Local business marketing is at a turning point.
Smartphones have far surpassed other avenues for local business discovery.
Increasingly when people search for a business, the information they’re seeing comes in the form of:
- Listings (address, contact info, hours, etc.).
- Content (photos, reviews, menus, inventory and the like).
…delivered through media like Google, Waze, Alexa, or Yelp.
This cycle of customer intent is essential.
Seventy-six percent of people who search on their smartphones for something nearby visit a business within a day.
Gone are the days when a customer only visits a business’s website. More business results are appearing in the form of digital business profiles.
Because of this, multi-location businesses urgently need to curate and optimize their presence on those platforms.
Profile and listing platforms have become the starting point of customer purchase intent. Businesses need to start thinking in terms of intent marketing.
This means not just maintaining accurate information across digital platforms, but looking to those platforms as major business drivers. They’re the source of customer intent.
And when done right, local intent marketing follows a four-phase cycle.
Phase 1: Presence
Presence refers to the most basic information and its corresponding accuracy that people find when they search for a local business via typed or voice search, map apps, social media, or review sites.
In order to avoid missed customers or opportunities, businesses need to ensure that their basic information (location, hours, contact info) is accurate not just on Google, but across the ecosystem of customer discovery channels.
An accurate digital presence is important across discovery platforms.
Think about a time when you discovered that your navigation app took you to the wrong address or you clicked on a phone number from a review app and found it to be incorrect.
If you’re like most people, the experience stuck with you by virtue of its negative emotional resonance.
Few things hurt a business as directly as a negative customer experience. No brick-and-mortar location can afford that risk in the new digital consumer landscape.
For many small businesses, simply maintaining accuracy across platforms can be a daunting proposition. Manually updating information, especially if it changes (think holiday hours), can demand many hours of tedious input.
Local SEO and marketing agencies can help, as can various technology solutions.
Phase 2: Content
The second phase of the local intent marketing cycle is content.
This refers to all of the additional information a potential customer encounters when they find a business anywhere in the digital world.
Content can include user-generated photos or company-listed product inventory tied to a Google My Business (GMB) profile, or the conversations on a business’s Facebook page.
Content optimization and management should never be allowed to slip out of focus.
Think about the last time you searched for a local business on your phone and made a quick but meaningful series of judgments based on the photos and reviews that appeared at the top of your search results.
The fact is, many customer journeys begin (and end) just that way.
Local businesses and their agency partners need efficient, systematized solutions to comprehensively optimize their content lest they fall victim to stagnation and lost conversion opportunities.
Phase 3: Insights
The third piece of any local marketing strategy is insights – the data and corresponding efficiencies that come from tracking and analyzing business presence across platforms.
- The practice of tracking how customers engage with your business profiles across media channels.
- The impact this has on your organic search rankings, customer inquiries, and acquisition.
If foot traffic at a local retailer suddenly dips, it’s important to recognize if it’s the result of, say, a bad customer review on Yelp that suddenly appeared at the top of the results page.
Likewise, if customers are gravitating toward a rival business that’s listed in a more convenient location, it’s important to know that, too (especially given the recent controversy around false listings on Google Maps).
Staying one step ahead of the business cycle (and a commercial landscape that’s increasingly inhospitable to local businesses) is critical in the age of digital disruption and ecommerce.
Phase 4: Reputation
So you’ve laid the foundation to ensure customers are:
- Finding accurate information associated with your business.
- Finding it everywhere they might happen to begin their journey of purchase intent.
Now it’s time to consider the long-term project of reputation management.
Reputation management is tedious and complex enough that many businesses choose to outsource it.
The task of monitoring and responding to reviews and comments across proliferating discovery channels like review websites and social media requires a level of time and attention that many businesses can’t spare.
It may seem obvious that reputation management would be challenging for small, independent local businesses. But the same problem exists for large enterprise companies with many physical locations.
The largest fast-food chain in the U.S. has more than 25,000 stores across the country – the vast majority-owned and operated as independent franchises.
Each of these locations has its own digital presence, with customer-generated reviews for each individual store spread across platforms like GMB, Yelp, and TripAdvisor.
Keeping track of all of these diffuse ratings and reviews across platforms quickly becomes unmanageable without a unified technology solution, even with considerable corporate resources.
Factoring these four phases into a comprehensive local intent marketing strategy is challenging. However, businesses can’t afford to not – at the very least – think in these terms.
Local business marketing – whether for a retailer, restaurant, professional service provider or bank branch – is an exercise in Darwinian competition. Only the strong survive.
Businesses that want to flourish need to answer these questions one way or another if they want to survive in the digital age, whether by:
- Finding the right agency partner.
- Looking to a technology provider.
- Or manually tackling the problem alone.