How to use the web and digital Local Area Marketing to advertise your small business

If you own a small business with a digital presence, which you’ve also set up to attract local trade, you need to let any potential new online customers know you exist, exactly when they’re looking. You can do this by using digital Local Area Marketing (LAM) to advertise precisely in the right places, at precisely the right times.

The changing face of Local Area Marketing

Not so long ago, if we wanted to buy a kitten, the first thing we’d probably do is grab our old, dog-eared copy of the White Pages and look at all the ads for pet shops in our area. If out of the local 20 physical pet shops, only 16 had placed an ad in the phone book, it’s highly unlikely we’d end up buying that cute little kitten from one of the remaining four pet shops.

In some ways, little has changed over time. Those same small businesses that market themselves well and advertise in the right places at the right times will be more successful than those that don’t. These are the 16 pet shops of today, which are still doing their best to be ‘found’ by the customers that are looking for them.

In other ways, there’s been a massive shift. The marketing marketplace looks nothing like it did ten or fifteen years ago. Today, if you only advertised in the White Pages, none of the people who used an online search engine, like Google, to try and find a “local pet shop that sells kittens” would be able to find you. And year on year, all the data is showing us that more and more sales are taking place through some form of online interaction, increasingly using a smart phone or other mobile device.

Different ways to use digital Local Area Marketing

If you have a digital presence, the web has made it possible for your business to be discovered by anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time of the day. If you run a global eCommerce empire like Amazon that level of reach gives your business an incredible boost, but how do you use your digital presence to your advantage if you’re only a fraction of the size?

Where once we turned to the phone book to help us find what we wanted, we now almost exclusively use search engines, online directories, review sites and social networks to perform the same role.

If you choose the right tools for your operation, you can better advertise your business to your local audience, which will improve the chances of your company being chosen over one of your competitors.

Search engines

Search engines, like Google, are the most frequently used tools for finding things that people want. By advertising on them using keywords that describe what you do, you can make sure that only people in certain locations will see your details by limiting your campaign to a specific radius.

Social networks

Social networks offer business pages, as well as paid advertising to target local customers. Facebook, for example, can work out where people are, and in a similar way to search engines, lets you tailor your ads so that only people who are nearby receive your message.

If you're not confident about managing paid advertising on social networks yourself, there are a number of ways to get started such as attending networking events and workshops to seek advice from those with a little more experience. You could also do some online learning through programs like Google's Digital Garage; or even outsource your efforts to services that offer to manage your social advertisements entirely for you. 

Local directory and review websites

Local directory and review websites usually allow your listing to appear for free. Often, they’ll let you pay a small fee for your ad to be shown in premium locations, such as their search results and even on your competitors’ listings.

Creating relevant messages

If you know that the person receiving your message is reading it nearby, you can use that information to speak to them more directly about them needing something ‘now’.

Local advertising channels can also offer some unique features, like listing your hours of operation or only showing your ads when you’re open. If you know that your potential customer is using a smartphone or mobile device, you can use some of their in-built functionality to help them find you more quickly.

Making the most out of the latest mobile phone technology

Firstly, and most importantly, make sure you have a website that looks good on all mobile devices and that the correct contact information is prominently displayed.

Next, make maximum use of the functionality that sits on most people’s mobile devices. Because you know that your potential customer happens to be in the immediate vicinity, you could use the GPS function on their device to see where they are and direct them straight to your door. You can also let them ring your phone number with a single tap, or let them browse all your great reviews.

Finally, always make sure that you’re keeping up-to-date with the latest mobile phone technology and change your marketing strategy accordingly.

Adding an App

Depending on the type of business that you run, adding an app to your local marketing toolkit could be a wise move. Once installed on someone’s smartphone, you can use the GPS functionality to send sales notifications, when your potential customer is within range of your shop. You can also use the same functionality to motivate customers with local features and promotions.

Apps can also be a shortcut for returning customers who need to find answers to frequently asked questions, order or re-order items and make new appointments.

As you can see, there are many different ways that you can utilise digital Local Area Marketing to improve the online presence of your small business. By choosing the right combination of online tools, you can let your customers know exactly where you are, when they’re looking for a company just like yours.

If you’re ready to boost your skill level, you can learn more about this topic by signing up for Google’s Digital Garage free learning modules.

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