Courtesy of Jack’s friend Alice Seba Alice Seba Owner of DIYplr.com
Imagine this. You’re out and about. You meet someone. You’re a marketing consultant with an online business that includes information marketing, consulting, and a few affiliate products. The person you meet is actively involved in the Chamber of Commerce. You talk. They think you might be a good person to come and speak at a Chamber meeting. Boom. You now have a captive audience and a room full of prospects.
One of those prospects goes into work the next day and mentions to their employees that they attended the event and heard you talk. One of the employees has a brother who owns a business and could use some marketing help.
The brother reaches out to you and you have a new customer. Now the brother raves about your service on social media. After his post, your website receives 100 new visitors, six inquiries, and three new customers.
You see how one local connection can spread and start a domino effect that builds your business?
That’s how word-of-mouth and referral marketing work, and at a local level it can be extraordinarily powerful. In fact, people are twice as likely to buy from a company that was referred to them from a peer. Many business owners also say that their best customers come from referrals and word of mouth.
You don’t have to wait for that happenstance meeting with an influential person in your community either. You can make it happen. The following are a few tips and ideas.
• Join Networking Groups – You’re going to meet community leaders and influencers if you get out and shake hands with them on a regular basis. Everyone knows ten other people and your reach can expand quickly.
• Ask for It – Ask your current local customers to help spread the word. Consider creating a local referral program. For example, “recommend me to a neighbor and get 10% off your next purchase.”
• Become a Connector – Introduce people. Make connection for them. You meet someone who needs a graphic designer, introduce them to someone you know; a local designer would be great because then they can reciprocate.
Positon yourself as a listener and a problem solver. This helps you learn more about the needs of your audience. It also gives you an opportunity to make connections and help people solve their problems. They in turn will be more than happy to make connections for you and refer others to your products or services.
Finally, consider leveraging online review sites. Google Places, for example, can help you generate positive reviews. You can ask for the reviews and help build local word of mouth through an online tool. Speaking of leveraging online tactics, social media can play an important role in word-of-mouth and referral marketing. Let’s take a look at leveraging social media for your local audience.
Leveraging Social Media for Your Local Audience
Social media has a wide reach, right? Facebook says that they have almost 1.4 billion users. That’s a tremendous reach. Even if you only reached 1 percent of them, that’d be significant. The problem is that you won’t likely reach 1 percent of them. Why? Because only half of those users visit Facebook every day and when they do, they’re bombarded with hundreds of competing messages.
Does that mean you should stop marketing on social media? Absolutely not. It’s relatively inexpensive and it does produce results. However, what you may want to do is reconsider your approach. One great way to maximize social media is to build in very specific campaigns aimed at targeted markets – rather than marketing to the world, for example, you market to your community.
You can leverage the power of social media to reach a highly targeted and ready to buy local audience. Here are a few tips, ideas, and best practices.
• Local Keywords – If you want local consumers to find you, it’s important to make it easy. Add keywords like your business name and location into your short and long page description.
• Post about Local Events – Talk about your community on Facebook. Share events. Brag about your community, post options and editorial pieces, and attract other community members to your page.
• Reward Local – Consider creating a campaign to drive locals to your social media pages. Give them an incentive. For example, you can create a local Facebook page. Enter all new “likes” into a drawing for free products or services.
• Connect and Comment – Connect with other local business owners, customers, and community celebrities and leaders. Comment on their posts, share their news and get involved. They may reciprocate and begin commenting on and following your page too.
• Embrace the #hashtag – When relevant, tag your posts and comments with local hashtags. It will help people find you and can create a sense of community.
• Get Visual – People are more likely to share, like, and comment on social posts that are visual or contain visuals. Add photos to your posts. For example, are you sharing a post about the farmer’s market this weekend? Add a photo of the market as well.
• Promote Your Posts – Facebook allows you to target your posts by choosing specific demographic data. There is a fee, so this is a tactic to use carefully and track your results. However, you can create specific posts and promotions and make sure that they get in front of the right people by choosing local demographic audience for your information.
Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and even Google Plus offer you valuable opportunities to connect with your local audience via social media. Leveraging this tool to reach a local market is relatively straightforward. Create a strategy and start connecting.
Another way to utilize online tools to build a local audience is through review sites like Yelp and Google Places. Let’s explore what that means and look at some best practices.
Using Reviews and Local Search to Build Your Local Community and Customer Base
Consumers tend to search online before they buy products or services. In many instances, review sites will show up at the top of the results. You don’t have to have a brick and mortar business to leverage local search and review sites. It’s another way to reach local customers and it requires just a little effort on your part.
How Do Local Search and Review Sites Work?
Here’s a simple example…imagine someone searches for dog training from their couch at home. They will often see results for websites that offer dog training products and services. They will also often see dog training services that are available in their community. Under some of these local results you’ll see stars and reviews.
There is a very good chance they’re going to check out these local results and click on the link. When that local search result also comes with a handful of stars, even better. Those stars grab attention. But first you have to have an account that generates this type of search engine result.
There are only a few review sites that have impact right now. The first to consider is Google Places. You can head over to https://www.google.com/business/ and create your listing. It’s free.
Yelp is another big player. You may already be listed with them. Head over to https://biz.yelp.com/ and check out if you’re listed. If not, add your business.
Make sure that your listing matches the exact same contact information that you have on your website. This is important because it improves your search results.
There may be other sites to consider depending on your industry. For example, Angie's List is for contractors and home repair companies. It’s important to know that review sites do feed into one another. If you get a review on one site, it may show up on another. Simply make sure that you’re listed at least with Google.
Ask for Reviews
In order for this tactic to be effective, you want to start gathering positive reviews. Ask your customers to post reviews. Consider giving them an incentive. For example, you might send a new customer an email that gives them money off their next purchase and invites them to leave a review. You can even include a link to your Google Places page so all they have to do is click.
Share and Interact
Review sites can be interactive. You can thank people for their positive feedback and try to make amends with anyone who was unhappy. You can also share your reviews and feedback on social media. All of your activities should be directed toward building a positive image and a community of followers and supporters.
Most prospects check reviews (if they’re available) before they make a purchase. And people are more likely to buy if there are reviews. You can tap into this buying trigger and reach a local audience by capitalizing on online business directories and reviews.
Reviews and local business directories are an easy marketing tactic to manage. Create your listing. Check in to the site at least once a week to see what others are saying about you. Interact, connect, and grow your business.
Email is one way that you can request that customers leave reviews, and it’s a great way to share positive feedback as well. In fact, email can be a fantastic tool for connecting with your local audience. We’ll look at that next.