Local internet marketing for SMBs

With ownership of Smartphones rising exponentially in Australia over the past year or so, people are increasingly using their phones to access information about businesses and products when they are on the go. This opens up an unprecedented opportunity for local businesses to drive foot traffic off the street and into your business. There are many tools available that can help you achieve this.

Location based marketing is particularly relevant for local businesses such as restaurants, hotels, hair dressers, day spas, professional services and retail businesses.

Your own website

Location based marketingAlthough your web presence should extend beyond your actual website, this should still form the core of your online presence. Only on your own website do you have complete control over branding, design and content. A recent study showed that only 22 percent of people visit a branded social networking page such as those found on Facebook, while 62 percent of us regularly visit branded websites (source: Global Web Index).

Ensure that your website is well optimised for local keywords such as your suburb name, street and business type. That way, when people search for a local business of your type (e.g. hairdresser or restaurant) they are likely to find you. For example, if you are an accountant based in Geelong, make sure that your website contains the keywords “accountant in Geelong”.

As many people now use their mobile phones to search for local business information, you need to also make sure that your website is optimised for display on mobile phones. You don’t want your beautiful website all scrambled up and unusable when viewed on a phone!

Location-based social networks such as Foursquare

Foursquare and other location based social (“lo-so”) networks such as Gowalla allow people to check in to locations, as well as writing reviews and tips regarding these local businesses. In return, they may benefit from discounts or prize draws, and they can also collect points and badges. These networks are still more popular in the US but are gaining traction fast in Australia. They are particularly suitable for retail, hospitality and personal services.

Foursquare screenshotYou can set up a presence on these websites for free. You may be surprised – somebody else may have been quicker and already set up your business on the network. In that case, carefully check and adjust any details such as opening hours and address.

Before you set up any special offers on these networks, you need to ask yourself what your goals are. Are you hoping to increase foot traffic to your store, fill your quiet periods, promote particular products or reward repeat customers?

Depending on your goals, you can then set up a promotion that will be visible to people checking in to other locations or searching for information in your area. Common promotions include prize draws, specials for the user who checks in at your business most often, specials for first-time visitors or digital loyalty cards (“check in 10 times and get a free coffee”).

To remind people to check in, consider displaying a sign at the counter.

As a small local business you may not have a global following, but it is possible for you to become a hit with the locals through these platforms.

Google places

Google Places allows you to list your business including opening hours and photos. It is integrated with Google Maps, so if someone searches for a local business of your category in your area, your listing will come up. It also pulls in reviews of your business from around the web. Make sure you put as much information into Google Places as possible.

Local review sites

Tripadvisor 73% of online Australians read other people’s reviews of businesses and products online (source: Nielsen). For the hospitality industry in particular, local review sites are extremely important. For hotels and B&Bs, Tripadvisor is a must, and there are now several restaurant review sites such as Urbanspoon and Eatability. Eatability has also expanded into other areas such as health and beauty, and TrueLocal offers listings and reviews for many different business categories.

Even if you haven’t entered your business details on to any of these websites, your customers may have, in which case you’d better check that your listing is accurate. You may also be able to advertise a special offer on these websites, and sometimes you can pay for a premium listing which gives you more exposure.

To ensure plenty of positive reviews, firstly of course you must be sure you’re your product quality and your customer service are up to scratch. Then encourage your (happy) customers to post their reviews on these websites.

Directory listings

Directory listings have been standard practice for businesses for many years, so don’t forget to keep yours up to date, particularly your Yellow Pages online listing.

Hopefully this short overview of location-based marketing will give you a starting point on your journey to attracting more local customers to your business.