For many of us, launching a local business is a dream come true. But you can’t just hang up an open sign and expect customers to flock to your door.
Instead, you need to get the word out through a mix of digital and traditional marketing.
Ready to get rolling?
Here are 10 proven tactics you can use to get your first 100 customers and build a pipeline for more.
Table of Contents
1. Use Local SEO To Get Found On Google
Every local business should have a sales rep that works for them 24/7. And that sales rep is your website, of course.
But not just any website, a website that does two essential things:
- Gets your business found by your target customers.
- Turns your website visitors into customers.
First, let’s talk about getting found or, what you might call, the basics of local SEO.
What is local SEO?
Local SEO (local search engine optimization) means making it easy for potential local customers to find your business on Google.
More specifically, optimizing your website so that when people near your business type keywords related to your products or services into Google, your site shows up in their search engine results.
How do you do it?
You can’t compete on Google’s search results unless you’ve got the fundamentals of local SEO nailed down.
But don’t let words like “optimization” make you think it’s super technical. It’s not. Every small business owner can do the basics themselves without hiring an “SEO specialist”.
Here are the three basic things you need to know:
- On-Page SEO: On-Page SEO (also known as “On-Site SEO”) is the stuff you do on your website to optimize web page content for search engines and users. This includes optimizing for keywords and creating compelling content that satisfies search intent.
- Off-Page SEO: Off-Page SEO (also known as “Off-Site SEO”) off-page SEO is all the stuff that you do off of your site to get Google and other search engines to see your website as trustworthy and authoritative. This includes building backlinks, increasing brand signals, and encouraging engagement and shares on social media.
- Technical SEO: Technical SEO is the process of ensuring your website meets the technical requirements of modern search engines. This includes crawling, indexing, rendering, website architecture, and site speed.
Other than that, as long as you’re using a turnkey website solution, you don’t have to worry too much about technical SEO. That’s because for the most part it’s backed into the cake.
So let’s jump right into On-Page and Off-Page SEO.
How do you do On-Page SEO?
Step 1. Determine Your Keywords
First ask yourself, when your potential customers search Google for services like the ones you sell, what keywords do they type into the search box?
The keywords and keyword phrases your potential customers search for are the keywords you want to optimize on your website.
Now come up with a list of those keywords.
SEO gurus call this “keyword research”.
You can use your common sense to come up with a list, or if you want to be more thorough, you can use some of these keyword research tools and tactics.
In any case, think about keyword modifiers when you come up with your list.
For example, if you sell vegan pizza in Seattle you would also want to include the phrase “vegan pizza Seattle” or “order healthy pizza in Seattle”.
Ok, got your list?
Good, you’re done with step one.
Step 2. Create Compelling Meta Descriptions
Now the word “meta” sounds technical, but it’s not. This is still super easy stuff to understand.
Meta descriptions are used by Google to provide a short description of your webpage in the search results. You see these little snippets pop up anytime you Google something.
Looks like this:
Looks like this:
Notice in the image above, you can also custom customize your site’s URLs (slugs), title tags (SEO title), and other stuff like header tags and ALT text which we’ll talk about next.
Every meta description should be a couple of sentences (150-160 characters) and written in a way that makes people want to click through to your site. Think of them as mini advertisements.
Each page on your website (including your homepage) should have its own unique, keyword-specific meta description. (We’ll talk more about this in step 3 as well.)
Just remember, stuffing keywords into your meta description doesn’t help.
It could hurt.
Step 3. Optimize Keyword Placement
As mentioned above with meta descriptions, each page on your site should be dedicated to one or two unique keywords or keyword phrases. This allows you to compete on Google for more search queries and rank higher for each keyword.
But your meta descriptions aren’t the only place you need to use your keywords.
Here’s where else you need them:
- URLs: Your URL is your webpage’s website address – keep it short.
- Title Tags: Your title tag is the text (50-60 characters in length) you see displayed on the browser tab of each webpage. It’s also the headline above your meta description that appears in your Google search results.
- Header Tags: Header tags are paragraph headers in your webpage’s content.
- Image File Name: Your file name is the name you give your images when you save them. Be sure to use hyphens between keywords. For example, if your keyword phrase is “Best Chicago Dentists” then your image’s file name should be: Best-Chicago-Dentists.jpg
- ALT Text: When seeing impaired people have their web browser verbally describe images to them, the browser is reading the ALT text. Make sure your ALT text makes sense in this context.
- Schema Markup: For any contact page or location landing page you create you’ll want to add what’s called Scheme markup. These are simple tags that tell Google, Bing, and Yahoo your location data. If you’re using WordPress, this plug-in makes it easy.
Some “DOs” and “DON’Ts” you should follow:
✔ DO: Build these basic pages:
- About us
- Contact us (include accurate hours, maps, and written driving directions)
✔ DO: Create unique pages for:
- Every location of a multi-location business
- Every key service and product offering for each location
- Every public-facing practitioner or expert (if applicable)
✖ DON’T: Overuse keywords on a page. That could look spammy.
✔ DO: Create internal links to key pages.
✔ DO: Use your keyword in your page’s title tag, but, in other places, feel free to mix it up using synonyms or whatever sounds natural.
✔ DON’T: Write for Google’s algorithm.
✔ DO: Write for human readers (the people doing the googling).
✔ DO: Make sure your webpage content satisfies search intent.
What is search intent?
Search intent is the “why” behind every search query.
- Why did the person type that keyword or phrase into the search engine?
- Do they want to learn something?
- Are they looking to buy something?
- Or, are they trying to find a specific website?
Remember, Google’s only goal is to provide users with the most relevant result for their query.
If you identify the keywords your customers are typing into Google and create content that better satisfies their search intent, you’re rewarded with traffic to your site.
That covers the fundamentals of On-Page SEO.
Now let’s jump into Off-Page SEO.
How do you do Off-Page SEO?
Step 1. Building Backlinks
Backlink building is the process of building contextually and/or locally relevant links to your business website. The goal is to drive potential customers to your website and help those sites rank better for local searches and in relevant online maps.
Why do you need to build backlinks?
Every major search engine uses links as one of its most prominent ranking factors. The more relevant high-quality sites linking to your website, the higher your site will rank on Google and other search engines.
How do you build backlinks to your local business?
Link building requires research, hard work, perseverance, and creativity. There are no shortcuts. And buying links can get your site banned from Google.
To get started, use the tactics in this local link building guide.
These tactics include:
- Get links from other ranking sites
- Get links your competitors have
- Reclaim lost links
- Create locally relevant content
- Get local citations
- Pursue other local link opportunities
- Claim unlinked mentions
- Buy companies, or at least their websites
Step 2. Increase Brand Signals
Google uses brand signals to figure out if your site is a legitimate brand.
Some potential brand signals include:
- Brand Name Anchor Text: When a site links to your website using your company’s name as the anchor text.
- Branded Searches: When people search for your brand on Google using your exact brand name (“Bob’s Grill”). Or your brand name plus a word or phrase (“Bob’s Grill Menu”).
- Social Media Presence: When your brand has an official page on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
- Review Sites & Business directors: When your brand has a claimed and active page on relevant reviews sites and business directory listings.
- Co-Citations: When your business gets mentioned without getting linked to. Google likely looks at non-hyperlinked brand mentions as a brand signal.
Why do you need to band signals?
The more your brand name is mentioned in external sources, the more Google perceives it as credible — which improves search results.
How do you increase brand signals to your local business?
Now that you understand the importance brand signals play in search rankings, let’s talk about how to boost them for your website.
Here are some specific tactics you can try:
- Publish Expert Content: Start a blog and consistently produce content that provides solutions to your target customers’ pain points. This will establish your brand as an industry authority with users and search engines.
- Get Press Coverage: Press coverage builds authority in the minds of your customers and in the algorithms of search engines.
- Guest Post: Becoming a guest contributor on an influential media outlet or blog. This is a great way to build backlinks and get your brand in front of more people.
- Get Positive Online Reviews: Google puts a lot of emphasis on online reviews. Which makes sense. If people hate your business, why would Google want to send more people to your site? (We’ll cover more how to manage your reviews later.)
Step 3. Increase Engagement & Shares On Social Media
One of your best sources of brand signals is the activity that takes place on social media. People are constantly asking their friends for recommendations for almost everything, ranging from local restaurants to car repair services.
It’s important to have your brand established on social media so you have the opportunity to be part of these conversations.
For example, Facebook allows users to tag their favorite brands and their location when they want to promote them.
How do you increase engagement on social media?
- Share Newsworthy Content: Post promotions, event details, and special announcements like new hires, new services, etc.
- Posts Photos: Post photos of happy customers (with permission) participating in your events, contests, and activities.
- Create Contests & Giveaways: Give people a discount if they participate in your online contests. Here are 25 budget-friendly ideas.
2. Use CRO To Turn Your Website Visitors Into Customers
Competing in search engines is hard enough, but getting people to your website is only half the battle.
Traffic that comes and goes with no purpose is worthless.
You need traffic that converts.
Whether it’s purchasing a product, opting into email newsletters, or following you on social media, conversions justify traffic.
That’s why I want to present you with seven easy ways to boost your online conversions.
SEO sends customers to your site but CRO ensures they take action.
Your local SEO efforts are for nothing if the traffic that comes to your site isn’t taking action.
They visit the site, spend some time browsing, but never take any action.
And that means conversion rate optimization.
What is it Conversion Rate Optimization?
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of improving the probability that a visitor will take a desired action on your website or landing page.
In other words, when someone lands on your site, they make an appointment, fill out your contact form, buy your product, or sign up for your service (i.e., they “convert”).
How do you do it?
Likely, a potential customer’s first impression of your business won’t be when they walk into your store but when they visit your website.
If your website looks unprofessional or doesn’t make it easy for customers to get info or take action, you’re killing the opportunity to make sales.
Here are the three basic steps you can take to increase conversions:
Step 1. Use A Website Builder
The first step is to set up a business website that looks professional on desktop and mobile and has the functionality you need to run your business. If you’re not looking to spend thousands of dollars your best option is to use a website builder.
These tools are turnkey. They have everything you need to create a professional business site from logo creation and custom branding to building signup forms and optimizing for local search.
And the best part is they’re affordable and they don’t require any special skills or experience.
Step 2. Display Social Proof
Social proof gives your customers a feeling that validates your business. It stems from seeing other people using or recommending your product. Studies have shown that displaying social proof on your website can increase your conversion rates by more than 30%.
Testimonials are perfect examples of social proof. They build trust with potential customers by telling relatable stories.
How do you get your first testimonials?
It starts with offering above-and-beyond customer service.
When you’re first starting, customer service can be your biggest competitive advantage.
When you’re small, you can do things your competitors are too big to do. Things that aren’t scalable like hand-holding customers through processes, writing personalized thank you notes, and other personal touches.
So if you want to get your first testimonials, go above and beyond with your first 5-10 customers and do whatever you have to do to build deep relationships.
Once you’ve built a few of these relationships, reach out to your customers with a phone call and ask them if you can tell their stories.
Here’s what to ask to get a great testimonial:
- Before you signed up for our service, did you have any concerns that we might not be a good fit for your needs? If so, what were they?
- After you signed up, when did you know our service was a good fit for your needs?
- What did we do to make you feel that way?
After you’ve got a great quote, ask the customer if you could use their picture on your website next to their testimonial. If they have a LinkedIn profile, you could snag it from there.
Here are 7 other forms of social proof you could use:
- Award Badges: If you win any kind of industry award, place a winner’s badge on your site. And don’t be shy about showcasing any notable milestone or achievement. Your business’s website is no place to be humble.
- Membership Badges: If you belong to any organizations in your industry or community, look for badges you can display on your site. It’s another great way of showing your business has been vetted by authorities in your space.
- Certification Badges: Show off your credentials. Displaying certifications your business or employees hold, that are relevant to your industry, shows potential customers you’re up to snuff.
- Press Mentions: Like online reviews, any kind of positive media coverage shows people your business is worthy of attention. If you’re mentioned by a popular news source, you can use their logo on your site as another trust symbol.
- Credible Research: Share credible industry research that uses expert quotes and findings that tie directly to your product’s benefits.
- Competitor Comparisons: Showcase your customer how you’re better than the competition with a side-by-side product comparison.
- Service Guarantees: Earn your customer’s confidence by offering money-back guarantees, free trials, or even free shipping.
Step 3. Apply The 7-Second Homepage Test
According to digital marketing expert, Ryan Deiss, if your site can answer the following 4 questions in 7 seconds, your homepage is well optimized for conversions:
- What do you do?
- What problem do you solve?
- What’s the next step (Call-To-Action)?
- Where is the Call-To-Action?
What is a Call-To-Action?
A call-to-action (CTA) is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a button or link that requests (or “calls”) for website visitors to take a desired action (e.g., make a purchase, sign up, subscribe, download a brochure, book an appointment, etc.).
A CTA guides your website visitors through your sales process.
Website owners often make the mistake of placing their CTA at the end of their webpage, or some other place where it’s not easily found.
Don’t do that.
Place your CTA above the fold, so they’re positioned in the upper half of your website for both mobile and desktop users. That way visitors can easily find them without having to scroll down the page.
Here’s a great example:
The stronger and crisper your CTA is the more conversions you’ll make.
3. Stand Out On Google With A Free Business Profile
As of 2022, Google My Business is dead.
Google has once again revamped and renamed its local business management product. It’s now called Google Business Profile and you need to set it up for your business ASAP.
What is Google Business Profile?
Your Google Business Profile is a free tool that allows you to take charge of the way your business appears on Google Search and Maps.
With your Business Profile, you can connect with customers, post updates, list your products and services, accept online orders, and more.
Here’s an example:
Why do you need one?
Your Google Business Profile complements your website by adding more visibility to your current business website on Google Search and Google Maps.
The big benefit: Your Google Business Profile makes it easy for customers to find your business’s location, store hours, and other info online.
How do you set it up?
Create A New Google Business Profile Via Google Maps
Step #1: On your computer, sign in to Google Maps.
Step #2: You can add your business in 3 ways:
- Enter your address in the search bar. On the left, in the Business Profile, click Add your business.
- Right-click anywhere on the map. Then, click Add your business.
- In the top left, click Menu Menu and then Add your business.
Step #3: Follow the on-screen instructions to finish signing up for your Business Profile.
Claim An Existing Business Via Google Maps
Step #1: On your computer, open Google Maps.
Step #2: In the search bar, enter the business name.
Step #3: Click the business name and choose the correct one.
Step #4: Click Claim this business and then Manage now.
- To choose a different business, click I own or manage another business.
Step #5: Select a verification option, and follow the on-screen steps.
4. Get More Bang For Your Advertising Buck Using Google’s Hyper-Local Pay-Per-Lead Ads
Google Local Services ads offer you another way to connect with people who search on Google for the services you offer. But instead of pay-per-click like Google Ads, Google Local Services uses a pay-per-lead model that guarantees you get more bang for your buck.
Your ads show up for customers in your service area, and you only pay if a customer calls or messages you directly through the ad.
Why do you need it?
Google Local Services Ads helps you capture leads by serving well-placed ads when potential customers search for your services. It makes it easy for customers to get in touch with you, and leave reviews.
Additionally, when you sign up for Google Local Services Ads, you build trust online with customers by becoming a Google Guaranteed business. In other words, you get a little verification badge that indicates your business had been vetted by Google.
What does it cost?
You set your budget based on the number of leads you want. The exact cost of your ad is determined by your location and your industry.
You can get an estimate using this budgeting tool.
How do you get set up?
You can sign up for Google Local Services Ads online, or if you’d like assistance, Local Services experts are available to help over the phone at no additional cost from Monday – Friday, 6am-5pm PT at 1-833-272-1444.
5. Make Friends With Other Local Business Owners & Build A Referral Network
Referral marketing is one of the best ways to grow a business. And other local businesses that offer complementary services to yours make great referral partners.
So what might this look like?
Imagine you’re opening a bakery and want to break into the wedding market. Bake a batch of cupcakes to giveaway and visit event venues, photographers, and florists.
After you’ve introduced yourself and given away your cupcakes, simply ask them if you could display each other’s business cards in each other’s stores.
You’ve seen these before:
It sounds old school but it’s a great way to help each other get more customers.
Pet stores can work with veterinarians. Plumbers can work with electricians. Hair salons with spas. Doctors with dentists, and so on.
Heck, contact your local pizza place’s owners and ask them if you could co-create a flier to be included with pizza boxes if you help pay for printing costs.
Once you’ve established a relationship you can team up in other ways as well.
Here are a few examples:
- Co-host events & fundraisers
- Run co-promotional discounts
- Link to each other’s website
- Send out a joint mailer
6. Reach Local Customers Using A Traditional Air, Land, & “See” Attack
Traditional offline marketing tactics like radio (on air), direct mail (by land), and billboards (seeing signage) are still a great way to reach local customers.
Offline marketing collateral still works:
And when you combine offline media with your online marketing efforts, you’re guaranteed to reach a larger audience.
What’s the best offline strategy?
Start with one offline tactic (like direct mail), build and grow a presence there, track its ROI using a unique business number or landing page as the CTA.
It may take a little trial and error to get it right, but once you’ve got traction then expand to other tactics like radio and billboards.
Here are the best turnkey services for local offline advertising:
- iHeart AdBuilder: Adbuilder is a self-serve radio advertising platform that helps local businesses quickly and easily get on-air at any time from any device. It’s an affordable, targeted, and customizable service any small business owner can use.
- Every Door Direct Mail: Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) is an affordable direct mail targeting service offered by the USPS to help promote small businesses to local communities. If you’re having a sale, opening a new location, or offering coupons, EDDM can help you send postcards, menus, and flyers to the right customers.
- AdCritter Digital Billboards: Billboards are one of the best ways to promote your brand across a city or region. Over time, virtually everyone in town can know about your business. And now with digital billboards, even with a modest budget, it’s never been easier to get started.
7. Use The Right Social Media Platforms To Run Ads That Reach Ready-To-Buy Customers
When done right, social media is one of the most cost-effective ways local businesses can reach customers.
Why? Because you can easily target specific people in your community and track their engagement with your ads.
The real question is:
Which social media platform is right for your business?
Here are the top 3:
- Nextdoor: Nextdoor connects neighbors to each other — and to everything nearby: local businesses, service providers, news updates, recommendations, and stuff for sale from the people down the block. This app may be the new kid on the block as far as social media platforms go, but it’s the most promising for local advertisers.
- Facebook Local Ads: local ads help you connect with more people in your neighborhood to increase in-store traffic and sales. You can promote your local business with Facebook by updating your accounts, advertising to the right people, and refining your campaigns.
- TikTok For Business: Don’t make ads. Make TikTok Videos, geo-targeted to get in front of your local customers. TikTok is exploding right now and its new advertising platform walks you through (step by step) how to get in on the fun. See how you can simply use your smartphone to tap into your brand’s creative side and start driving customers to your store.
8. Build A Solid Online Reputation & Get In Front Of Local Wallet-Ready Buyers
For over a century, word-of-mouth has been a marketing cornerstone for successful local businesses. And it used to be simple. When your customers told their friends and neighbors good things about your services, you earned more business.
Today, however, anyone can say anything about your business anywhere on the internet. Your online reputation reads like an amplified version of traditional word-of-mouth. And unfortunately, you may not always be in control of what’s being said.
Regardless of your industry, your customers search for your business online before they visit your store, sign up for your service, or purchase your product.
The question is: Does your online reputation attract new customers or does it send them to your nearest competitor?
Let’s discuss how to get online reviews when you’re first starting and where it makes sense to advertise.
How do you get positive online reviews?
If you’re not nurturing your reputation and generating online reviews, new customers aren’t going to find you, or worse, you could be losing potential customers to your competitors.
Here’s how to boost your online reputation and generate more reviews:
- Under-Promise & Over-Deliver: As with collecting customer testimonials, the single most important thing you can do to get great reviews is to deliver an amazing customer experience. How? The key is to under-promise (set your customer’s expectations), and then, over-deliver by going above and beyond those expectations.
- Ask For Reviews: After you delivered a product or a service, it makes sense to ask your customer for a review. Don’t be pushy and never ask for a “good” review. Telling the customer what to write will kill your credibility. Just send them a friendly email request with a link to the site where you would like them to post a review.
Here’s a review request email template you can use:
I noticed you recently [renewed your service/bought another product/hit a milestone]. So thrilled you’re getting value from [your business]!
If it’s not too much trouble, would you mind giving us a quick review on [review site name + a hyperlink to review submission page]?
Even a sentence or two would be hugely appreciated as it will help other great customers (like you) find us online.
Thanks, and if there’s anything at all that I can do to help you, don’t hesitate to let me know.
How do you respond to a negative review?
When you receive a negative review, don’t sweat it. Take it as an opportunity to learn, improve, and show the world that you care about your customer experience.
With that said, you should use these 10 tips to respond to negative reviews thoughtfully and strategically.
Here’s a preview:
- Make sure the review is real
- Don’t wait to respond
- Take responsibility and apologize
- Show them you’re human & empathize
- Be professional, not emotional
- Stick to the facts
- Show your appreciation
- Go above & beyond
- Take it offline
- Monitor your online reviews
What review management tools should you use?
- GatherUp: Gather customer feedback and reviews into one place to drive sales up for your business.
- AskNicely: The platform for service businesses to empower their frontline teams, make every customer experience awesome, and accelerate growth.
- Demandforce: Seamlessly capture and publish reviews to the sites that matter most to your business.
- GradeUs: A simple and effective way to get reviews for your clients and grow your agency.
- Podium: Get more reviews, collect payments, send text marketing campaigns, and centralize your communications — all from one easy-to-use platform.
What are the best review sites for local businesses?
- Angi (formerly Angie’s List)
- BBB (Better Business Bureau)
- Shopper Approved
9. Use Coupon Advertising To Increase Interest And Get First-Time Buyers In The Door
So if you’re not using this (surprisingly modern) marketing method, you might be missing out.
Which coupon advertising platform is right for your business?
Here are the top 3:
- Valpak: Valpak’s “Blue Envelope” coupon book is the most recognized direct mail service there is, driving response and awareness through advanced targeting for over 50 years. Just choose your ideal neighborhoods (target market) and they do the rest.
- LocalFlavor.com: LocalFlavor.com combines direct mail with e-Commerce to drive traffic to your business and deliver your coupons and deals to customers that not only want them but are actively seeking them out.
- Groupon: Groupon isn’t just a deals platform — it’s an experience marketplace. It’s where people go when they want to explore while they’re on vacation, or see a new part of their town. Your business has something to offer. Groupon’s platform can bring you visitors.
10. Host A Fundraiser To Connect With Your Community And Earn New Customers
Getting involved in your community is a great way to promote your local business and earn new customers.
It could be as simple as sponsoring a local sports team, holding a fundraiser for a local youth club, or supporting some other community project or organization like a school and church.
Here’s a great example:
These types of fundraisers put your business on people’s radar, not only helping your local community but giving you good press.
As you can see here:
All of which leads to more customers for your local business.
Editor’s Note: The article is part of the blog series Grow Your Business, brought to you by the marketing team at UniTel Voice, the virtual phone system priced and designed for startups and small business owners.