2018 Local Business Marketing Trends

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2018 Key Marketing Trends for Local B2C Business

As a recently Certified Duct Tape Marketing Consultant, I attended my first “Bootcamp,” a weekend in Denver sharing best practices with local business marketing consultants from around the globe.  Here are my Key Takeaways.

Same Problems; Different Markets

It’s humbling and a bit comforting to know that challenges facing local businesses are shared across markets, countries, and continents.  Lack of new leads, growth issues, the inability communicate differentiation, and staying true to a consistent marketing plan seem to top the list.  Add on the impossibility of keeping up with the vast martech landscape, it’s no wonder these problems seem universal.  However, doing a few things really well, is better than trying to do everything.  We recommend starting here…

Strategy First

Ahh the tactics – magazines, TV, direct mail, trade shows, billboards, OTT, and branded crop mazes.  It’s an infinite list.  But from my experience, without strategy, it is VERY hard to pick the tactics.

Strategy before tactics.  Period.  The unanimous consensus among the most successful consultants is to never prescribe tactics before strategy.  And if a client is unwilling to properly vet a strategy, then walk away.  Fixing marketing and sales problems with tactics is like a shot of morphine to ease the pain of a broken arm; the pain goes away for awhile but the arm is still broken.

I recently had a potential client ask for a new website.  Within three minutes of browsing it was clear a new website was not the answer.  Before I could even help, I needed to understand…

1)  What do you do?

2)  Who do you do it for?

3)  Why should they pick you?

After a six-week consultation we have the answers and the business will grow.  There is a “natural” attraction from the market that happens when these question are clearly answered, eliminating the need to “shout.”

Feed the Google Beast

There’s no way around it.  Google is increasingly changing the rules to help local businesses get found by  helping users spend more time on…….Google.

The shift stems from helping you find the most relevant website, to “predicting” your search “intent” and simply answering your question right in the search results page, rather than having to leave Google.  It’s easy to see this from afar with local search results on Google Maps and new products like Google Local Services a seemingly cannibalizing way for local service businesses having to choose between these two lead sources (other being Adwords – oh wait, Google Ads).

A “don’t pass go, do not collect $200” place to start for local businesses is their Google My Business page.  Do yourself a huge favor and accurately fill it out, and “feed” Google what they want – ongoing blog posts, videos, pics, tours, etc.  They seem to be making this their local focus, so might as well play along and help your ranking while you’re at it.

A great introduction into Google My Business can be found here.

Online Directories and Citations

A few consultants raved about “very quick” search result wins by employing online directory and citation services such as “Yext.”

Online directories are sites that scrape the Internet looking for businesses’ information – at a minimum they’ll include a company’s name, address and phone number (NAP) — to pull into their master database of businesses. Just some examples of online directories include Yelp, Merchant Circle, Citysearch, Google My Business and YP.com.

The main Search Engine Optimization (SEO) benefits of getting listed on online directories is that quality online directory listings often show up in search engine result pages (SERPs).  Inconsistent listings do not show up and it’s virtually impossible to manually update and verify the hundreds of online directories.  Using a service like Yext will place a “skin” with the correct name, address, phone number across the directories helping you rank higher for local results, helping make the phone ring more often.  Other options for citation management include MozLocal and AdviceLocal.

To Grow, You Need to Start Thinking Like a Publisher

My broadcast TV days did give insight into a critical rule for publishers – no audience equals no sales.

Broadcast execs were constantly pouring over quantitative and qualitative data to analyze which news stories, programs, and lineups (a’ la “content”) delivered the highest ratings, and to what audience.  Sometimes a research department would view audience levels “live” with minute by minute data.

How does this relate to growing a local business?

1)  Advertising is get less effective – so now what?

2)  Most purchases are first researched online.  For example, 88% of case goods shoppers (beds, dining room tables, etc.) researched online.  Any car dealer will tell you they’re closing percentage has over doubled the last 5 years, not because they’re any better at selling, but the customer has already “pre-purchased” the car before stepping on the lot.

3) Get found first, build an audience through education along the customer journey, earn trust, and only then you can sell to them.

Where to start with this strategy?  Read, “They Ask, You Answer,” by Marcus Sheridan and it should all start to make sense.

One consultant took a remodeling business from $1 million to $10 million solely by creating content (blogs/videos).  No advertising.  Building an audience first makes it much easier to sell to them later.

Conclusion

So what works for local business growth?  Start with strategy to help inform how to build your audience (think like a publisher), then get your digital landscaping in order.  To learn more about our “Strategy First” service or to request a free audit, click here.

 

 

 

 

 

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