The Foundations Of An Effective Local Marketing Strategy
We’re working with a SaaS provider that builds auto dealer websites. As they’re speaking to prospective dealerships, we have been analyzing their prospects’ online marketing presence to help them understand the gaps in their digital marketing strategy and how switching their site platform will assist in maximizing their return on investment (ROI).
How Is A Local Marketing Strategy Different?
Local and digital marketing strategies can and often do overlap, but key to a local strategy are prioritizing some marketing channels over others. Here are some key differences:
- Target Audience: Local marketing strategies are geared towards a geographically specific audience, often within a certain radius of a physical location or within a specific region. On the other hand, digital marketing can be local, national, or international, targeting anyone with internet access.
- Channels Used: Local marketing may utilize traditional marketing channels such as local newspapers, radio, direct mail, local events, or outdoor advertising in addition to digital channels. Digital marketing focuses on online channels like social media, email, search engines, websites, and content marketing.
- Personalization: With local marketing, businesses often have a deep understanding of their community, allowing them to personalize their messaging based on local needs, events, and culture. Digital marketing, while it can be personalized, often focuses on a broader audience and might not have the same level of localized nuance.
- SEO Strategy: Local marketing often heavily relies on local SEO, aiming to appear in near me searches or in the map pack. General digital marketing might focus more broadly on SEO, aiming to appear in searches regardless of the searcher’s location.
- Cost and ROI: Local marketing can sometimes be more cost-effective and produce a higher ROI for businesses that only operate in a specific area. By contrast, digital marketing can reach a larger audience, but it might also involve more competition and higher advertising costs.
- Customer Interaction: Local marketing can offer more opportunities for face-to-face interaction with customers, such as in-store promotions or local events. Digital marketing relies on online engagement, such as social media interactions, email communications, and website chats.
Key to developing a marketing strategy is recognizing consumer behavior as they’re searching for or discovering a local business. Google analyzed the behavior and identified the micro-moments when consumers were ready to discover a local business:
- I want to know – seeking information about a specific problem and finding the solution. If your business has valued content, they often recognize you as an authority and seek your assistance.
- I want to go – searching for local businesses and locations using maps, search engines, social media, or local directories.
- I want to do – searching for events or activities that can be done locally.
- I want to buy – researching or searching specifically for a product to purchase or validating the business you’re thinking about doing business with.
Let’s break this down for a few examples of local service companies or retail sites:
- I want to know – what’s the payment for a $20,000 used car?
- I want to go – Who are the top-rated used car dealerships around me?
- I want to do – Can I schedule a test drive online?
- I want to buy – Who is selling a used Honda Accord near me?
- I want to know – How do I troubleshoot a leak in my ceiling?
- I want to go – Who are the top-rated roofers around me?
- I want to do – Can someone come inspect and quote a roof?
- I want to buy – Who installs both roofs and gutters near me?
- I want to know – How do I start a business in my state?
- I want to go – Who are the top-rated business attorneys around me?
- I want to do – Where do I register my business?
- I want to buy – How much is it to start a business in my state?
Regardless of what industry you’re in, these micro-moments break down into three foundational strategies that every local must be deploying:
A citation refers to any online mention of the name, address, and phone number of a local business. Citations can occur on local business directories, on websites and apps, and on social platforms. They don’t necessarily need to provide a link back to your websites to be valuable.
Citations are a key factor in search engine ranking algorithms. Search engines like Google use citations when evaluating the online authority of a business. They view each citation as a vote of confidence in the legitimacy and relevance of the business.
There are two main types of citations:
- Structured Citations: This is where your business information (NAP: Name, Address, Phone number) is provided on a business listing directory like Yelp, TripAdvisor, or Google Business.
- Unstructured Citations: This is where your business information is mentioned, perhaps in passing, on any other site – like a news website, blog, or in social media.
It’s crucial for local businesses to manage their citations to ensure accuracy and consistency, as inconsistencies can negatively impact SEO. This is often referred to as NAP consistency (Name, Address, Phone Number), and it’s one of the fundamental elements for ranking well in local search results. Citations also help Internet users to discover local businesses and can result in direct web traffic referrals.
There are three absolute must-haves in this scenario:
- Google Business – Build and maintain a Google Business Page and continue to keep it updated so that you’re actively competing on the Map Pack of SERPs.
- Listing Management – Ensure that your business is listed on all legitimate and reputable business directories with a consistent name, address, and phone number.
- Review Management – Capturing reviews is essential to maximize your visibility on Map Pack results for maps or searches that incorporate a geographic component (eg. Attorney near me).
Additionally, I’d also recommend maintaining a presence across social media. While you may not be building your own community, having an active social media presence where you are sharing content that boosts your visibility, providing trust indicators like public accolades, certifications, and partnerships, along with being responsive to customer concerns is essential in managing your reputation.
Locally Optimized Website
Having a website that’s optimized for search, showcases your unique value proposition, helps prospects build trust for your organization, and enables conversions is critical to your success. Your website is going to be found and used by prospects in a few different ways:
- Validation – As prospects identify you as a viable company to do business with, they’ll want to go to your site to validate the information and see if you’re a fit or not.
- Assistance – Many search visitors may arrive at your site through the content you’ve developed that can help them research a solution or product that helps with their problem.
- Requirements – As prospects review your site’s content, they’re looking to see if you fit the requirements they may have – including prices, guarantees, etc.
- Conversion – The prospect is ready to do business and wants to reach out to you.
In order to fulfill each of these scenarios, there are some critical elements needed to optimize your local website:
- Mobile-First – A vast majority of local searches (with some exceptions) are done via mobile. It’s imperative that your site is mobile-responsive. This can be easily validated utilizing Google’s mobile-friendly test.
- Secure – Having a secure site with all assets being secure is critical to having your site indexed and displayed in search results… as well as ensuring that any data shared by a prospect is securely transmitted to your server(s).
- Fast – Speed isn’t just critical to your site being indexed well, it’s also great for user experience. If you are utilizing Google Search Console, you can check your own site via Google’s Core Web Vitals. For sites you don’t own, you may want to use Chrome’s Lighthouse or Pagespeed Insights.
- Trust Indicators – As users land on your site, they want to see trust indicators. We highly recommend Elfsight to display your best reviews dynamically on your site. We’d also encourage awards, certifications, partnerships, guarantees, etc. to all be prominently displayed on every page. If you’ve been in business for several years, you should be promoting that as well.
- Rich Snippets – including Schema markup, can significantly benefit local businesses by providing more detailed information about the business directly in search results. This helps to improve the visibility and click-through rate of their search listings.
- Content Library – Writing a ton of repetitive blog posts about content that no one is reading or sharing is both a waste of time and may actually be hurting you. Develop a content library with critical and valuable information that is directly attributable to the products and services you are selling.
- Conversions – A website without the ability for a visitor to call, set an appointment, chat, fill out a form, or even email you from every single page isn’t going to help your business. Every page should have multiple paths to convert a prospect into a client and you must respond as quickly as possible to their requests.
- Nurturing – Sometimes consumers and businesses are researching solutions but are not ready to buy. Having a methodology to capture email or mobile numbers for newsletters, offers, or other marketing communications is a great way of driving potential buyers back into the customer journey.
A beautiful website that incorporates an exceptional user experience along with content that promotes the local presence is critical. There are a ton more features any site can include, but they’re not always critical to a local marketing strategy.
Along with sharing photos of the local region, we build common footers that display the cities that a local business serves along with the additional information above. The goal is to ensure every visitor recognizes the brand’s regional presence and that content is ranked regionally as well as topically.
Off-Site Mentions and Promotions
Ensuring citations are built, reviews are generated, and having a great website still isn’t enough to maximize the potential for acquiring regional customers. You should be deploying off-site marketing strategies as well, including:
- Public Relations – There are sites that are highly authoritative that Google pays attention to for ranking local sites. Government sites, local news sites, and local blogs are all powerful sources of backlinks, citations, and relevant audiences. Having ongoing outreach in place to get mentions, interviews, and guest posts can drive a lot of attention.
- YouTube – Along with being a video hosting platform, YouTube is also the second-largest search engine and a great source for backlinks to your company’s website. Developing a compelling series of videos that introduce your company, your people, and provide valuable advice can drive rank, traffic, and conversions. Including regional scenery will make it instantly recognizable as a local business.
- Local Ads – Utilizing paid promotions on search engines, display ads on regional sites, and social media posts can drive awareness and acquisition to your local business. For home service-related companies, Google even offers a guarantee on verified, insured home service businesses.
- Events and Sponsorships – Don’t underestimate the impact of in-person events to build brand awareness and find great prospects. Free workshops, seminars, training courses, clinics, open houses, and other promotions provide an amazing opportunity to reach your local prospects. Not to mention getting your people or brand promoted on event websites.
- Referrals – Word-of-mouth (WOM) is always a critical inbound strategy for any reputable business. If you can incorporate affiliate marketing or referral marketing links that encourage and even reward your current client to help you acquire new business, you’ll get far better leads to nurture.
Of course, this is in no way an exhaustive list of the marketing strategies you can deploy… just a foundation of the minimum that you should be preparing and executing. If you need assistance in developing and executing your local marketing strategy, Highbridge is always here to assist!
Tips For Deploying Your Local Marketing Strategy
We’ve been doing audits for our prospective local marketing clients and wanted to provide some tips:
- Ownership – it’s critical that your business owns every aspect of your local search strategy. That doesn’t mean that you execute the strategy, but that your organization has ownership over your domain records, your social media pages, your directory listings, your phone numbers, your paid search account, your analytics… everything. You can always provide access to these accounts to your agency, but should never defer ownership. Here’s an example: We have a prospect who doesn’t own their paid search account but is unhappy with their agency’s results. Rather than us accessing their current account which has valuable insights, quality score, and reputation… we will have to start fresh. That’s going to cost time and money to get their account up properly.
- Expertise – it’s rare, if not impossible, to find an agency that is vendor, medium, and channel agnostic. This means that the agency will implement the strategies that they are comfortable with and not necessarily the strategy that is right for your business and your customers. An example is social media marketing. We see many companies hire social media marketers internal or an external agency only to find that it’s not a medium that is conducive to driving conversions. This means that money may be better spent on other strategies. Getting an omnichannel, vendor-agnostic marketing agency is essential. Many (like Highbridge) will work with your other consultants… but we’ll also hold one another accountable to a unified marketing strategy.
- Investment – Marketing is an investment and must be measured that way. Touting engagement, mentions, views, and retweets is fine if you can connect the dots to that activity and actual conversions. Every marketing team member, internal or external, should fully understand your customer journey and the key performance indicators (KPIs) of your business and match their activity to those goals.
- Timeline – If your agency is setting expectations on your ROI, you may want to seek out a new agency. Every client is different, every region is different, every industry is different, and every competitor is different. It’s fine to ask the question, but the response should absolutely be that you have work to do and within a few months should be getting a clearer picture of how the strategy is working, what needs to be adjusted, and how that ROI can be attained. Asking an agency for a timeline for an ROI is like asking a Doctor that’s never met you how he’s going to get you healthy. It’s not possible without a lot of effort.
- Education – Marketing is a business operation and if you’re a business owner, you should absolutely understand its strategies, channels, mediums, and your customers’ personas and behaviors. If you delegate your marketing to an external partner, an expectation should be that they are educating you and your team along the way!
I’d encourage you to contact us if you have doubts as to the effectiveness of your local marketing strategy. We can provide an audit of your current efforts or we can put together and deploy a full strategy for you.