According to BIA/Kelsey, 90% of consumers use search engines when researching products or services in their local area. Because of this shift in local search commerce, Google began more aggressively promoting local search results in October 2010. In turn advertisers have increased their local marketing investment. Borrell Associates forecasts local advertising will grow to reach $19.9 billion in 2012.
So how does your marketing team ensure that your brand is being prominently placed in search results and appropriately considered by consumers near your brand’s stores, franchises and other locations?
The first step is admitting that online visibility has become the most important ingredient in the local marketing mix. Using scalable, automated technology can help you overcome slower national competitors and smaller local competitors who lack marketing support. But with or without automation tools, you and your teams should consider the following initiatives as part of any local marketing effort.
1. Claim and optimize listings on the most widely used sites.
According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online. Google recently integrated Google+ and Google Places, making for a unified location where brands can ensure local visibility free of charge. Yahoo! Local and Bing Local offer similar complimentary listings, and claiming them can go a long way toward improving a brand’s national search engine footprint and helping its local businesses reach potential customers in their markets.
Always optimize these listings based on location, business names and categories, custom fields, and business descriptions, as well as by publishing and optimizing photos and videos of each location to increase your chance of creating true local engagement with customers.
2. Manage ratings and reviews and incentivize happy customers to share
Reviews have become vital to the success of national brands and physical locations, but exerting some control over this content and ensuring a consistent brand voice for each location can be tricky. It’s important that your teams focus on the fact that consumers and search engines love the authenticity of reviews, which can also be used to provide content for other marketing efforts, such as email newsletters. Take the time to put a comprehensive program in place to incentivize happy customers to share their positive experiences. It’s also important to ensure that your teams support individual physical locations, working with local staff to instill an effective review gathering and management program.
3. Leverage a comprehensive data distribution solution
Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter, Dex, Yellow Pages, and hundreds of other sites encourage businesses to submit their location information, not to mention the opportunities available in GPS and mobile devices. Your team can do this at scale and improve the accuracy of your information by implementing a data distribution system to ensure customers can find correct information about nearby physical locations, make contact and visit the correct address.
4. Performance measurement and reporting
It’s not always easy to secure the budget and resources necessary to effectively boost visibility for physical locations; so performance measurement and reporting should be part of every campaign. The right approach can provide insights to help continually improve ROI, ensure efforts keep pace with goals and help justify marketing investments over time.
Call tracking, interactive voice response, corporate reporting dashboards, automated monthly reports by location, marketing analytics integration, click tracking, video views, email clickthroughs/open rates and Facebook leads are just some of the ways your team can measure local engagement and ROI.
5. Localize content with automation
Managing content across a national brand and numerous locations can weigh on a marketing team and limit overall effectiveness. In fact, according to the CMO Council, 86% of national marketers plan to localize their strategy, but only 30% of marketers use local automation platforms (October 2011). A local marketing content management system (CMS) can provide regulated access to corporate, regional or local employees and partners to help you to spread the workload without sacrificing control.
Above all else, getting started matters most. Altogether ignoring the need to boost local visibility for your physical locations can spell doom for your brand even if it’s nationally recognized and beloved.
National brands have an opportunity to leverage locations to dominate local visibility and reach more customers. These five components should be part of any localized marketing strategy. Automation technology can help your team save time, scale the effort and support hundreds or thousands of physical locations.
Click here for a local marketing checklist.