In my last post focused on e-commerce, I talked about how local businesses are feeling the squeeze from giant online sellers. I explained that by offering personalized, in-store, local services, small businesses can make themselves a neighborhood institution in the same way Apple Stores do through informational events and services.
It’s a huge advantage. Online businesses “know” their customers through the data they leave behind. Local businesses actually knowtheir customers.
The challenge that remains is marketing. Online businesses dominate search engine results, know exactly how to find people interested in their products on the Web, and have tactics in place to bring them to an effective landing page.
Offline, things are a bit more complicated. Local newspapers aren’t what they used to be. Local cable advertising lacks impact (and viewers) in the days of YouTube and Netflix. And as for direct marketing… well, spam folders weren’t the first places to store unsolicited pitches. There were trash cans long before email filters.
But there are some good solutions… and ironically, they’re online. Craigslistmight have killed off the classified pages in newspapers but it’s delivered an effective replacement. Amazon’s web traffic reporting platform ranks the site the 19th most popular in the U.S., with tens of millions of people each month browsing for used furniture, apartments and jobs, but also for wedding photographers, cars and computer repairs.
The site is highly competitive. Users expect prices to be low, and in busy areas in particular, ads are quickly pushed down the site. That means local businesses should use Craigslist to promote select items, tell people that they can find more in the store, and keep pushing new product or service listings onto the site on a regular basis to stay visible.
It takes effort but there’s a reason that classified advertising stayed so popular for so long. It works.
Next up: Facebook
The other effective online solution for local businesses is Facebook.
The social media platform might be better known for promoting online businesses, but it can also be highly effective for local offline businesses too. It happens in two ways.
The first is simply to advertise. Because Facebook lets businesses select the geographic location of potential customers, a local store can choose to only show its ads to people within a short drive of the shop. Wedding photographers, for example, have been known to advertise to engaged women in a radius of up to 50 miles. They reach exactly their target market.
That’s simple—and expensive—enough. Another route though is to join local Facebook groups. Local neighborhood committees often set up private members’ groups to keep people informed of events and news that affect everyone. People might talk about parking problems or lost pets, as well as garage sales and local services.
You do have to be careful here. These groups are set up for locals to talk to each other, not for businesses to pitch to customers but the organizers will often set aside one day a week on which businesses are allowed to advertise for free.
Obey the rules and make sure you’re only offering services that will benefit locals. If you’re a Realtor, for example, only promote properties in the neighborhood that serves that group. And be a good citizen of the group. Join in the discussions and give professional advice when you can.
The Internet has been difficult for local commerce. It’s pulled business away from bricks and mortar stores to sites like Amazon. But it can also be a route for local businesses to find local customers.
About Joel Comm
As an Internet pioneer, Joel has been creating profitable websites, software, products and helping entrepreneurs succeed since 1995. He has been at the frontlines of live video online since 2008 and has a deep expertise in using tools such as Facebook Live, Periscope, Instagram or Snapchat to broadcast a clearly defined message to a receptive audience or leveraging the power of webinar and meeting technologies.
Joel is a New York Times best-selling author of 15 books, including “The AdSense Code,” “Click Here to Order: Stories from the World’s Most Successful Entrepreneurs,” “KaChing: How to Run an Online Business that Pays and Pays and Twitter Power 3.0.” He is Co-Host of The Bad Crypto Podcast one of the top crypto-related shows in the world and has spoken before thousands of people around the world and seeks to inspire, equip and entertain.
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