5 Local-Based Marketing Tips that cost Nothing!

For those of you that have been tuning into our weeklyTune in Tuesday live broadcasts recently, you may have remembered my recent ‘stint’ where I pulled together some local-based marketing tips specifically for our smaller PCA members and SME’s to help stimulate enquiries post COVID-19, while we all have a bit of spare time on our hands – the idea being to help you build a better foundation for when we re-enter the ‘new normal’!

Well, as promised, off the back of our ‘Tune in Tuesday’, I have pulled together a blog summarising my 5 local-based marketing tips that I mentioned during the webinar, that will cost you NOTHING! The initial local based summary list is below but to learn more, simply keep on reading…

  • Tip 1: Tell the local search influencers YOU exist!
  • Tip 2: Improve your reputation
  • Tip 3: Influence your local search results
  • Tip 4: Sell the local click!
  • Tip 5: Communication

Tip 1: Tell the local search influencers YOU exist!

If you just do one thing from this blog, make sure you DO THIS! For this free tip, there is a little more ‘meat to the bone’ information wise so please bear with me!

Just as you would not expect strangers to know who you are and what you do, so why would you expect and assume search engines to know who you are? As clever and intelligent a search engine is, when it comes to scooping up small local-based information about a business, it does need help from time to time. This is where you can help.

Firstly, take advantage of the free tools available to local businesses to tell search engines all about you! The biggest and most important within the UK beingGoogle My Business. For our smaller PCA members and businesses reading this and thinking ‘what the heck’ is ‘Google My Business’?, it is basically a completely free tool to allow YOU to tell Google all about YOUR business so it better understands how to list you in more relevant search results.

Why exactly is this important and why should I care?

Why is it important to get onto this? Well, if you want to have your business displayed to local customers, Google My Business is considered one of the ‘key cornerstones’ of local search engine optimisation. After paid Google based adverts, Google My Business listings are the next to display in search results, with research suggesting 33% of all search clicks occurring within the Goggle My Business display results. With only 40% of user clicks occurring within natural (organic) search results and 33% of user clicks taking place within Google My Business results, I suppose the ‘key takeaway point’ is it pays to rank in both! The more real estate you can take up, the more opportunities you will get!

More to search than just Google!

It is not just about Google though. Bing (the Microsoft web search tool) also provides a similar platform for you to do the same thing called Bing Places. Now, for those that have some knowledge of search engines and how certain search engines are more popular than others, you might be saying to yourself “why the hell should I care about Bing?”.

Basically, people search for local businesses using various different tools. Windows based laptops for example are typically defaulted to use Bing as a search engine and emerging Voice assistants such as Microsoft’s Corona that uses Bing as standard. It is EVEN SAID that Google references and checks its results against Bing Places, so I suppose to answer the question: “why the hell should I care about Bing”, basically, for the effort required, why wouldn’t you! It pays to be on both!

To find out more about Google My Business and Bing Place’s, click on the help links and videos below.  Ohh…and just one last point.  Just because you build it, doesn’t mean they come!  Remember, just like anything, you get out of it what you put in.  Remember to go in regularly to update the channels.

Tip 2: Improve your reputation

No matter your business (whether you are one of our smaller PCA member’s or not), ‘Word of Mouth’ is still the single most powerful and influential form of marketing you can get! In a nutshell, reputation matters and believe it or not, you have either lost out or gained business from the opinions and reviews people have left about YOU online.

There are lots of stats out there (often pushed by the most expensive review based platforms) all stipulating all sorts of facts and figures to convince you to spend your well earned pounds with them. However, the fact still remains that:

  • 70%+ read reviews about a business
  • Across the construction industry, reviews suggested to impact enquires by 10-18%

If you are thinking about developing your reputation online (and I would strongly recommend you do), you do not need to be initially spending the £80+ per month with the bigger review based platforms such as Trustpilot, Reviews.co.uk & Feefo. There is already a FREE and fantastic tool available to you – ‘Google Reviews’.

Google Reviews – effective and FREE!

Google Reviews is in my opinion the best and most effective free reviews tool you can get. Its easy to use (all done through your Google My Business account), it naturally appears against your brand and bottom line, it is effective! The Google My Business stats will even confirm this!

And before I get any emails from my wonderful colleagues in the industry and my marketing friends advising about its limitations… yes, I do hear you with regards to this. However, the fact remains its FREE and it will be displayed in front of more relevant individuals than any other free reviews tool out there!

Again, in my opinion, if you are limited on time, do not waste it building up reviews within platforms such as Yell.com, Bing and Yelp. Equally, why push people to leave a review on ‘TrustATrader, My Builder and Rated People when you will only lose the review and its value if you quit the platform? Stick to building reviews where most people search and where your review will most likely be seen -within Google based search results! To find out more about Google reviews, click on the link below:

Tip 3: Influence your local search results

Search engines such as Google are actually very simple in their purpose…they are just but very complicated in their nature.

When it comes to influencing local business results (such as the Google My Business results in Tip 1), local-based indicators and citations are crucial! Similar to how an Academic Paper would use references at the end of a paper to demonstrate authority, search engines use ‘linkbacks‘ and citations to determine importance and positioning. So how can you influence this and gain more opportunities???

First things first…Start with the ‘low hanging fruit’! You want to identify, clean and build on the influencing factors that affect you NOW! To find these influencing factors/citations use tools such as Moz Local. If you want to use Moz Local to correct all the existing citations, there is a cost to action this. However, you are completely free to take the information provided by Moz Local and go about visiting the listed websites with the report to edit and update the business information yourself.

VERY IMPORTANT THOUGH – make sure you are consistent with the information you edit, i.e. make sure the business name, address, telephone number and other details are identical on all your citations.

Develop your Citations

Once you have sorted the ‘low hanging fruit’, do not stop there. You can continue to help influence opportunities during the COVID-19 downtime by developing your ‘Citations’. Trust me, there is not a shortage to get your teeth into and help influence your local business listing to give you more opportunities. Simply do a Google search for “local citation websites UK” and you will see plenty in the results. However, some sites I would suggest you use to influence results are as follows:

  • Google Maps
  • Bing Maps
  • Apple Maps
  • Chamber of Commerce websites
  • Thompson local (…and I bet you thought Thomson local was dead!)
  • Local based directories
  • Community hubs
  • Facebook business pages
  • Foursquare
  • Newspaper directories
  • Yelp
  • 118 / 192
  • TomTom
  • Citylocal/touch local
  • …and lots more

Tip 4: Sell the local click!

We are all familiar with how Google based search results look like. If you are not, the the image should hopefully remind you. But do you actually tell customers why they should give a damn about you?!? Tell them WHY they should click to visit you – especially when your natural positioning on Google search results is not great. For example,

  • Scream that you are local
  • If you have awards, tell them
  • If you have fantastic reviews…tell people
  • If you have an asset on your webpage such as an explainer video, use it to encourage the click

Now, you might be asking yourself, ‘how the heck to I do this’? I will admit, as much as this is tip is free to do, it is slightly more ‘techie’ than the rest of the tips and it does require you to use your website CMS (Custom Management System) to edit what is known as the ‘Meta title’ and ‘Meta description’.

My suggestion is that if you have someone that does you marketing for you and is on a retainer, get that person to sort it! If you do not have a retainer with a marketing specialist or developer, but you still have access to your website CMS, then what I will say is that this ‘techie’ change is not ‘rocket science’…especially if your CMS platform is WordPress! There is plenty of help videos on You Tube you can reference.

Basically, its marketing 101…people don’t buy into features…they buy into benefits! If you want to encourage more visits, you need to seel the click. However…just a word of warning…when editing the title and description, it is about ‘balancing what the page is about’ while pushing the benefit of why the user should click to visit.  For those using WordPress based sites, click to visit this 3 min help and explainer video.

Tip 5: Communication

Right now with the COVID-19 pandemic, when it comes to communication, there is frankly little to any point on pushing a sales message. This give me no pleasure in saying this, but quite frankly, people do not give a toss about your business at the moment (unless they are really desperate) – they have far bigger concerns right now!

If you are going to communicate, you need to chat, be informative and be ‘non-direct’ in your communication techniques. Just like many of the ‘big boy adverts’ on tv, now is the time to be seen as someone that cares for your local community and helps where possible, while still subtly reminding people of your brand (if you are looking for an example, the EE adverts with Kevin Bacon are a prime example).

Again, this does not need to cost you a single penny! There are plenty of platforms you can use to help you communicate how you care for free, such as:

  • Blogging through your website
  • Mailouts using platforms such as Mailchimp
  • Social media channels such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook
  • You Tube and video message broadcasts
  • Even back to basics…using the telephone to say “are you ok” to your customers. Can I help from a distance?

Ideally, if you are looking for ideas as to what to communicate, local based communication = better local based exposure. Consider:

  • Piggybacking off local events within your area – put your own spin on it
  • Think charity work and COVID-19 – are you doing anything that you can chat about, i.e. donating PPE equipment, raising funds for care workers, etc
  • What challenges does your local area face right now? Can you assist and blog off the back of it?

The little end bit!

As much as the five free tips above are the suggestions I would start off with, there is a whole host of other things you can do (both free and paid) that can help shore up the foundations and stimulate enquires for when we finally come out of this pandemic. Unfortunately, I think I would be all week (or possibly all month) describing everything you could do for free!

As I write this blog, it is pleasing to see that some of the COVID-19 restrictions are beginning to be relaxed however, I think the reality is that there is still a very long way to go until we fall into what is being deemed the ‘new normal’ and even longer for us to get back to pre COVID-19 enquiry levels. If there was ever a time to learn more about marketing and possibly upping your game for the future with all the free things you can do, then now is that time!

As always, the PCA is here to support you, our members. 2019 was a challenging year, but it looks like 2020 will be the most challenging year most of us will ever see! Here’s hoping for a steadier ship soon and potentially some now ideas and innovations off the back of having to do things differently!

See you in the next blog…

Andy