird hours. What time do they close on Fridays, again?
You type the cafe's name into your search bar and . . .
No website pops up in the local results. Instead, you get websites from out-of-state businesses with similar names.
After scrolling a while, you find the cafe's Twitter account - only no one's tweeted there since 2015.
You click on their Facebook account, but it doesn't show any business hours or their phone number.
What do you do now?
Are you so set on going to that un-findable local cafe that you're willing to turn full-fledged online super sleuth?
Or are you so frustrated and confused about the whole situation that you're willing to change your plans and go to whichever local cafe you can find in the next 10 seconds?
If you're like most internet users, 10 seconds is the absolute longest wait you'll tolerate before moving on to greener digital pastures.
“Two hundred fifty milliseconds, either slower or faster, is close to the magic number now for competitive advantage on the Web,”
Even in a town where everyone knows your name, online search results matter.
If you've undervalued online visibility until now, here are:
4 reasons invisibility is hurting your local business
- and -
3 easy ways to stop hemorrhaging cash immediately
First, Invisibility is hurting your local business because . . .
1. Pulling Customers In the Door Takes Dollars
You've heard the success of a local business is all about location, location, location, so you poured time, love and capital into creating the best possible in-store experience for your customers.
Those first-class trappings, combined with your radio advertising expenses, business cards, flyers, newspaper ads, and memberships to local networking venues, count toward calculating your Cost of Acquisition - the money you spend to get to get a customer through the door the first time.
Once your customer is through your door, keeping that customer is cheaper than attracting a new one.
Now that customers search for information online instead of flipping open the yellow pages, search engines are the gatekeepers protecting your customer's screen from irrelevant or spammy online results.
Send search engines the right signals, and you effectively stretch the dollars you've already spent to acquire and retain customers by being visible at the exact moment customers think about making a purchase.
2. You Get One Chance to Prove Your Local Love
Because search engines are designed to serve users the very best results, even if you're the only game in town for your industry, search engines can and will overlook you unless your signals say you're the best result in town.
Imagine for a moment that your online presence is a virtual extension of your physical location.
You wouldn't sell books in displays that blocked most of the inventory from sight.
You'd never hand customers old menus with outdated information.
You wouldn't hold workshops in crowded, dimly-lit rooms.
Organizing your website, updating your online event calendars, and trading dark, blurry, confusing or amateurish photos for images that pop, reminds your customers and the search engines that you still care deeply about your customers even when you aren't close enough to see the whites of their eyes.
3. Local Markets Ebb and Flow Predictably (Sometimes)
Your company may be a Reader's Choice Favorite for five years running, but could there still be locals who haven't heard of you?
City populations don't remain static. Residents and visitors come and go, with predictable peaks around certain seasons, holidays or events on nearby college campuses.
When you build your social media and promotions calendar around commuters, new residents, holiday and college break traffic, you invite new groups of raving fans to fall in love, and old friends to return for another great experience with your business.
Remember the 1990's slogan, "Taste Them Again for the Very First Time"?
How about the two words that reminded people to drink dairy for 20 years?
Brands with staying power remind even their most loyal customers why they fell in love to begin with.
4. Local Doesn't Mean Limited
Understandably, even the best coffee shop can only seat so many guests, a five-star boarding service can only hold so many pets and a great specialty medical practice can only see so many patients. Revenue that walks in the front door, is only the beginning for online-savvy brick-and-mortar businesses.
If your company sells T-Shirts, gives free consultations or features local artists, the front page of local search listings is your golden opportunity to boost recurring revenue.
Any product or service that can be delivered digitally or by mail is fertile ground for helping online customers know and love your brand, from the comfort of their own homes.
Ready to help customers find and choose your business out of all the options online?
Here's how to stop hemorrhaging cash.
Let's see how visible your businesses is right now, using the kind of informal search language a customer might use when they have a want or need to resolve right away.
D.I.Y. Marketing Tactic 1 - Make Finding You the Easiest Part of Customers' Day
1. Search Like a Newbie
You've heard all the companies promising your front-page Google results for your business website.
While some might argue that front-page Google results are the gold standard for local SEO, competition is stiff for those spots. There are other ways to boost your online visibility without shelling out a small fortune.
You could analyze your Alexa rank, check how many sites link to your site and deep-dive down the rabbit hole of techniques to make your site more visible, but what you really need to know right now, is:
"When people look for what we sell, can they find us?"
Take a few minutes to test your online visibility with this questionnaire:
2. Enhance Your Visibility by Cleaning House
A well-organized website is a crucial step toward showing up in local searches is a well-organized website.
Here's how to make your website easier to cruise:
Pull out pencil and paper and click through your website one page at a time making note of any broken links, unsightly text, auto-playing music, inconsistent use of font or color or inaccurate information.
Know where each click takes your customer (and the search engines that are tracking your website’s usage).
CUSTOMERS SHOULD BE ABLE TO ACHIEVE EACH OF THE FOLLOWING OUTCOMES IN 3 CLICKS OR LESS:
- Locate you
- Contact you
- Learn about your process, products or services
- Interact with your online community or content
hERE'S WHY AN ORGANIZED SITE BECOMES MORE FINDABLE:
Search engines' computer brains are tasked with serving up the best of the internet to people searching through the ocean of content available online.
Creating coherent traffic flow from page to page of your site and makes navigating the site more enjoyable, compelling your customers to purchase.
Happier customers and increased traffic sends signals to search engines that say, “This site is a functioning part of the internet - people come here and do things repeatedly,” boosting your chances for showing up in those oh-so-important local searches.
Improve Your Menu
List the 5 things customers come to your site to do. Give each one a distinct landing page that you can drive measurable traffic to in the future.
3. Enhance Your Continuity by Using Brevity
Expect customers to size you up on multiple platforms before deciding to click or visit.
Career experts say that Google is the new resume. Likewise, when customers are deciding whether they want to go to the business five minutes from their front porch, or drive an extra twenty for the added oomph you provide, their choice is likely to be driven by a series of 5 to 10 second interactions with your brand.
Luckily, you already have a highly effective to make the most of these mini-interactions: your social media bios.
HERE'S WHY STRATEGIC SOCIAL MEDIA BIOS MAKE YOU MORE FINDABLE:
Social media bios are notoriously brief. Although platforms are continuously changing, here are the character counts for a few popular social sites:
Medium.com Bio: 160 Characters
Pinterest Bio: 160 Characters
Facebook Short Description: Around 155
Instagram Bio: 150 characters
Twitter Bio: 160 characters
Seeing a pattern?
Rather than trying to hack out a 160-character blurb from the mountains of text many local businesses heap on their websites, let the short bios enforced by social media platforms inform the rest of your marketing text.
We are no longer a society of readers. We're a society of scanners.
Your customers are very likely doing or thinking about other things while they're taking in your information, so you only have seconds to grab their attention, anywhere you can get it.
(Are you only reading this post right now, with no other open windows and nothing else going on? Didn't think so.)
Think of your social media bios as 160-character elevator pitches for your business. Approach them with a level of warmth and openness appropriate to your customer base and add at least one search term from the exercise above into your bio to instantly boost your visibility.
List of every single online platform where your business is listed. Check each platform for these consistency hot spots:
Name – Spell your business name and handles consistently across all platforms
Type – Make it clear at a glance what type of services customers can expect from you
Specialty – Emphasize your specific niche within your broader industry type
Bio/About Section – Use emotional hooks that resonate with your target customer – speak their language
Fit each social media bio to best practices and demographics for each platform.
Can you guess which platform each of these bios belongs to?
Consistency vs Cloning
Consistent visual cues like font, color and logos are important, but it isn’t necessary to completely mirror your online presence on each platform. For a great example of consistency without mirroring, take a look at the imagery Starbucks uses across any three of its online platforms.
Tool to try:
Digging in to eCommerce
When you're ready to extend your online presence into selling items from your physical location, a mobile-friendly eCommerce platform is a must-have. Check out SquareSpace, Shopify or the WordPress eCommerce plugin as starting points for your new revenue stream.
Even if everyone in town knows where you are, there are still opportunities to bring in even more revenue, reach even more potential clients and leave better first impressions with just a few well-planned changes to your online presence.
Do you have a strategy in place to structure your website to pull in new and repeat customers?
Share your favorite tip tool or trick in the comments below.