Entrepreneurship can be a real juggling act. With so many balls in the air during a startup, it’s easy to overlook something that might not seem important at the time--but that turns out to be very much so later on. Local marketing sometimes falls into that category. “Small businesses and startups in niche industries tend to overlook opportunities to cement themselves in local markets and to generate a fan base and a group of supporters, as well as potential partnerships and business opportunities,” says Craig Macy, CEO of Onstream, an Internet-of-Things (IoT) startup.
Austin Paley, director of corporate marketing at digital agency Blue Fountain Media, says one local marketing strategy startups often overlook is the use of local title tags. “For a New York-based organization, for example, adding ‘NY’ or ‘NYC’ to the end of its title tag is an incredibly easy way to focus on locality within search results. Including these geographic terms is a great indicator to search engines that you’re located in a particular area, and it acts as a signal to search engines to consider that facet when presenting search results.”
To make the most of local marketing opportunities, it’s best for startups to develop and implement a comprehensive plan, says Nathan Yerian, CEO of Mynt, a tech startup that helps entrepreneurs get online and effectively market to local audiences. The plan should be built around five key steps:
- Naming the company and securing a domain. “If you can select a unique name, it will help your customers easily find you in the future,” he says. “But don’t forget to check to see if there are any similarly named businesses in your local area. Be especially aware of competitive forces with a similar name.”
- Paid email hosting. This allows you to have (yourname)@(yourcompany).com as your email address, which presents a professional image and may help bolster your credibility with vendors and customers. This may be included in your Internet service.
- Claim vanity social URLs. As soon as you have chosen a name for your business, try to secure your social names and vanity URLs, even if you’re not going to use them immediately. “This prevents someone else from swooping in and taking them,” Yerian points out.
- Get listed locally. Once you have a name, address, phone number, and website, get your business listed on online maps, mobile apps, local directories, social networks, and search engines.
- Set up accounts on business review sites. You can do this on sites such as Yelp, Google+ Local, Angie’s List, MerchantCircle.com, and others even before you open for business. “Having an account already established will make it easier to immediately respond to reviews, which is especially important in the case of negative reviews,” Yerian explains. “Timely responses show the market you care about your customers and are willing to go the extra mile to make sure they are happy.”
Once you’ve got the basics covered--and if your budget and resources allow for it--geo-targeting can be an effective next-step strategy. Singling out specific individual prospects and serving them with incredibly relevant content can be very effective at driving conversions and fostering growth, Paley says. “If you’re a local store and know that prospects nearby are at shops offering similar products, you can use hyper-local targeted marketing to serve those customers within a specific geo-grid special coupons, deals, or advertisements to their mobile phones to promote your business. This is just another way to leverage location and take your online initiatives offline.”