Marketing a local business these days is like trying to hit a moving target. Fickle customers, stout competition and rapid-fire changes online – including mobile and social media – make it all the more difficult. Here are seven trends in local business marketing that you should know about to help you hit your target:
Trend #1 – Making Online/Offline Work Together
The most successful local marketing will combine online and offline elements. So-called “web-influenced” buying is the key. About $45 of every $100 spent locally now represents “web- influenced” purchases. In other words, the purchase decision was influenced by something your customer saw or did online. This figure is rising rapidly and will likely hit 55 percent over the next three years. Success comes from approaching customers from both directions. The experience that customers have with you directly can influence what they do online. At the same time, what they do online can heavily influence your business. Tip: If your business isn’t taking the lead to influence what customers are seeing about you online, it should be. Having complete information and strong visuals makes a difference.
Trend #2 – Social Goes Mainstream – and Main Street
At some point, the share of small and local businesses that have a Facebook page will surpass 50 percent. This marks a major shift that will continue to change how local businesses find, keep and communicate with customers. Until now, most business owners who dipped a toe into social media did so largely as an experiment. But that’s about to change as we all become better at making social media pay off, and commit more time and resources to social media marketing. A Dex Idea: Make your Facebook page work in unison with your other promotions, website and campaigns. Look for Facebook to make changes that allow local businesses to conduct transactions.
Trend #3 – Local Biz Owners as Micro-Celebrities
As the local/social trend expands, other interesting things start to happen. For example, local business owners and professionals can now become “micro-celebrities” in their areas. Every doctor, dentist, plumber, real estate agent, lawyer, accountant or you-name-it can readily have a public profile through a Facebook page, blog, LinkedIn profile, YouTube channel and Twitter presence, among others. Tip: To turn your personal or business brand into micro-celebrity status, prepare, complete and polish your personal and business profile wherever possible.
Trend #4 – Online Video Gains Traction
While local businesses are moving to embrace Facebook, many don’t know that they can have their own channel on YouTube, even though the opportunity has been around for a few years. That’s about to change for two reasons: 1) Low-cost video production is more widely available. 2) Small business owners are catching on to the powerful pull that video can create to increase customer awareness. Tip: Add a video to your business profile to improve awareness and familiarity with your product or service.
Trend #5 – Mobile Makes More Waves
Current and potential customers will rely more and more on their mobile devices to find you. There are more than 85 million mobile internet users now and they need to find local business information while on the go. In a few years there will be 142 million iPhone, Blackberry, iPad and other tablet users, according to eMarketer. Mobile is especially critical for local businesses because the majority of searches conducted from a mobile device are for a local need. Tip: Download and take a look at your business on a mobile app so you can see your business from your customers’ point of view.
Trend #6 – LinkedIn Goes Local
LinkedIn is a “sleeping giant” for marketing a local business. Look for this online networking powerhouse to morph into an increasingly useful tool for local businesses. While Facebook is loaded with massive amounts of content and communication unrelated to business, LinkedIn is a simpler and more business-focused solution.
Trend #7 – Better Data Mining
“Business intelligence” will become more accessible to local businesses. To compete more effectively, local businesses will be able to tap into deep wells of data and intelligence about local markets, customer behavior and key categories. This will help you come to the marketing table with a deeper understanding of current customers and how to better focus your efforts to gain new ones. Tip: Tap into the local knowledge, research, data and analytics that are available to you.