How to Market a Local Business Online: SEO & Social Tips

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Your prospects and customers are researching and buying online, so you need to focus your marketing to them on digital channels as well. The way to do that is to be specific in who you’re trying to reach, know where they’re hanging out online, prove to them that your brand is trustworthy, and be able to measure your efforts so you’re only spending your time and money on the efforts that are actually working.

The first step is in creating a realistic and specific digital marketing plan. You need to give them valuable content that they can actually use to make their lives easier and that will make them keep coming back to you. It’s building brand awareness and loyalty. In the world of digital marketing it’s quality over quantity, and slow and steady wins the race…and the customers.

 

 

 

Rich: She is a social media consultant and keynote speaker. Over the past 7+ years she has helped many, many local and global entrepreneurs create and execute social media strategic plans. She loves the camera and has helped many entrepreneurs get past their fear of the camera. You’ll recognize her online and on stage by her signature orange glasses, a nod to her Dutch heritage. Besides raising four kids and three dogs with her husband, she loves to cook and bake all things plant-based. I’d like to welcome to the show, Dorien Morin van Dam.

 Dorien: Hi Rich, thanks for having me on.

 Rich: Pleasure to have you here. So how did you actually get started on helping local and global entrepreneurs market their products and services?

Dorien: Well, that’s actually pretty interesting. Those four kids ended up growing and so when my youngest started kindergarten I was looking for something new to do. I had been a stay at home mom for 11 years. At that time when that happened my husband was kind of exploring marketing his business in a new way and he said, “You need to check into this social media thing. Can you check out Twitter for me?”

I was very reluctant but I did. I checked out Twitter and then I actually made a Twitter account. And then I went to Facebook and at some point people started asking me – because I was on all these committees, the PTO, the PTA – I had kids in different schools and I was volunteering everywhere and they said, “Well you seem to know…”

So I started volunteering my time doing social media, and then one day my husband looked at me and said, “I bet you can make money.” So I purchased an online course and went through the course, then made a LinkedIn profile, and that was the beginning of it. I just started doing it. A very different style than my husband who’s been in business for 20-something years would have done it, but I did it my way and I love teaching and training and that’s really how I got started.

I went out in the community, started networking, told people that I can help them set up social media, I can train them on how to do things, how to use tools, and did some “lunch and learns”, and that’s how I got my clients. I really started out locally, I’m now doing a lot of remote work, and community management, and consulting and speaking, but I started out really helping local-based businesses in the Myrtle Beach area in South Carolina where I live.

Rich: Very cool. So much of social media these days – and digital marketing as well – seems to be focused on pay to play. Basically advertising on these different platforms. A lot of small businesses, however, fear spending money on advertising, online or off. Can a local business actually find digital marketing success without spending money on ads?

Dorien: Yes they can. And I have clients that are successful without spending a dime on advertising. They are spending money on hiring a freelancer, but they are creating original content and I’m helping them distribute that, and they have success.They have measurable analytics that they can go to Google Analytics and see website traffic is up and phone calls are coming in through Google and we can measure things and they have success.

Rich: Alright, so this is interesting because definitely it seems that there has been this shift to paid attention – not pay attention – when it comes to digital marketing. So I’m very curious to know how people are doing this organically.

Before you came on the show I was thinking about what is a local business, and that means different things to different people. Bur for me I’m thinking it could be an independent store – a bookstore, a record store, a restaurant – it could be a small local chain store or a delivery business like propane or locksmith where somebody comes to the client’s office. So if these are the different types of local businesses, how would you begin to market these people if you didn’t have money to spend on advertising?

Dorien: Well if I were to meet with a local business like that, I have a little intake process that takes about 90 minutes and I’m going to ask very specific questions about their business because I need to get into the head of them trying to figure out who their avatar is, who that perfect target market is before I can even come up with a plan. But it all revolves around owned content.

Whatever the plan comes out to be, whatever we decide together, whether they need to create videos or start a blog or do Facebook Lives, it’s all about the beef of it is going to be you have to be willing and able to create content. And I can work with you, you as a business owner is in your business every day, and so I can tell you what videos to create, I can ask you for pictures before and after, but you have to be willing to use your smartphone and feed me the pieces of content that I need to help distribute it to the different platforms. So that’s really how we start. 

Rich: So you mentioned a phrase, “owned media”, how would you define “owned media” to people listening?

Dorien: Content that you create yourself. So it would be a video, it would be pictures, it would be graphics, it would be written content that’s yours that is branded for your business. 

Rich: Alright, so if I’m one of these local businesses – maybe I own a gluten free bakery or I’m a propane dealer – if I’m a gluten free bakery, some of the things that I might be creating would be what… what might be some suggestions that you would have?

Dorien: I would maybe do a video series on the process of how this bakery got started. Why are you a gluten free bakery, why don’t you do an explainer video or a story video on why are you not a regular bakery. What made you be that kind of bakery? And you get the business owner involved, then you could do a series on employees. What does the person in front of the bakery do all day, are they just waiting for clients or are they taking orders, what are they doing? How about the process, maybe the baker gets up at 5am, do a video at 5am. You’d be surprised how many people are up at 5am that would watch a live video. When you come in and turn on the lights and warm up the ovens. You could actually have an audience earlyon in the morning and just say, “Come in in a couple hours and we’ve got the bread ready, but this is how it starts everyday.” Sharing behind the scenes and the process of what goes into it.

And then of course the other end. The happy customer is eating bread and experiencing the different flavors when you have a new product. When your suppliers come in you can do videos, you can do interviews. Who delivers those pieces that you need to create this bread? Maybe you wrap the bread up in a beautiful special way or you have special bows or special boxes. How did you decide on that? What about the branding, what is the meaning of your logo? There’s so many different things. And when people hear those stories they feel connected to you because it humanizes your brand.

Rich: Alright, so the owned media – whether it’s video like the examples you gave us, or it could be a blog, or a podcast – this is media that we control that we’re creating ourselves, or perhaps being created on our behalf if we happen to be working with a video marketing team or a copywriter. Correct? 

 Dorien: Yes, correct.

Rich: Alright. Now if we’re doing video I’m guessing that we’re putting it up to YouTube, if we’re doing a blog I’m guessing we’re putting it up to our blog, if we’re doing a podcast we’re putting it out to all those podcast channels as well as perhaps we’ve got a show notes – which is basically a blog. Are there any other ideas? It sounds like we need to put our content in places that are discoverable. Is that a good way of describing it?

Dorien: That is a really good way to describe it. And the other piece of the puzzle is it’s not the quantity of the content that you make, but it’s the quality. Because a good 5-10 minute video explaining something can be repurposed and reused so many different ways. You get this video and you post it on YouTube, you then also upload it natively to Facebook. You then can embed it in your blog post. You can write it out in your blog post. You can create a podcast about the video. You can cut the video into little segments and make either Instagram Stories, or you can do an Instagram Live about the video. There are so many different ways, you can get quotes from the video and create images and post those onto Facebook or on Instagram and drive traffic back. So once you understand the piece of content that you want to create, you can repurpose that one thing that you have so many different ways. So you don’t need to constantly create content, you just need to create good pieces of content and repurpose  those all different ways to all different channels.

Rich: That is a key piece right there, because it is difficult to create a really valuable piece of content. So rather than constantly trying to have lightning strike, instead take that really good piece that you’ve spent all this time on and then spin it off in a bunch of different ways to a bunch of different audiences to really maximize the effect of that. 

So we have this owned media, we’ve put it out there, it would be nice if people just found it. But we know that that’s not the case. What as a small, local business can we do to get more eyeballs in front of our video, more readers for our blog, or more listeners for our podcast?

Dorien: The biggest thing I find is to get the owner in on it. That means that they have to buy into this and understand the importance of social media. And then to go out – and from what I have found to be super helpful – and either work with local ambassadors that frequent and love this place of business and have them share socially.

I’ll use an example of a local running store that I consulted with, they had been in business for about 4-5 years, and they brought me in as a consultant because they wanted to get more bang for their buck with the social media they were doing. And I just helped write a social media strategic plan for them and one of the main things I said to them is that they needed a team of ambassadors, local runners that already loved the brand to provide them with something. Whether that’s a free dinner once a year, or a free pair of shoes, a tshirt, and then ask them to share the blog posts, the social media posts, and also tweet and write about it. And I think that is a wonderful way for your business to gain some traction locally.

Another thing is instead of ambassadors, getting together a group of local businesses that are in the same area – maybe you’re in the same plaza, the same mall, the same street – and work together with the other business owners and say we’ll share each other’s posts or even work together on a piece of content. And then you will get their audiences as your audience. So those are two really good strategies.

A third one would be to work with local bloggers to write about a new product or service that you have, and get them to write a piece instead of having it be on your blog. Have it be on their blog and so you tap into their audience. 

Rich: Alright so use ambassadors, it was also find local businesses maybe hyper local to you that you might be able to share and promote each other’s stuff, and then also find some local bloggers who might be willing to write about you as well. Correct?

Dorien: Yes.

Rich: So those are all good and many of those will also help with your local search engine visibility as well. So how are you using social media outside of these three items? How are you using social media to get more visibility for these owned media pieces of content? Because it feels like 5 years ago I posted something to Facebook and all our fans see it, these days we’re basically invisible on Facebook. So how are you overcoming that to get some visibility or build an audience for a local business using social?

Dorien: There is one trick that I use that works really well when you’re working with local. It is finding pieces of content about local events that either are produced by a local photographer or videographer or the local news that highlights something amazing about your community, and to re-share that piece of content.

So for example, I’m in Myrtle Beach and we just had Wings Over Myrtle Beach which was a huge airshow, we had the Blue Angels come to Myrtle Beach. Everybody was talking about it and of course there’s some local people that took wonderful videos. Well for example say a local realtor that really has nothing to do with that event but wants to highlight the beautiful community of Myrtle Beach, I suggest that they go find the video with the most views and take the URL and share that on their page. And then when that video, because it’s already popular on Facebook, it will generate a lot of reactions, likes, comments, and get shares. If it’s already popular Facebook says this is a great piece of content. 

Now when you do that, the people start sharing it or liking it or reacting, those people that react to the piece of content – even if it’s not yours – you can invite them to like your page. It also brings up the reach of your page at that time, so it’s like a 1,2,3 punch. If you find content like that, you post it, you get more reactions and ask people to like your page and invite them to, and then the next day when that reach is up you place your own content on that same page and more people will see it.

Rich: Ok. Definitely  way to get around the Facebook algorithms.

Dorien: Yes. And I try to do that for the local pages that I work with at least once, sometimes twice a week. Videos work really well for that, you can use search bar in Facebook for either the community or the topic or the industry. Find popular videos, post those, get that engagement up on your page, and then the next day post something that’s yours and it will reach more people.

Rich: What are some of the other channels that you’re using outside of Facebook that you’ve had some success with of late in terms of getting shares or traffic to your own owned media?

Dorien: Traffic-wise and visibility Google+, even though as a social channel it’s kind of a dud, it drives tons of traffic. I have one local client who gets seen on Google at least between 500-1,000 times. We don’t pay for any AdWords or anything, but we have a Google+ account, I automate it from buffer – I am a buffer account – I have blogged for them for 4 years, so we have lots of evergreen content dan lots of images. So every week or two weeks I go in and make sure that everyday something posts using their keywords. So of course there’s going to be a lot of location keywords and industry keywords, I don’t try to do too many. But because it goes out, Google sends them lots of traffic, and lots of calls they get into their business because they’re visible on Google.

Google is the second largest search engine so you’re just using Google+ to stay in. And it’s really effective if you have some of your own content and when you use keywords that people will be looking for. Like, “What is the best chinese food in Myrtle Beach”, or “What is the cheapest way to do X,Y,Z in my town?” If you’re the one putting the content out, you come up in the search engines. So Google+, even though it’s not a place where we engage or a place where we get a lot of people talking to us, we get lots of clicks and we get traffic to our website from Google+.

I also think Pinterest is under utilized for local businesses but if you make that content and you create that content, Pinterest is a great way to drive traffic to your website as well.

Rich: Alright. Now do you ever employ offline tactics to increase reach or bolster your online activity?

Dorien: Yes, we have done some. Even though I’m a social media marketer I have some local businesses that I use some PR tactics. So if I see a story or I hear a story or I talk to a client and I find out they’re doing something in the community, I do have connections with the local news stations, so I will send out a quick email or a little press release to them saying, “Hey, I have this client that has this wonderful event coming up or they’re doing something in the community that is unique or they have a great story to tell, would you be interested in this story?” And I’ve gotten several of my clients on TV. You can’t pay to be in the 5:30 news, that would be a huge amount of money to get an ad on the 5:30 news station. But if you get on there for free and you’re wearing your logo shirt, that’s a great way.

So I do feel that sometimes it’s a great way that people overlook to get some offline PR. Getting on the radio or getting on TV, getting some airtime, that’s free if you can dig up the stories that your clients have. Because everybody has a story, it’s just relating it to something that’s going on in the news right now, something that’s going on in your hometown. 

Trying to think of an example, a couple years ago there was this huge flood – maybe in the Mississippi area or Texas – and nobody locally in Myrtle Beach was really doing fundraising. And my client said last year Myrtle Beach had a huge flood, I want to go collect gift cards and send them down to where the flood is because when we had a huge flood people from all over the country sent money and helped local residents. She was the only one doing it, so I sent that press release out to the media and within an hour somebody said we’re coming and doing a story. So tying it into a news event or something that’s happening is a great way to get some PR for a client for a local company.

Rich: Very good idea. Now a lot of people will say this all sounds good, but how do I know if my blog post or my podcast or even my video series is actually what’s driving traffic, whether it’s foot traffic or website traffic. What’s your response to this, how are you measuring the success, and when you have these organic outreach campaigns?

Dorien: There are different ways to measure, and of course my clients want to see numbers. So you can go in Google My Business and they will actually give you a report. There’s an analytics in there and I can go see how many times this page or this client has been found in Google. And it will say ‘organic’ Google showed it to them, or they found the blog post, and how many calls resulted from that.  Actually you can see if you have a website and you’re driving traffic from social to the website, you can dig down pretty far into Google Analytics and see where it is coming from. 

You can go to Pinterest and see how many people are pinning from your website to Pinterest. There’s all these different ways. But really what I tell my clients is that it’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint. So you’ve got to look at the overall brand awareness creation that is happening. And I think that when somebody walks into your running store and says, “I saw on Facebook you had an article about safety for runners and I didn’t realize you were right here on Myrtle Beach”, right there that’s what I tell my clients to see as their ROI, when people start talking about it.

But there are things that we can measure and brand awareness is just huge. When you’re working with brand ambassadors you can quantitate and say I want you to tweet 3 times a week. And you can measure whether they did or not and then you can see how many people they reached and how many followers they have. So there’s certain things you can measure and other things you just have to believe that brand awareness is huge and that eventually your business is going to grow and sales are going to go up.

I have one client who has a local store that actually had people walk in and said, “My aunt and uncle in Australia follows you on Pinterest and then realized that your store was in Myrtle Beach and so she sent me in to get stuff for her and I’m sending it to Australia.” That’s how it works. That’s when you know things work.

Rich: Very cool. It seems like despite the fact that we are moving towards a paid solution for so many of these platforms, that there is still room for organic reach as long as you’re willing to put in the time and create some valuable content and tell some good stories. And like you said, treat it like a marathon rather than a sprint, you will find success. 

Dorien this has been great. I’m sure a lot of people want to learn a little bit more about you and your business, where can we send them?

Dorien: My business name is More In Media, so moreinmedia.com. Once you get to the website and it’s all orange, you’ll know it’s me. On Facebook I’m More In Media, Twitter, Instagram, that’s my handle everywhere. I’d love to connect with you.

Rich: Awesome, we’ll have those links in the show notes. Dorien, thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise today. 

Dorien: Thank you Rich for having me, it was great.

 

Show Notes:

Dorien Morin van Dam is an expert at helping businesses of all sizes to create and execute social media strategic plans. Learn from the best and check out her website, and be sure to follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and Instagram.

Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!