As we start to finish 2011 and look to hit the ground running in 2012, I thought it would be beneficial to revisit one of the questions that has been posed to me numerous times recently: what are the elements of the optimal local marketing campaign?
As I pointed out in “Marketing-Strategy Checklist for SMBs in 2011” back in January, SMBs and national brands that are targeting the local marketplace should focus on defined opportunities, as the local landscape continually evolves. Let’s face it; there are enormous options for local targeting – some beneficial and some not. My advice is to take a top-down approach to ensure that the priority channels are covered prior to expansion into additional options.
Based on where we see mass audiences and cost-effective opportunities, the following is an updated list, in order of importance, for a well-constructed local campaign:
Business listing management. NAP (name, address, and phone number) management is the foundational element that connects your business to content in the form of citations that enables a successful local search campaign. Specifics on do’s and don’ts for optimizing your business listing for local searchers can be found at “Business Listing Management.”
Place Page optimization. With last year’s SERP changes to feature local business listings and Place Pages more prominently (with a significant increase in local listing real estate in October), a well-executed local optimization schema is vital to leveraging the sales leads generated through these vehicles. Make sure you optimize your Place Page on the three major platforms: Google, Yahoo, and Bing.
Ratings and reviews management. Ratings and reviews are the digital equivalent of “word of mouth” referrals – and probably one of the most important local search citations; controlling the destiny of how often the search engines display your local listing or your brands’ locations. They are to local search what “backlinks” are to SEO, creating credibility and authority for you business locations. Over 50 percent of consumers mention that ratings and reviews are important criteria in selecting businesses, yet only 6 percent of all consumers regularly write this important information.
In my recent column “3 Tips To Leverage Ratings and Reviews,” I covered some of the basics on how to increase the number of reviews for businesses.
Local directory advertising. While the search engines have done a terrific job of increasing the effectiveness of their local search platforms, Internet Yellow Pages (IYP), city guides, and special interest directories can provide high-value, ready-to-convert leads at cost-effective levels.
Social activations. Platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. should be a cornerstone of all businesses’ entrance into social networking. In “Oh Those Bones, oh Those Bones, oh Those Dry Bones,” we dealt with the topic of how to engage consumers with local social activations.
To tweet or not to tweet, that is the question. The answer is does your target audience utilize this means of communication? And, do you have the resources required to maintain a consistent effort? I cannot tell you how many times I have received a phone call from a CMO or CEO saying they need one of those “tweeter” pages because of the buzz around the category. My advice is if it is important for your customers and prospects, it should be important to your brand. Oftentimes we will recommend that they conduct research into what percentage of their target audience is utilizing these social channels for local commerce. If your demographic skews young and you have the resources to utilize the channel for customer service and market specific promotions, test it out. If your audience is not there, reserve your page and move back into an area with defined opportunity.
Mobile-targeted efforts. The good news is that many of the above opportunities/tactics have a direct mobile component that SMBs and brands can activate to leverage this growing trend. Mobile-specific opportunities include cost-per-call sales leads, display, listings, etc. Success in this area is category dependant. For example, hospitality and entertainment categories have large amounts of traffic and are relatively inexpensive to test. Service-based categories are still emerging and offer less available inventory.
Local display. Display can be beneficial in feeding customers into your sales funnel by increasing the awareness of your offerings. While business listing management and local paid search often deliver customers based on the “where to buy” decision, display can help build a story for “why” to buy from my company. When adding display into the mix, make sure that you apply measurements for success. However, because, by nature, display is not as directional as some of the other media tactics, start to view this channel from the additive lift it provides to the other marketing channels. The reason is because display oftentimes loads the top of the sales funnel and its direct impact is hard to isolate with “last click” attribution methods that most businesses employ.
In summary, while there are definitely variances to the above hierarchy based on business category, this list should act as a guidance tool for building and enhancing your local marketing plans. Make sure that you maximize the top priority tactics, before moving on to and expending resources on tactics that are “cool” yet lack defined return for your efforts. And finally, measure everything.
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