2021 is the year of opportunity for local business
One of the unexpected positives of the COVID pandemic has been a focus on local business. According to research commissioned by Small Business Saturday UK and American Express, almost three-fifths (59%) of UK shoppers are supporting local businesses more than they used to.
Local businesses have a fantastic opportunity to connect with new audiences and acquire more customers by offering the products and services people need.
So what should you, as a local business owner, do to capitalise on this opportunity and engage local audiences?
With social distancing and lockdowns here for a while yet, it’s clear that if we have a problem or need something, the first point of call is to go online. If your business can’t be found online then you need to make it your top priority this year.
To give you a flying start, I’ve put together 5 tips to help get your local business noticed online in 2021.
1. Get online
I know this tip sounds obvious but there are still many small businesses who have little or no online presence. A digital footprint and visibility is a must for the small business. It doesn’t need to cost a fortune (in fact many suggestions below are free) and it doesn’t even mean you need a website. Here are the 4 main things your business needs to do to have online visibility:
Claim your Google My Business listing
Google My Business (GMB) is a free tool for businesses to manage their online presence across Google, including Search and Maps. Verify your local listing and keep it updated to help your business dominate in the local competition. Here’s a quick guide about GMB and how to claim your listing.
Have a social media presence
Again, I’m targeting the less digital savvy here when I say if you don’t have any social media presence, you need to choose at least one platform and make yourself known. For many dipping their toe in the digital water for the first time, a Facebook business page is a good starting point but the guiding principle is to choose a platform where your ideal customer can be found. See my blogs:
Get listed in directories (national and local)
Remember the good old days of yellow pages? It’s all online now and still important. Take time (and believe me it’s a slow, dull but essential job) to register your business in the main national and local directories. Building up your listings (or citations as it sometimes called) will not only help with your local ranking (see below) but you may be found when the directory results show up on the search results ahead of your competitors’ websites.
Get a website
This is a vast topic in its own right but ultimately you need to have a website to be taken seriously today. I’ve deliberately put this last in this section as some business start-ups will want to get going before they’ve got the time and budget to get a website in place. Don’t leave it too long to get one. From DIY builds to bespoke websites, there’s a budget and solution for everyone. Give me a call if you want to chat through what is right for your situation.
2. Focus on local marketing
Assuming you have some online visibility, the next step is to focus on the local market. You don’t need to compete with the national players online if you do your digital marketing right. Let’s face it, you are never going to rank higher than them if you compete on their terms.
But if you are savvy with your marketing and keep focused on local, there is a good chance you will rank for your business / service / product in your local area.
The good news is, if you sort out your GMB, directories and website, you are halfway there to getting a good local ranking. Other key factors are using locally based keywords in your content, having customer reviews and getting backlinks to your website from other local businesses. I’ve created some simple guides to improving your local business ranking:
3. Build your local brand
Your main advantage when it comes to competing with the major players is your identity as a small business, which should be a prominent aspect of your brand.
For a small business, your brand is simply you. By that I mean:
- The people behind your business and your values
- The purpose of your business or the problem you’re trying to solve for customers
- Your relationship to your customers and how you interact with them
- Your reputation
- The impression that your business gives others through online communication, as well as in-person interactions
Make sure your digital marketing and communications reflects your brand story – from the About page on your website to every email you send. It’s important to emphasise your identity as a small business in all of your branding. Don’t be afraid to pull back the curtain and show the real people behind your business. Keep your communications more personal.
4. Communicate regularly
One of the biggest benefits of online marketing tools is that they give you the ability to stay in touch and top of mind, cheaply and easily.
Communicating clearly and often is important in 2021. You’ll want to keep customers informed of additional changes, how you’re meeting their needs, and how you’re making them feel safe. Of course, you’ll also want to keep them engaged and interested in your products or services.
Think about reaching customers where they are, not where you want them to be. Different people will be looking in different places. Update all your communication channels including:
- Social media channels
- Listing and review sites
Don’t be afraid to communicate more frequently on social media and email. Your audience is busy and may get distracted. On social media, they may not see your message first time round.
5. Using video and content marketing to stay personal
If you haven’t got a blog – you’re missing one of the best ways to get noticed online. It helps with optimisation, branding and solving customer problems.
If you are ready to take your marketing to the next level, then you can’t afford to ignore video. From live streaming to YouTube, to instructions videos on platforms like Loom, video traffic is by far the largest source of internet traffic now.
Live streaming is available on multiple platforms, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and YouTube. With virtual communication the new norm, people still long for human connectedness and video adds that human touch.
It’s probably fair to say that 2021 hasn’t started positively for most people, with further lockdowns and bad news at every turn. As a local business, now is the time to focus on your digital marketing and be ready to reap the rewards when the mist starts to clear.