Many local businesses open with the idea that they have all of the promotion tools they need in- house. In their view, existing business contacts plus customer referrals and some light networking will keep the doors open and the lights on for a long time to come.
In short, many businesses do little to promote beyond hanging a sign outside their building and hoping for the best.
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But while this can work, it’s a deeply flawed strategy. First, it greatly limits the growth of your business and means you’ll always be behind your competitors that do more. More importantly, it makes your supply of leads vulnerable to disruption, losing just one or two key customers can completely disrupt your stream of new contacts.
But how can a local business generate leads? With so much networking taking place on the Web, which is a global medium, finding leads in your backyard can be a challenge.
However, there are still a lot of good ways to find leads locally, all one has to do is be willing to look and be creative.
1. Focus on Local SEO
First off, Google has a lot of great ways to target your local audience. Not only can you buy Adsense ads based on geography but, more importantly, you can target your site so that it shows up in queries potential customers might use.
Google Places is a good service to start with as it gets your site in Google Maps and customize your business profile for the rest of Google search. However, it’s also important to target relevant keywords for your area.
For example, if you’re a Philadelphia locksmith, you may want to add “Philadelphia” to your targeted keywords as you want to show up for searches related to your area but not other cities. You may even want to drill down even further to your specific neighborhood depending on how big or small your potential reach is.
2. Advertise Locally
Advertising may seem to be a waste for a business that is relationship-driven; however, those relationships have to get started somehow.
Depending on your business, look into outdoor, newspaper or even phone book advertisements. Most “dead tree” advertising deals include free online ad packages, meaning you’ll be reaching a local audience both online and off.
This, in turn, can have potential customers contacting you and letting you begin a relationship on familiar footing.
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Of all of the businesses in your area, only a handful can remotely be considered your competition. Businesses that mesh well with you that aren’t competing with you are a great opportunity to swap leads and even cross-promote.
Swapping referrals with other businesses is a great way to keep a steady stream of new leads coming in. Best of all, these leads are pre-recommended to you, meaning that they are both well-targeted and already have a positive image of you and your work.
This can be a head start in turning that introduction into a closed sale.
4. Offer a Referral Program
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with using referrals from your customers. The mistake is in relying upon them entirely. Your customers are your best marketers so it pays well to reward them for driving new customers to your door.
Whether it’s a cash reward, a discount or a free product, giving customers even a token reward for referring others to you can help motivate them to speak up and spread the word about you.
To make this effort easier, you should offer either special cards, coupons or fliers that they can give out. Specifically, these handouts should provide an incentive for both the current customer and the new one so that your new customers use them reliably. You can also use referral codes for those who contact you online.
5. Attend Local Events
Think for a moment about where people in your area gather such as town hall meetings, festivals, fairs, expos, sporting events, etc. Go to those and be visible. If you can speak or talk to a crowd, do so. If you can’t, mingle and make sure that you have business cards and your company name on your shirt or cap.
The goal isn’t so much to generate leads directly, though that may happen, but to get your name out in the community and let others know about your business. This will help word spread and will drive others to your door.
Plus, being involved in the community makes you a good member of it. Generally, people prefer to do business with their neighbors than with faceless corporations and will even pay a premium to do so. This is a way to be the former rather than the latter.
6. Track Everything You Do
Set up a customer relationship management (CRM) system to track and organize every person you meet and every piece of information you get about them. Make sure all of your employees do the same without exception.
While this won’t get you any additional leads, you may be surprised just how many people you meet or how much information you get that you’re never able to act on. Those leads are lost leads and a CRM can help you keep them and turn them into active customers.
It’s not important what system or application you use, it’s only important that you use it and do so consistently.
In the end, there’s no magical formula to generating leads locally. It’s all about smart promotion and building relationships.
However, it’s important to note that those relationships go beyond the ones you have with your customers and reach out to other business and your community in general.
A local business that isn’t deeply rooted in the local community is going to struggle to survive as it doesn’t have the support structure it needs to grow and expand.
Once you understand that, generating leads locally is straightforward and is just a matter of being the best neighbor you can and letting your community do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.
This guest post is written by Lior Levin, a marketing strategist for a company that provides a to-do list app, and who also works for China Inspection Services, a company that provides a variety of shipment inspection services.
About the Author
Article By Lior Levin
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