I don't market for local businesses because I'm lazy, and am not quite sure I want to jump back into the world of working for someone else. But I do online marketing, and through my training I've come across lots of concepts that cross over into local business marketing, and some that are targeted specifically towards small business owners.
One reason I have considered (and am still considering) taking on some clients and running their local search marketing campaigns is that I think it could be easy work. The hardest part would actually be dealing with the clients (sorry guys).
So today I'm lay out some simple ideas for local business owners to demonstrate how easy it is to have an online presence, get more customers, and increase your profits with the power of the internet. This isn't everything, but it's a lot of what that marketing professional you were about to hire would do. He would probably charge you $4,000 with a $500 recurring payment. I'm tell you this for free.
1.) Get a WordPress Blog if You Don't Have a Website
WordPress is free. There are free training videos on YouTube, and there are numerous forums where you can ask questions. Don't tell me that you don't know about computers or building websites. If you can figure out how to pay taxes, you can figure out how to build a website .
2) Set Up a Few Social Media Accounts
Have you been living under a rock? Social media is powerful, and it's not that hard to figure out. Get a Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ account. Use them for 20 minutes (each) per day. You can do this from home, or you can have your secretary do it in her spare time. It doesn't take long to answer a few questions or make a 120 character announcement via Twitter.
3) Set Up Your Google+ Local Page
This is that little bubble that pops up on Google maps, along with your business address, phone number, and directions. This is going to show up when someone looks for whatever it is you do in your area. Without it, you are basically subject to that crappy Yellow Pages website and the random (or worse, alphabetical) order they put you it. Set up your local page with accurate information and keep it up to date. Add some pictures. If you don't have any good ones, buy them. This will be your first impression for many visitors.
4) Citations Matter
Get on local listing directories and list your business. Each time your business name, address, phone number and other data is listed, this is a “citation” make ABSOLUTELY SURE that each time your write this out that it's exactly the same as it is listed on your website.
(201) 885-9873 is not the same as 201-885-9873
2351 Burks Rd. CA is not the same as 2351 Burks Road, California
Get as many as you can, all exactly the same
5) Respond to Customers Good or Bad
It makes a horrible impression when a customer complains and there's no response. Check your listings on a regular basis and address any issues, or respond to any compliments. An active business owner on these places is an invitation for questions, phone calls, and potential business. I would rather see a customer complaint and a well written response from you or your company than nothing at all. It at least shows that you care.
6) Blog Regularly
You are an expert. You know your business and your area better than anyone else. Search engines will index everything you write. Write regularly, and they will index a lot. That means each time a customer types out a question, and you've blogged something that answers that question, they will land on your website. The more you blog, the higher you rank. The higher you rank, the more people see your site.
7) Be Active Online
The internet is not going away. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how to write 400 words twice a week, and play on Twitter or Facebook for a few minutes each day. Being active online can be an extremely powerful tool for connecting with your customers online. There are tons of things you can do to maintain an active presence online, but I'll save that for another blog post. You've got a lot on your plate right now.
I'll leave you with a story
Before I moved down to Riverside I called two motorcycle shops before I found a good place to put my new tires on my bike. I called 5 different trailer rental places before I found one that had a motorcycle trailer. Not one single business had a Google+ page, and only one shop had a website. It was not listed on the first page when I searched in Google.
Local listings are absolute super easy in many areas because the competition simply doesn't exist (big cities can get competitive). All it takes is a tiny bit of effort to destroy your competition. The prices for online marketing beat the hell out of traditional marketing methods, but you can still do it cheaper if you take some steps to educate yourself. Let me know any follow up questions you have below.