Summer is here and every couple of days someone comes to my house promoting their pool cleaning business. It must be a weather or season thing, because I also had someone promoting a home security system, grocery delivery, and even a kid selling candy.
Pretty much every time I was annoyed that a person was knocking on my door trying to sell something. Maybe it's because I'm an affiliate marketer and run my business online that I don't have a lot of patience for door to door salesman. But I can't help thinking: If I really wanted this stuff, wouldn't I go online and get it?
Even for local services like grocery delivery, pool cleaning, or yard maintenance, I would rather shop online, compare prices, read reviews, and see what there is before making a decision to commit money every month. So my plea to local businesses is to stop going door to door promoting your business, and get online.
Local Businesses on the Internet
I look for everything online. When I needed parts for my motorcycle, I bought them online. When I needed a shop to put the tires on, I looked for a local place online. I buy my toiletries on Amazon. I read digital books on my Kindle. The only thing I don't search for or get on the internet is groceries, but I would probably buy them online if it was cheaper (hint, hint, this is a good business idea).
I don't know if this is just my generation that does this, or if it's a growing trend that everyone is participating in. Maybe a bit of both.
The point I want to make is that if your local business is going to grow and dig its heels in for the future you HAVE to be online. At a minimum, you need a functioning, updated website. You also need to be on review sites like Google+, Yelp, and any other review sites that fit into your industry. I haven't been to new restaurant in years that I haven't first looked for reviews of online. I haven't stayed in a hotel EVER that I haven't booked on the internet based on customer reviews.
Local Search Marketing
Going door to door is like cold calling. 90% of the people you visit you will annoy. Maybe 10% are interested and don't follow through with a purchase. A very small percentage actually end up buying (these numbers are guesses to make a point, they are not actual statistics).
With local search marketing you can increase your conversion rates significantly because the only people that view your products and services are the people that want them. Instead of going door to door searching for people that want a pool cleaning service, you wait to be invited into pool owners' homes. Instead of a 3% of conversations resulting in a new customer, you have 30%.
This is done be getting into Google Search. But that's just part of the equation.
There are lots of businesses listed online. How do I choose which ones to investigate first? By the quality of their website and information they provide me. I paid $1500 for a sailing course I because they had the best website out of 10 other places I looked at (also because they knew how to write a proper email). The first shop I called to put new tires on my motorcycle was the only one with reviews on Google+ Local.
I am not alone in making my decisions based on these things.
Destroy Your Competition
The local search results for my town are horrible. Most places don't have a website, and those that are actually listed in the Yellow Pages do no have any kind of central place where people can place reviews. It's almost impossible to find anything. I feel like I have to be an expert in local knowledge to actually know what's happening around this city.
Though for bigger cities like San Francisco, Chicago, or New York the competition will definitely be higher, where I live, it's basically open for anyone, with any amount of basic online marketing skill to destroy their competition in search results. No joke.
Though you can make online marketing as involved and thorough as you like, there are three basic things you will need to impress someone like me.
1) A Website
Please don't get someone to code your site using HTML. It's not the 90's anymore. You can build a completely awesome website using free drag and drop tools, or if you want to spend a bit more time to buy a snazzy .com, you could have a professional looking website up in a day or two. You could probably do this yourself by watching some YouTube videos, or hire someone to do it for around $2,000 – $3000.
Please list all products and services you offer, including prices, deals, and obvious way to contact you (email or phone #)
2) A Google+ Page and Local Listing
Everyone uses Google for search. When people search in Google, which results do you think will show up on top, Google's local listings or other listings? Exactly Google+ pages are free, and only require that you fill out some address stuff and upload a few pictures. This can also serve as a great place for customers to leave reviews.
Facebook pages are also acceptable, but I don't use Facebook much.
3) Reviews & Responses
Yelp is a popular site and a good place to start. Google+ is another one. Facebook is another one. There are also lots of smaller companies where you can list your business and people can review your services. People look at these.
Don't forget to respond, and be nice to bad reviewers. You don't have to be a slave to horrible customers, but remember that a bad review that you respond to is just as powerful as a good review. In fact, a long list of customer complains followed by a unique and courteous response to each send the message to me that if I too am unsatisfied, I will be treated with respect and have my issue resolved.
If you can do these three simple things, I will literally be throwing my money at you.
Most customers won't be so enthusiastic about a businesses great online marketing strategy as me – after all, this is what I do for a living so it interests me. But they will be more attracted to your business, and you will stand out among your competition.
Going door to door used to work, and probably works to some degree even today. I saw that the home security salesman did make some sales because some neighbors have the little signs in front of their yard now. But people are moving away from this business model. So far you're a little late to the part, but it's still early in the game. You know what they say, “Better late than never.” There's still plenty of time to catch up or maybe even get a head start.
It doesn't take much to learn this stuff, just a bit of time-commitment and money (a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising). Below is a video interview I did with a buddy of mine from Media Fresh Press about Local Search Marketing, the benefits it has for local businesses, and where to get up to date training.