Expanding Your Local Footprint with Digital Marketing – @therichbrooks
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Thanks to all of the digital marketing and social media platforms available to us today, businesses have the availability to reach their customers on a global scale. But what if you’re looking to concentrate on a more local level? Learning to expand your local footprint using these same platforms can be very important, too.
Once you figure out the best digital market action plan that works for your particular business, you can begin to use the abundance of tools that these various platforms offer to niche down and target exactly the people you need to reach for your business’s success. By following the four main elements of a successful marketing framework – attraction, engagement, conversion and measurement – you can then pull in the different tools or channels that make the most sense for you based on your business and your audience, and you will find success.
Rich Brooks is the founder and president of flyte new media, a web design and marketing firm in Portland, Maine. A thought leader in his industry, he has helped countless small businesses on the topics of search, social and mobile marketing as well as how to reach your ideal audience. His Agents of Change Digital Marketing Conference has brought together top notch experts in the industry giving you their valuable tips on leveraging the digital marketing channels available to businesses today.
Today I want to talk about expanding your local footprint through digital marketing. I think this is really important because a lot of times when we think about digital marketing we think about the global reach of digital marketing with Facebook and these other social media tools, we can reach just about anyone on the planet.
Search engines can pull back almost any page from all over the world, our websites reside on the world wide web. So what I want to talk about today is some of these different tools that we use to reach a wider audience, and talk about how we can use it to promote our local business.
I think this is going to be really helpful for any business that is – as I like to call it – “geographically challenged”, meaning that you do business in a specific, local area. Maybe you’re a restaurant, maybe you’re a retail shop, you may also sell things online, you may ship products and you sell local goods, but you have a local footprint and we’re going to talk about some ways in which you can market that to help grow your business.
Now I want to start by talking about this framework that I often talk about, the “digital market action plan”, and this is the kind of work that we often do with our clients here at flyte, is trying to help them develop this framework that’s going to make sense for them. This is a framework that we’ve developed over the years for the 500+ different companies and nonprofits of all different sizes that have come in here, this framework works for almost all of them. I’m not going to go into great detail here, but there’s basically four tenets to this model and its; attraction, engagement, conversion and measurement.
Now “attraction” is how do we drive traffic to our website in the first place. And the big three these days are search engine optimization, social media and digital ads.
“Engagement”, which I used to call “retention” is all about keeping our customers and audience engaged after they’ve left the website. The big one is email marketing, but also social media is a great way of keeping people engaged and getting people to “like” you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter. These are the ways that we get permission from somebody so that we can keep the lines of communication open and continue to market to them. And then also – although it might not be considered engagement – certainly retargeting is another good one as well which is a way that we can follow people around the web after they’ve come to our website but maybe didn’t make a buying decision.
The third thing is “conversion”, and these are things we just do at our website to help increase the chance that somebody is going to fill out a contact form, pick up the phone, sign up for email newsletter, use our online calculator or click on a “buy now” button. There’s a lot of different tactics to that. We’re not really going to be talking about conversion so much today.
And the last one is “measurement”. Measurement is using Google Analytics as well as if we’re using a tool like Constant Contact or MailChimp or whatever your email service provider is, looking at those analytics about click through rates and open rates and those kind of metrics. And then also things like social media, most platforms these days have their own metrics and analytics and it’s important to check all those.
So if you focus on those four elements – Attraction, Engagement, Conversion and Measurement – and then pull in the different tools or channels that make the most sense for you based on your business and your audience, I know you’re going to succeed at this.
Now going forward, this is going to be a real crash course on local marketing when it comes to digital. We’re not going to do a deep dive on any one thing. I just want to kind of play out the groundwork for you so you can start to put together plans for yourself.
All of this marketing starts with having your own website and having full control over it. I strongly recommend that this website is built on a content management system – personally I’m a big fan of WordPress – it should be mobile friendly. If you’re going to be doing social media platforms – especially things like Instagram and Twitter and to a certain degree Facebook – you’re going to be driving traffic from those platforms and people are going to be looking at those platforms on their smartphones, so your website needs to perform well on a smartphone.
Also, don’t scrimp on photography, don’t scrimp on copy and the other thing you want to make sure on your website is that your NAP information (Name, Address, Phone number) is consistent. You need to write out your name, address and phone number the same way – both on your website and every one of these online directories – so that it’s always consistent and you don’t get duplicate write ups. So if you’re abbreviating the word “street”, then you need to abbreviate it in every, single instance of what they call “citations”. So that’s your website.
As far as driving traffic to your website, I mentioned earlier on SEO. Today I want to just talk for a minute about local SEO. There’s two ways to do well in local SEO. One is when somebody does a localized search, maybe Google sees a localized search because you’ve searched on things like yoga so they show you nearby yoga studios, you want to be able to rank well for that. And that just comes down to the same techniques that you use for regular search engine optimization, but maybe just making sure that you’ve got your town or state or whatever the nearby location is as part of the content on your website so that you rank well when people do those kind of searches.
There’s also the “snack pack”, and in the recording time of this podcast Google is basically seeming to cement three results in the snack pack. So if I do a search on hardware stores, I’m going to get three, local, relevant results in the snack box that’s attached to a map on where they are as my first result in many cases. It’s not always the same but in many cases it is the same. And then underneath that we’re going to get the organic listings.
There’s a great article on local search ranking factors over at Moz, and I’m going to put a link to that in the show notes. They’ve got it broken down into the Top 50 localized organic factors, and the Top 50 local stack or snack pack factors, and I’ll just give you a few of the top ones. So on the organic factors it’s things like the domain authority of your website, the quality and authority of the inbound links and a number of other elements that are pretty traditional organic search results. And then on the other snack pack side the top factors are things like your physical address being in the city of search, how consistent those citations are, so making sure your NAP information is consistent and making sure things when you Google my business category is the right category for your business. Now those are just the Top 3, so for the full listings of the important things that are going to impact whether you make that snack pack and whether you make the top of the organic localized search results, you definitely want to go check out that article on Moz. Again, it’s going to be linked in this week’s show notes.
There are also some tools you should know about that will help you keep your citations in line, keep them from getting out of control. Moz Local is one of these services, Yext is another one. THey usually have a free version and then a paid version as well. So it really depends, if you have the budget you can outsource some of that work to a company like Moz or Yext. It is a monthly fee which I really don’t understand, because once you get your stuff taken care of shouldn’t it stay the same? The bottom line is they’ll monitor it for you so go ahead and do a year of that if you have the budget. If not you’re going to manually have to contact all of these different sources and say your information is out of date or has been changed. And this can take some time by the way, but then you improve your citations so they’re being very consistent.
Another way that you can make sure that you get first paid visibility on Google and other search engines is simply to pay for it. Using a tool like Google AdWords you can target people on a specific geographic location along with specific keywords that you want to rank well for.
Let’s shift gears here for a minute and talk a little about social media. Now you can’t really talk about social media without talking about Facebook. With 1.4 billion users it feels like you can reach anybody in the entire world, but of course we’re really thinking about this local phenomenon.
I’m not huge on Facebook these days, the organic reach is down, I just think that Facebook is doing everything they can to move us to their ad platform and not really giving businesses a lot of opportunity to succeed on Facebook organically. I know there are outliers who are doing it well, but for most of us, I think it’s an even bigger challenge for B2B companies on Facebook. But I do think just about every business needs to have a Facebook page. Maybe it’s for recruitment, maybe it’s to talk about your work in the community, maybe it’s to get behind the scenes of you so people can see what it’s like working there or what you’re working on. So I feel that especially for B2B it’s a way of showing the humanity behind your company.
So that being said, there are some things that you can do on Facebook to really improve some of that local footprint. One is to talk about what you’re doing in the community, that makes a big difference. If you’ve got events that you’re sponsoring or involved with you could upload photos and tag local people in it. Sometimes you might need to tag those local people as yourself, so you upload those photos to your page as your page, and then you log back in as yourself and tag all your friends in it and ask them to tag other people as well. That increases your visibility locally.
You also want to keep an eye on what people are saying about you. So on your page in the lefthand column you’re going to see what the ratings and reviews are for your business, so that’s something to keep in mind as well. You could encourage people to check in when they’re at your business because that’s free advertising for you on Facebook. There does seem to be a bias in Facebook where you’re not going to reach all the people you want to even if they like you, but if somebody checks into your business and they’ve got a good, healthy connection on Facebook with a lot of people, that’s just great advertising and great promotion for you assuming that they like your business.
Another thing just to keep in mind while you’re looking at all this in that same column, very often people will be able to see how long it takes you to respond if they message you and you respond back. So that gives you a sense of how responsive you are on Facebook, so one thing you may want to do if a lot of people are leaving messages and you’re not seeing them, is set up the Facebook app called “Pages”, to alert you with a text message anytime somebody leaves a comment on your Facebook page and then you can respond to them immediately.
Another way to raise your local profile in Facebook is to create events. Maybe you put on networking events or maybe you’re having a workshop or something like that, but by putting on these events and creating them off your page but them sharing them with your friends as your personal profile is a great way of greatly increasing your visibility, especially in that local area.
And of course the last way in which you can reach a local audience on Facebook is through advertising. Facebook has great advertising targeting tools, you can certainly target people geographically, so that’s a fantastic way of making sure that you’re staying in front of them.
Now Twitter may not have the same reach that Facebook has – not maybe, it doesn’t have a fraction of the reach that Facebook does – but it does have some really interesting tools when it comes to getting in front of a local audience. One of my favorites is using the Twitter Search. So let’s day that you’re a knitting shop and you want to get in front of knitters, obviously. People on Twitter love talking about what they’re interested in, so I go into Twitter and I type into the advanced search, “knitting” or “knitters” or “yarn” near Portland, Maine within 15 miles. I’m going to pull up all the local people within my geographic territory who are talking about knitting. Then once I get the results I just click on over to the accounts and here are all the people who are avid knitters. These are definitely people who I want to connect with on Twitter, so the first thing I’m going to do is I’m going to start following them, but I also might add them to a Twitter List, like “Local Knitters”. I could even start a hashtag around them and definitely try engaging them. But these are definitely the people that I want to be connected to, they are connectors and their love of yarn and knitting is definitely something that they’re going to reach out to their audience and know there’s this socially active knitting shop in town, and that’s how we’re going to build our local base.
Instagram is another popular social media platform that allows us to expand our local footprint. We can do that by using hashtags that are specific to our city or town, all of these special hashtags that people are using on Instagram helps us identify local people, but also share our stuff on Instagram as well to kind of bring in that local audience. And again, just like we did on Twitter, we can find people who share a passion of people who would likely be our best customers. So we can find the photographers or we can find the knitters or we can find the dog lovers and connect with them on Instagram and we can do this locally as well. So this is a great opportunity for you to get in front of some of the people right near you who share your passions.
I’d also like you to consider Instagram Ads if you’re trying to reach a local audience because you can use Facebook’s Ad Manager to target people – because Facebook owns Instagram – when you’re in the Facebook Ads Manager, putting ads on Instagram is one of the options. I like Instagram ads, I haven’t been playing around with them for long, but I love the fact that you can actually create ads that people can click on – because most of the things on Instagram you cannot click on, you can only have that one link that’s in your bio – so I think it’s a great idea to use the Instagram Ad platform to be able to drive traffic to your website, but also to target local people.
LinkedIn may not be the sexiest social media channel – we’ve talked about this before – but especially in B2B, if you are looking to reach people in a geographic area, LinkedIn has all the tools you need. I know for my Agents Of Change Conference last year, when I wanted to reach out and find marketers and digital marketers and social media managers that lived in New England who would be ripe for coming to Agents Of Change, all I needed to do was go into the search tool within LinkedIn and then start using filters. I kept it within New England and sometimes just within Maine and I searched for specific job titles and then I made connections with people, and then from those connections I started to ask if they were interested in learning more about Agents Of Change. We ended up selling a lot of tickets based on some of that outreach. You can do the same thing if you’re prospecting for local businesses – or any specific geographical area – for LinkedIn.
Now of course there are a ton of other social media platforms. Things like Periscope, Blab, Pinterest, a lot of others. Some are going to have stronger tools to market yourself locally, others not so much. You get the idea though, you can use some of these tools to reach a smaller audience or ones who might be traveling to your part of the country and market specifically to those people rather than just throwing the net as wide as you can.
Now one of the things you hear on this podcast over and over again is the power of your email list. So I want to talk for just a little bit about email – ike all these other digital marketing platforms – you can go as wide as you want with email marketing, but you can also go local. Sometimes this is a naturally occurring thing if you are a storefront or a retail shop and you only have one location or just a few in a small area, of course you’re going to primarily attract people who are from your local area. Other times you can definitely segment a list.
So again I’ll use Agents Of Change as an example here, we have a lot of people from all over the world who have subscribed to one of our lists. Maybe they want to get the podcast, maybe they want to get the blog, maybe they want to get information on the conference or all three of those. But we put on an event almost every month here in Portland, Maine under the Agents Of Change banner. I want to let those people know that are local, I don’t want to bother somebody in San Diego to let them know that there’s a one hour workshop we’re putting on about email marketing. So what we’ve done is we’ve carefully segmented our list by gathering different information so that we can send out an email that only goes to local people. So we’ve created a Maine-based list so we can more narrowly target, providing better value because we’re not bothering people who can’t attend and we’re only putting this on front of the people who are likely to attend or have shown interest.
The other nice thing about having a segmented list that’s segmented by geography is that we can go back to Facebook and upload that email list and then advertise just to those people. So that also helps us in terms of reaching that local, ideal customer.
One last place we want to turn our attention to is online review sites. We’re talking about Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List, those type of sites. A lot of people make a buying decision based on what other people are saying on these sites, so we need to be aware of these sites. We’ve had a lot of talk lately around online reviews. Just this week, Jay Baer wrote a post for us over at the Agents Of Change blog, you should definitely check that out. We had Daniel Lemin on, the author of “Manipurated”, dn then we’ve also more recently had Jason Baumann on talking about how to improve your online reviews.
Getting positive reviews is definitely a factor in driving traffic and business to your shop. And this is a very localized thing, either because local people are looking for something or when we’re visiting a new area as tourists we don’t know where to go, so of course we fire up Yelp and see what’s going on and what kind of activities and restaurants we should go to. It also has an impact as well on a growing number of industries, in fact dentist for whatever reason, Yelp is a great resource for dentists. What you want to do is go to these online review sites and really take a look at what people are saying about you and respond to every single review.
I know this has been kind of a whirlwind tour of how to market your local business using digital marketing and we could have gone deeper on any one of these, but what I wanted to accomplish today is showing you how you might market your business locally using these different tools. Hopefully you’ve seen that every single platform out there has some way in which you can focus on your local business rather than everybody in the entire world, whether it’s local search engine optimization, getting into the snack box, review sites, some of the local search features on tools like Twitter and Instagram or even Facebook and making sure your Facebook page is up to date with your address on it, and also very importantly making sure that NAP information (citations) are identical. If you do those steps you are going to grow your local footprint. I hope this has been helpful.
- Moz article that Rich recommended that talks about local search ranking factors.
- Recent Agents Of Change podcasts/blogs that discussed online reviews:
- Rich talked about some tools to help you keep your citations in line (digital location management):
- A few other tools Rich mentioned that will assist you:
- You can follow Rich on Twitter, connect with him on LinkedIn, check out his blog, or check out his company’s website or Facebook page. (Seriously, this guy is everywhere)
- If you’re interested in more information on this topic and other areas of search, social and mobile marketing, then check out Rich’s Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference – 9/23/16, save the date!