Many small business owners get very excited when setting up shop -- it's the beginning of their entrepreneurial journey, so they should be! Especially with small businesses, owners become most excited about the quality service or product they're offering or how they are going to really deliver for their first few customers (usually friends and family).
However, few owners think about how to bring in customers consistently until they're sitting idly just praying that someone will walk through the door. At that moment they know they need to take action -- but what really works? Networking? Community meetings? Referral programs?
Needless to say, many turn to the internet. But for most small business owners that just opens a whole new set of questions and possible directions. Thus I present the top 5 online marketing suggestions to take your local business to the next level.
1. Create A Mobile Responsive Website
Naturally creating a presence on the web is a starting point. However many small businesses don't have a website that is responsive, meaning it looks good on both computers and mobile devices. This sounds like a daunting process to most -- but these days there are a number of ready-made templates for small businesses that make local business site creation a breeze. Either learn to do it yourself, or hire someone to implement the template for you on Wordpress (this can be done for as little as $100).
2. List On Local Online Directories
Your website should not be your only online presence. People will want to leave reviews and learn more about your company from reliable sources. Start with Yelp, Google Plus and any industry-specific directories. This is not only good for increasing your online presence, but it helps with local SEO (making your website show up in Google during searches).
3. Be Active On Social Media -- But Only When It Has A Purpose
Social media can be powerful for driving leads to a small business, but if not used consistently and thoughtfully, it can end up being more of a time-waster than a lead-driver. When I built my photo studio Modern Vice Studios, I naturally focused on social media platforms that were more photography-oriented, like Facebook. I still have a twitter profile, but rarely utilize it because I know it won't be a great driver of traffic for this business.
4. Build An Email List
Even if you don't use your email list right away, it's essential that you start building it from day one. This list can be used to stay at top of mind with your current and past customers, as well as leveraged for special offers and referral programs.
5. Consider paid advertising
Paid advertising for local businesses could be an entire series of articles by itself, but know that's because there is vast opportunity to grow your business when done well. The places to start would be Google Adwords and Retargeting. These two methods are very powerful for driving new customers to your site as well as advertising to existing customers and website visitors.
Even these top 5 marketing tips for local businesses will get overwhelming for many, and may require you to hire an expert to at least set your business up and get you on the right track. Though that makes starting your business even more of an investment, you can sleep well knowing that when implemented properly, investing in your online presence and marketing will result in huge dividends down the line.