- Part 1: Getting started (see below),
- Part 2: Building presence and
- Part 3: Advertising.
5 Steps to Getting Started
If you already have a web presence, you may be tempted to skip this…don’t. Without a solid foundation your marketing strategy is likely to struggle over time.
Step 1: Make a few choices that you can live with
Choose a business name, local phone number and domain name. Sounds easy right? It is by its also important to choose one and stick with it.
Business name and domain name (web site address): There is some evidence that including the location name (i.e. city) and your industry in your business name and domain name is impactful for your search engine ranking. However, before you name your company “[insert your city name] [insert your industry name]” consider that you may want to expand your service area and service offerings in the future.
Local phone number: Lots of businesses have tracking numbers but there is some evidence that they will hurt your local search ranking. On your web properties, in local directories and on all of your web presence pages (part 2 of this series), choose one phone number with a local area code. For lots of business, marketing and search optimization reasons, don’t change your phone number.
Step 2: Choose your keywords
Before you start building your website properties, you need to determine what words potential customers use to find businesses like yours. These are your keywords. There are lots of good free tools out there to help you such as: Google Adwords, Trellian and WordTracker.
Step 3: Set up website and blog
Having chosen a company name, purchased a website address and chosen some keywords, its time to create a basic web site. Your site does not need to be “fancy”. In fact there are some very simple websites that I know of that sign up more new customers than many other “cooler looking” sites with whom they compete. However, there are some basics items you should include regardless of how much money you spend on your site:
- Include the business name, address, local phone number and hours of operation on your home page.
- Link to your web presence sites (discussed in Part 2 of this post) from your home page.
- Write content for people to read not for Google to optimize Don’t stuff your keywords into each sentence but include them naturally as you would in a regular conversation with a prospect.
- Use your keywords as anchor text to link to other pages on your site.
- Write a unique and relevant page title and meta description for every page. For your home page, use your main few keywords and location.
- Add a form on your website and blog to capture email addresses of potential and current customers who want access to special offers.
- Create a Google Analytics account and add the analytics tracking to each page of your website and blog.
- Create a Google Webmaster Tools account and submit a site map.
Start a blog. There are plenty of easy ways to do it including: Blogger and WordPress. Some of you are thinking “do I really need a blog? I am an [fill in your industry]. Who wants to read a blog about that? What will I say?” Prospects want to read what you have to say. Share tips and tricks. Tell people how to do what you do. They will not do it but they want to know you are an expert. This is a stunningly easy way to generate leads, increase your website ranking and create durable value for your local business. I work with someone whose brother is an electrician who wrote 6 blog posts over a year ago and he still gets leads from his blog. It works.
When you create your website, either work with a web developer or software package that will create a mobile-ready site (i.e. responsive design) or create a mobile site. Why? Its a huge competitive advantage for your new business because only 2% of local SMBs websites are mobile optimized (vSplash DigitalScape Quarterly Audit of US SMB websites, Q2/2012) and over 25% of searches are made from a mobile device. (Update: 74% of Google’s local search volume comes from mobile devices) That means that your competitors are delivering a sub-standard experience to your potential customers and that creates an opportunity for you to shine.
Step 4: Send out and confirm your NAP
Claim or list your new business listing in Infogroup, Localeze and CityGrid. Make sure you business name, address and phone number are exact and are listed the same way in every location. Get Listed also does a great job with checking your listings across sites.
Step 5: Build your email list and start using it
Based on how few local businesses make a real effort to collect their customers and/or prospects email addresses, I can only conclude that most businesses have decided it is not worth the effort. Wow. What if I told you that there is a multi-billion dollar industry that in effect collects a businesses’ customer email list for them and then rents it back to them in exchange for 40-50% of the revenue from the next time that customer comes in? Oh, and they do not give the business the email address. That is the essence of the deals industry.
Build your customer email list. Build your prospect email list. Send them special offers. Ask for reviews. Ask for referrals. Send reminders. Send coupons. This is some of the most cost effective marketing you will ever do. There are lots of companies that can help including Constant Contact and Mail Chimp. Customer Lobby also includes a solution to automatically ask for reviews, send reminders, send coupons, ask for referrals and manage the entire process.
More to come in part 2 but that should keep you going for a while.