Why It’s Critical That Your Small Locally Based Business Is Online Now
Whether you’re a hairdresser, a plumber, a dentist or any one of the 100’s of locally based businesses that service any of the towns and cities in Australia, you would have experienced a change in the way prospects are finding your business. Yellowpages, print, radio and TV are no longer the primary drivers of customers.
Consumers have become more tech savvy and this means they are researching and comparing products and services online before they make a purchasing decision.
Marketing online was once limited to large global companies and dodgy ‘internet-marketers’ selling ebooks, but things are changing, and changing rapidly. If your business wants to survive and thrive in this changing environment, it needs a strong and consistent presence online.
I’ve read lots of qualified articles that detail the shift of local consumers from ‘foot-traffic’ then to ‘let your fingers do the walking’ now to researching and even purchasing products and services online. I suspect it’s a lack of time that is fueling this shift, we as consumers are stretching our time out so thinly, it’s more efficient now to do product research online, and then click the ‘Buy Now’ button. I’ve seen local businesses leverage this even further by offering ‘free in-store pickup’ to local purchasers that order and pay online.
This offers incredible efficiencies to local brick-and-mortar businesses in reduced overheads and it also opens up the business to a larger audience. Even if they are local, not all consumers will see or hear your offline promotions, but when they do an internet search, your business has the opportunity to influence that prospect, right at the time they are ready to buy, no matter what size business you have.
If you like crunching the numbers:
Sorry to get all geeky on you, but if you love to crunch the numbers, the Sensis e-business Report July 2015 and the Sensis Social Media Report May 2015 reported that:
- • only 56% of Australian Small Businesses had a website;
- • with 51% of those receiving payments online for products and services;
- • with 31% of Small Businesses offering sales online saying that most of their sales came via their website;
- • and 92% of those Small Businesses that sold online reported making sales to local customers;
- • with 66% of those stating that the majority of their online customers were within their local area.
- • 78% of adult Australians with internet connection used the internet to research products and services;
- • with 88% trusting online reviews by total strangers over the business’ own statements;
- • and 60% saying they made purchases online spending on average $4,400 each.
Google itself reported that ‘3 in 4 people who find local information in search results helpful are more likely to visit stores’ and that ‘50% of consumers will visit a store within one day of a local search on their smartphone’.
Taking into account the statistics above, having an online presence gives you the ability to:
- • Control and build your business’ reputation online;
- • Increase awareness and expand your business’ market reach;
- • Engage with customers and prospects;
- • Foster word-of-mouth referrals, testimonials and reviews from customers;
- • and ultimately influence your prospects to click the ‘buy now’ button or drive them in to your store.
If you’re a small business and you don’t have a strong internet presence then, sorry, but chances are you’re missing out on sales.
Where to start?
There are 100s of ways your business can influence prospects online, but to get you started, here is a shortlist of online assets that are most important for locally based businesses in order of priority:
- Mobile friendly website with Google Analytics installed;
- Blog inside your website where you can publish regular informative articles;
- Testimonials page on your website where you can publish authentic client experiences;
- Google Business Page and Maps Listing with Reviews (Google My Business);
- Facebook Place/Business Page with Reviews (Facebook for Business);
- PLUS Start collecting customer and prospect’s email addresses as soon as you can (not strictly online marketing, but so valuable to local businesses that I needed to add it here).
- Search Google for your business name – do you like what you see?
- Search Google “<Your town> <Your products/services>” – is your business ranked on the first page? (eg Townsville Dentist)
- Search Google Maps – is your local business listed as a place?
There has never been a better time to get your business online, build a presence with a website and to start using social media to attract and engage prospective customers.
Over the next few months I’ll walk through the easiest and most effective ways small local businesses can begin their online marketing strategy with limited budget and expertise.
“The opinions expressed by Smallville Contributors are their own, not those of www.smallville.com.au"
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