As a local business owner, you’re probably used to being bombarded with various marketing agencies telling you why their chosen advertising medium is what you should be doing. This might be radio ads, television, billboards or print media. So what works? What’s going to give you the best return on investment? Well, that depends on your type of business and there are definitely benefits worth exploring in these sorts of advertising platforms. One thing is certain though – having a strong online presence is the most important part of marketing and I’ll tell you why…

So, what is an online presence, exactly?

When we refer to an online presence, it means making sure that your business and your brand are able to be found easily online through search engines when people are looking up relevant queries that relate to your goods or services.

Being found online means that you’re getting eyeballs on your business from people who are actually interested in it! No more forcing your message down the throats of every Tom, Dick and Harry in the hope that someone who is actually looking for a local gas fitter will see it such as with television ads. Instead, you’re aiming to be presented in front of someone who has just typed “Gas fitter Wollongong” into Google and chances are, they’re exactly who you want to be seeing your business.

Those mass media strategies (often referred to as “push marketing”) are also becoming less relevant with the dramatic changes in work arrangements in 2020. There are far less people driving around to see billboards, less people listening to the radio on their commute to work and regional newspapers and niche magazines are closing down at rapid rates.

The other advantage of online marketing compared to other advertising mediums is the ability it gives you to measure your advertisements’ effectiveness and make changes accordingly. The analytics of online marketing allow business owners to see exactly who is seeing their promotions, whats working and whats’ not, in detail. It’s a big difference to spending big dollars on a 30 second TV commercial and hoping for the phone to ring.

Online advertising allows local businesses to develop credibility and trust by displaying positive reviews from happy customers. This can be much more reassuring for a potential audience that simply listening to what a business is telling them in a traditional advertisement.

Developing an online presence generally means having a quality website, relevant social media pages and accurate listings in Google My Business. Let me elaborate…

What makes a quality local business website?

I’m still blown away at the number of businesses that don’t have a website at all. A website makes your business appear more real and trustworthy to potential customers. It gives you an opportunity to reflect the feel of your business branding and allows people to make the most basic of inquiries without having to engage formally.

There is a heck of a lot of difference between a good and a bad website and I will create a whole other article explaining what makes a good website, so stay tuned, but it really comes down to these 3 things:

1. Does anyone find it? Is it appearing in search engine results for relevant search terms?

2. Is it easy to understand and/or use? Is it mobile friendly? Can people find the information they are looking for? What sort of user experience are you providing?

3. Does it convert? Is the website achieving what you want it to? (That could be selling products online, getting people to call you/lead generation or even creating a mailing list)

local business websites wollongong

What sort of Social Media platform to use?

It seems like the world of social media is ever increasing and its’ becoming more overwhelming for business owners every year. My advice is to choose two or three platforms (no more) and focus your attention on a solid marketing and content plan within those. Unless you have a designated team such as a social media manager to handle this for you, too many platforms to manage will just cause overwhelm and confusion.

There are a few questions to consider when deciding what social media platforms to focus on.

1. Who is your target audience?
Are you B2B or B2C? What’s the demographic of your target customer? Think about their age, gender, interests/industry type etc.

2. What is your goal?
Are you aiming for brand awareness, getting leads, customer retention, etc?

The five biggest platforms currently out there are Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Linked In, but there are also smaller niche platforms such as Nextdoor who may have a smaller reach, but less competition to contend with. You can check out the latest stats on which demographics are using social media platforms by clicking here.

There are tonnes of small business owners who are using social media ineffectively and wasting their time (and money) due to poor targeting and planning. My suggestion is to invest in some training with a social media coach to really maximise your results and use your time and money most effectively. Natalie Martin from Essence Social Media in the Illawarra, offered these tips when many business owners were looking to move online amidst the 2020 pandemic:

“Take a look at your customers pain points. Its likely that they have changed and you will need to adjust your marketing accordingly.
Take the time to review your analytics and do a deep dive into them. Who is your online customer? When are they online? What devices are they using? If you haven’t already, set up a social media calendar. This is a great way to help you plan out content and marketing strategies” (Essence Social Media, 2020)

Optimise your Google My Business Listing

Google My Business (GMB) is such an underrated tool by many business owners. If you’re looking to be found online, I highly recommend spending some time in optimising you listing with as much information as possible. Fill in as many fields as possible, add images and review your listing regularly to ensure it is up to date. Google is constantly changing and updating features such as sub-categories and by updating your listing with fresh content, it shows Google that the business is real and cared for, increasing your likelihood to rank higher in search results.

If you haven’t claimed your GMB listing, check out my earlier article here to walk you through it. Repeat the process for Yelp Business for some extra fire power.

Is you business online?

I’ve been saying it for years, but with the massive shake-up that Covid-19 has brought about, its now more important than ever to get your business online or risk disappearing in to nothingness.