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Local Search Tactics for Tough Economic Times

stewart-gregg
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In tough economic times, small business owners tend to be better at targeting their marketing and advertising expenditures to tangible sales results more so than the large brands. Size and scale of their trading area and local market expertise certainly plays an important role. However, small business owners skillfully micromanage budgets and are able to match dollars to opportunities better than their fortune 500 CMO brethren.

What tactics and best practices can we glean to improve our local search campaigns in these challenging times of credit crunching and receding sales opportunities? Before we get there, you should ask:

  • On a high level, how are your expenditures allocated?
  • What percentage supports branding, promotional and direct response?

Allocating Expenditures

Small businesses tend to allocate their promotional dollars more heavily toward direct response and directional marketing, as branding is usually of secondary consideration. If you envision a sales funnel, these folks appear right at the purchase decision. It's a lot easier to grab consumers who are in the "where do I buy" mode, rather than the "what do I buy" mode (which is harder to convert, as it is higher up on the sales funnel).

Sales Funnel

Branding/Direct Response Mix

OK, before you hit the comment button to ask if you should stop spending on branding, the answer is no. I only ask you to consider the priority of your spending based on the ability of that spend to produce a sales conversion.

Marketers should be able to scale back their brand awareness investments with little to no impact to their overall business, allowing marketing efforts to focus more around ensuring you're the one chosen when that question of "where to buy" arises.

To yield these "bottom of the funnel" consumers, it's all about being in the right place at the right time. Local search, and the arsenal of tools associated with local online marketing, can help deliver these prospects and customers.

In looking back through all my Search Engine Watch articles, I realized it might be helpful to organize the topics into a checklist of tactics in order of priority to help your firm weather today's economic environment:

  • Local Listing Management: Google Maps, Yahoo Local, and thousands of other sites utilize local directory listing information to direct searchers to physical brick-and-mortar locations. Because of the nature of how this information is captured and updated, it's important for businesses to proof the listing information (name, address, phone number) to ensure accuracy.
  • Internet Yellow Pages: With highly desirable conversion rates, advertisers want to ensure Internet yellow pages (IYP) are maximized from a sales lead generation standpoint. Unlike other media sources, IYP users don't scour these resources for rich robust content. Instead, they seek location information and telephone numbers because they're at the moment of purchase.
  • Local SEM: A correctly executed SEM program will yield highly desirable sales leads at a very efficient cost. For national or regional advertiser looking to incorporate local SEM into your mix, check out this local search "how to" guide. Local search, and search in general, suffers from one problem: it may be too efficient and provide advertisers with such a desirable ROI that we grow complacent. Make sure you review your landing pages and employ landing page optimization techniques to maximize sales conversion from your SEM leads.
  • Local SEO: Local SEO is a vital marketing strategy for businesses that sell products locally to a specified geographical area. The goal of local SEO is to increase your listing position to the top of the natural or organic search page results. Sounds easy, but it's complicated and requires a steady progression of work to get (and stay) on top. "Getting to Know Local SEO" can get you started.
  • Mobile/Directory Assistance: The free directory assistance area has grown rapidly since I wrote about it in "Voice Search: Mobile Tactic Here. Now. 2DAY." Several new advertising supported offerings have emerged as this segment has developed.

Our advertising and marketing efforts must be cost efficient and convert to desirable sales. In today's atmosphere, it's important to question everything. Make sure you measure and validate to ensure historic media efforts continue to deliver meaningful ROI from the investment allocated.

Taking a "business as usual" approach probably won't deliver the magnitude of sales leads necessary to survive and prosper in this tough economic environment. If you have expenditures that you can't value through measurement of actual business created, then reallocate those funds to media types that can provide you with proven results. Remember, that which can be measured can be optimized.

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