Local Services Marketing Overview
Local services businesses face a uniquely modern challenge of maintaining both a digital presence in a rapidly evolving environment as well as a physical presence in their community. In many cases, your online presence serves as your digital storefront, effectively replacing (and in many cases augmenting) the role of a physical storefront. With the digital space quickly evolving, local services businesses that are able to carefully choose the most effective marketing channels while ignoring the remaining are often more successful than those who blindly follow the latest marketing trends.
Successful local marketing is effectively all about offering solutions and conveying reputability. Both of these translate directly to the digital space. Digital advertising and search optimization are used to help ensure that potential customers find your business when searching for your services while maintaining a positive online reputation helps increase consumer confidence in the services offered.
While each new customer is important for the growth of every local services business, securing repeat business, maintaining a low customer attrition rate, and establishing an effective referral program are all just as important for your business’s long-term health. After all, it almost always costs much less to maintain customer relationships than secure new ones.
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Continue reading to learn how local services companies can use traditional marketing methods integrated with modern digital approaches, such as digital advertising to connect with your target audience, social media to convey your business’ reputability, and modern communications methods to nurture lasting relationships.
Many customers seek local services because of a specific and potentially urgent need. Everything about your business and marketing efforts needs to be clear, simple, and convenient for your audience or they will simply choose a competitor that makes receiving their services simpler and easier. Your business and marketing strategy should be founded on best serving your customers in every way possible. To do this, it’s important to not only provide convenient services, but also other forms of convenience for your customers. Convenience and simplicity should be apparent in your services, business model, simple pricing structure and various payment options, website content, contact options and hours, and more. All of these convenient options should also provide accessibility for customers with disabilities.
Your business’s marketing efforts portray what customers can expect when using your services. If your marketing efforts are clear, simple, and direct, then your prospects will assume your services are also clear, simple, and direct, which will encourage them to use you over a competitor because you make it easier for them.
The first foundational marketing initiative you must complete is market research. By determining your target audience and positioning within the competitive landscape, you can better determine the ways you can truly benefit your customers. Whether you are launching a new business or starting a new marketing initiative, creating or revisiting your business’s market research can help you better serve your customers.
Who is your target audience? And what do they need? To answer these questions, look beyond basic titles and demographics to better understand what makes them tick. Look beyond the scope of your services to determine other ways you can help them with your services, customer service, and more. This is vital information you need to know before beginning to develop your positioning.
If you’re unsure where to begin, start asking your current and previous customers questions about why they sought out your services, why they chose your business, and what needs your services fulfilled. They may offer you insights into aspects of your services that mean a lot to your customers and maybe even aspects that can be improved.
If you do not have a lot of customers to ask or much feedback to review, start by asking different members of your team what they notice the most about how your services truly benefit your customers beyond the original scope of the services themselves. If you can, conduct a survey sent to your target audience.
Throughout this process, it’s imperative that you and your team identify customer objections and roadblocks. When you know what your customers struggle with, you can accommodate them to the best of your ability through your services and customer service, which includes your messaging. This involves resolving those challenges for your customers. The key is to focus on how your business solves your customers’ challenges, not on the services you provide. This is the foundation of your positioning and messaging.
When positioning your services, it’s important to promote how your services are the most convenient option for your prospective customers. Part of positioning your services as convenient is to provide simple options, pricing, and messaging. To be convenient is to simplify everything and to be able to describe your services, why your customers need your services, and how your services work concisely so anyone can understand them. This is where your messaging comes in (see Messaging under Branding section).
If you position yourself as the best and most convenient local business that offers your services, then your messaging needs to showcase that. This impacts your website, social media pages, flyers, brochures, billing statements, business cards, mailers, and all other pieces (marketing or not) that have words on them. By simplifying your prospects’ choices with easy-to-understand messages, you are more likely to reach and convert your prospects into customers. This simplicity and convenience also affect other aspects of your business and marketing efforts.
Before you can narrow down your messaging, you need to establish your positioning. This means you must first know exactly what you offer and then research what your competitors offer. These competitors will primarily be local businesses or national businesses that offer similar services as yours. When you have a few listed, review their positioning by reviewing their website, business listings, social media pages, and possibly visiting their location or speaking to people you know who have used their services before.
The purpose of this exercise is to establish where the competitors are positioning themselves in the local market. From there, perform a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis about at least three competitors. Take your opportunities and your competitors’ weaknesses to establish your positioning in the local market. What can you offer that your competitors can’t? What can you improve to compete with your competitors? Learn from these analyses to create a positioning statement and brand pillars, both of which will help you know what to focus on in your messaging and marketing efforts.
Utilizing your positioning, you can create your branding foundation, which includes messaging and a visual branding strategy. Developing brand assets, such as your logo, helps tie your business’s offerings together, but they offer limited meaning without developing messaging guidelines, so don’t skip any of these foundational steps.
Your messaging should focus on one thing: how your business solves your customers’ problems through your solutions (services). Not only does this make your messaging simple, but it focuses your messages on what your customers need to hear about your business. This means everything they read about your business will focus on how you can solve their problems. This is so important because customers don’t care about your business; they care about how you can help them and you help them by solving one of their problems through your services.
Once you know your positioning in the local market, it’s time to establish your messaging guidelines. First, narrow your audience into segments, as narrow as possible. Then, determine what those audience segments need. Some needs may overlap based on your business, but there will likely be differences.
Based on these needs, similar and different, determine the best practices for promoting your positioning to each audience segment and how you should communicate with your audience overall. This will depend on your audience, your positioning, and how your business wants to sound. If you need ideas, look up “tone of voice adjectives.” From there, use those adjectives to develop your content tone and style. Provide your team with the do’s and don’ts for your messaging guidelines accordingly. These guidelines will help all content sound on-brand, no matter which team member is creating them.
Remember: Avoid using industry jargon in your messaging. Your audience likely doesn’t understand or want to learn your industry’s jargon, so use simple, easy-to-understand language for all content.
Conveying brand personality is also important to position your business appropriately in your local area. Competition is often ruthless when it comes to local services businesses, or your offerings are simple. To set your brand apart from your competitors, conveying your brand personality and values in your messaging is key. These pieces will help your prospects and customers remember you.
VISUAL BRANDING STRATEGY
After developing your messaging guidelines, it’s important to create visual branding that will resonate with your messaging. Together, your messaging and visual branding create your brand identity, helping your audience identify you in the competitive market over time––as long as it’s consistent. Together, they tell the story of your business, but good visual branding doesn’t need many if any, words.
Visual branding evokes emotions. Often, when a prospect views your branding and connects with it, they want more; or, they immediately can tell that your brand is not for them based on your branding. This is why having a visual branding strategy is so important. Not only must it match your messaging and audience’s needs, but it also needs to represent your brand fluidly, across all projects and platforms, online and offline.
Developing a visual branding strategy is very similar to developing messaging guidelines. You need to consider your industry, unique services, and brand personality with the emotions you want to evoke. For most B2B Services businesses, you will want to focus on conveying a reputable, reliable, and trustworthy image through your branding.
This strategy focuses on determining the logo, color palette, fonts, and types of images used for online and print pieces across all departments, but don’t stop there. If you plan on plastering your logo on the side of a truck, posting it on a large light-up sign in front of your building, or decorating your office accordingly, it’s best to include where your logo and other visual branding assets will be published, so you or your graphic designer knows what color schemes and sizes to use.
For some B2B businesses, you will want your branding to promote experience and expertise, which may include elegant and simple lines and typography, while others will want to convey convenience, which may include more playful shapes, colors, and images.
As you develop your visual branding strategy, determine whether those pieces feel like your brand. Do they convey the message you want them to, even without words? Also, remember to specify what pieces are meant for online or print publication, as well as the rules of use for both.
Your business’s visual branding helps your customers and prospects remember you, which is why it’s important that your visual branding is unique, simple, direct, and that it relates either to your services, market, or business values. This singular focus approach will indirectly convey the ease of working with your team to potential customers. This goes beyond the logo. Brand images should communicate the experience to the consumer, which helps set expectations for the type of fluid experience they can expect when working with you.
Your business’s visual branding includes a logo, color palette, fonts, and brand imagery. All of these pieces say something specific about your brand, represent your brand, and showcase the visual tone of your brand. While they are not more important than providing quality services, your customers will eventually see your logo as your brand, so it needs to accurately represent your business.
For the brand imagery, think about what kind of aesthetic or visual style you want your brand to portray. What filter showcases your brand in the best light? For example, the images a funeral home uses will be very different from the images a hair salon will use. A daycare may use cartoon-like images while a plumbing company probably wouldn’t.
When developing your visual branding, it’s important to set yourself apart from your competitors and have branding that uniquely fits your business in your industry in your local area. You want all visual pieces to be cohesive so they can properly tell your business’s story. This will help prospects and customers easily recognize you over a competitor, which is very important for repeat business.
VISUAL BRANDING DEVELOPMENT
Once you know your visual branding strategy, it’s time to develop your assets. Common assets include a logo, a color palette, fonts, and types of images, but you may require additional assets based on your unique business needs. Remember to consider how each piece will look online and in print. If you plan on plastering your logo on the side of a truck, posting it on a large light-up sign in front of your building, or decorating your office accordingly, it’s best to include where your logo and other visual branding assets will be published, so you or your graphic designer knows what color schemes, formats, and sizes to use.
One of the most important things you can do in your visual branding development is to show your customers what you do through images. Whether you share photos and videos of your team on the job, before and afters of a job (if the customers allow it), or stock photos related to your job, it’s important to be real and professional. It’s best for many local services businesses to utilize all three types of images for variety.
Showcasing your brand and services through your visual branding will help prospects not only identify your brand but also what you do. This way, they get a sense of what you do before they read about your business.
Collect your messaging guidelines and visual branding assets in one place that is accessible to your entire team. All team members across all departments should use these guidelines and assets so that all messages to your customers and prospects are cohesive.
Once you have your messaging guidelines set, determine what pieces of collateral need to be updated, including website pages, brochures, business listings, social media page details, and more. Then create a plan to update a page or a piece at least monthly, if not weekly, until all pieces are updated.
Local businesses can no longer rely solely on word-of-mouth marketing – at least not for long. Modern local services businesses need an online foundation before beginning marketing initiatives. This involves having a website that is easy to navigate, a digital presence so your prospective clients can easily find you, business listings to expand your digital presence, and a plan in place to manage your online reputation. All of these pieces help inform your clients as well as help your clients refer others to your business, directly and indirectly.
Your website is often the first piece of your business prospects see. It is a hub of your business, connecting your prospects to your services as most prospects will search for and find your business online in this modern age. Because of that, it’s imperative that your website showcases your brand image, is easy to use, and is simple in structure for easy navigation. It should include your service details in a direct and focused manner to convey how easy it is to work with your business and how effective your team is at solving the problem or need they have that made them seek out your business to begin with.
Providing customers with convenient options on the go is vital to a growing business. Not only do your prospects want to learn about your business quickly and easily on your website, but they also want to perform a variety of actions quickly and easily on your website. The signup, purchase, or scheduling process should be extremely easy, and basic contact information should be captured early in the process in case the process is not completed. The opportunity to pay a bill online or buy a gift card online may also benefit your business, depending on your services. They should also be able to sign up and receive notifications concerning their scheduled services and reminders for when they may need to schedule again.
Before you can update or create your website structure, you need to develop a customer journey. What do your customers experience on your website? What should they experience to bring them closer to contacting you? Use these details to develop a customer journey with a focus on their experience on your website. Focus on what they need to learn about your business and when in the customer journey to determine what pages or other assets (e.g. social media, lead magnet, etc.) to place that information on. Add call-to-action buttons on appropriate pages so they can contact you, schedule an appointment, or another preferred action. If you already have a website, go through it and create a list of content and buttons that need to be updated. Make it easy for prospects and return customers.
Each website is different, but you will likely need a contact page, a login or “pay your bill” option in the main menu, and a “schedule an appointment” page. Be sure to integrate your retail sales systems, email marketing systems, and other marketing details already in place. Don’t forget to test the website for the user experience after any changes to ensure it acts as you want it to for your customers.
Having a digital presence is just as important as having a physical presence in your community; however, having a digital presence is more than creating a profile or listing on every possible site available to your business and your industry. Instead, it’s important to use only the most relevant and essential social media and directory sites to showcase your business.
These listings must be established and maintained over time, which will help create and maintain a positive reputation online, which is extremely important for the well-being of your business. Be careful not to spread too wide on this, since the role of the digital presence is primarily to convey a positive reputation, core messaging, and that the business is active. Having too many social media pages and business listings makes it hard to manage over time, which can negatively impact your reputation if prospects presume an inactive or outdated page means an inactive business.
There are so many websites and printed mailers that contain business listings for local services businesses. The best business listings for your business will depend on your industry and location, but you will likely need a Google My Business listing and possibly social media pages with your business information (see Social Media in Lead Nurturing). Be sure to add as many details as you can to each business listing using your messaging guidelines. Don’t forget to include quality images that portray your business and align with your visual branding (see Visual Branding in Foundation).
The more specific, customer-focused details you add, the more likely a prospect will reach out to you over a competitor that does not provide so many helpful details. This also helps you receive more qualified prospects from a variety of avenues because they not only can find you, but they can understand your business through your thorough business listings.
Be sure to set your service area for each business listing. This option is available on Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and others.
ONLINE REPUTATION STRATEGY
Customer stories, through online reviews, testimonials, and case studies can help establish trust and an emotional connection with your prospective customers. This customer-generated content can change the opinions of prospective customers because customers trust other customers the most. This is why local services businesses need to not only request testimonials and reviews but they also need to manage their online reputation.
While anyone can review your business on most business listings or social media pages, most people only do so if they were really wowed by your services or were really upset with your services. Negative reviews happen to everyone, which is why it’s so important to develop a strategy to monitor and improve your online reputation. This strategy will involve two things:
- A way to ask your customers to review your business
- A plan on how to respond to negative and positive reviews appropriately
When asking your customers to review your business, you can do so in person, in an email sent after the sale, or in other ways. There are also platforms that automate this process for you, sending emails and texts on your behalf.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT
ORM generally starts with your Business Listings. You will send customers to your Business Listings (Google My Business, Yelp, and industry-specific listings) so they can leave your business a review (see more details in Digital Presence). Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take the conversation off of that platform by encouraging them to email you (or you can email them first if you have their email address). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews on Business Listings, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. While this may happen less often for your B2B business than for a B2C business, it’s important to remember that your online reputation typically reflects your offline reputation, which happens through word-of-mouth marketing.
Monitoring your online reputation gives you a sense of your overall reputation, online and offline, which can help you know how your services are benefitting your customers and opportunities for improvement.
There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create alerts for your business name and service names, if applicable, to monitor your brand mentions on any platform.
ORM generally starts with your Business Listings. You will send customers to your Business Listings (Google My Business, Yelp, Facebook, and more) so they can leave you a review. Prospects will read these reviews, so you need to review them, too. When you do, respond to each one, whether it’s positive or negative. If it’s negative, try to take it off of that platform by encouraging them to email you (or you can email them first if you have their email). This way, even negative reviews can promote how customer-focused your business is by showing prospects how you resolve issues.
In addition to monitoring and responding to reviews on Business Listings, ORM involves managing your entire online reputation, which includes random posts and comments across the internet. There are many tools that can help you monitor your online reputation. One free tool that many small businesses use is Google Alerts; create an alert for your business name and service names, if applicable, to monitor your brand mentions on any platform.
When reviewing your brand’s online reputation, it’s beneficial to view your brand sentiment. This narrows down to positive, negative, or neutral. The sentiment is the overall view of your brand from all online mentions. The goal is to have a positive sentiment, which doesn’t mean all reviews, posts, and comments are positive, but instead that most are. This positive view or sentiment shows that your customers and community have a positive view of your business, which is critical to success.
If your sentiment is negative, then you need to resolve that with ORM, so start monitoring and responding to negative reviews, posts, and comments. If your sentiment is neutral, then your audience doesn’t really have an opinion on your business, which means not enough people know about it yet.
Your sentiment is heavily influenced by your social media program, so start there to improve it by sharing quality content that your audience cares about. To begin your sentiment analysis for free, use Social Buzz (you need to pay to enable monitoring, but you can do searches for free) or Social Mention.
Connecting with your audience online and in-person is critical to your business success. For in-person meetings, professional and informal, a collateral package can help you inform prospects on the fly. To reach your prospects online, in addition to your digital presence initiative, you can leverage your happy clients’ experiences through a referral program, which helps you focus on your clients’ successes and stories above your business.
Most local services businesses can benefit from having a collateral package, including a brochure, business cards, and a one-page flyer. These can be handed out to prospects when they inquire about your business, during an event, or after the initial service has already been completed. These pieces help inform your prospects and customers on what you do and how to contact you while also leading them to your website or location for more information. With these items printed and always handy, you’ll never miss an opportunity to promote your business in an informative and quick way in person again.
Go one step beyond Online Reputation Management and further capitalize on the benefits of word of mouth marketing by developing a referral program. While online reputation offers your prospects social proof, your referral program will bring that social proof to life in more immediately beneficial ways. This can also be called a loyalty or rewards program, but whatever you call it, this program will benefit your customers and encourage them to inform their friends and family about your business and services.
A referral program largely offers discounts, free services, or another benefit in return for a number of customer referrals. Similarly, a loyalty program largely offers discounts, free services, or another benefit in return for a number of purchases. For example, if you have high price services, then encourage a one-for-one referral program where if one of your customers refers one friend and they sign up for your services, give them both a discount on their next service. If you have lower-priced services, you could follow the same format but offer a discount after five referrals result in new customer acquisition.
If your referral program is not bringing in new leads, go straight to the source and ask your customers why they haven’t taken advantage of the offer. You might find out that the benefit of the program is too difficult or maybe they just didn’t know about the program. Whatever you find out from your customers, take the feedback back to the team and modify the program to better serve your customers.
Many consumers who are ready to purchase your services seek out your services when they need them after seeing ads about your business. Advertising local services businesses combine brand awareness initiatives and brand promotion. Digital advertising leverages geo-specific targeting, which not only focuses on your target area but also helps you gather data on who your ideal customer is. Part of the strategy will be analyzing who is searching for your service and who might be interested in it as well.
For certain local services, it might make sense to create campaigns structured around a sales funnel. In this case, you would soft-sell free stuff in exchange for their contact information, add them to an email list, and nurture that email list and relationship by giving useful information, which would eventually lead to a final conversion or sale. However, for local services businesses whose customers are looking for an instant solution and reach out to you by calling your office or filling out a contact form, creating campaigns around a sales funnel may not work.
Over time, you will fine-tune targeting on all paid advertising platforms, and research your local competition to understand why they’re successful or what they might be lacking that you could take advantage of. You will learn ways how to lower ad spend and utilize the best keywords by looking at the search term query report to shape the correct traffic to the website, split testing ad copies to improve ad performance, and researching for long-tailed keywords to compete with competitors’ ad spend. All of this is an effort to reduce cost, capture your competitors’ customers, increase ROI by zooming in on high-converting customers, and to further expand your business.
For all types of advertising listed in this guide, it’s vital to the performance of your advertising program to continually optimize. For most advertising types – including geographic targeting, interest targeting, and device targeting – you will optimize by making bid adjustments. Make bid adjustments in increments of 5% when enough data has been collected. Justify bid adjustments only when there is conversion data available and there are either 100 clicks or 1-1.5k impressions. While this is not a strict rule, it is a good practice to follow. It’s best to significantly lower bids for lower-performing devices, interests, and demographics rather than completely excluding them.
For other situations, it’s best to follow the 80/20 rule. Allocate 80% of your budget on high-conversion groups and 20% on lower-performing or experimental groups. Adjust your bid and segments accordingly.
There are many advertising channels for you to consider, but it’s important to narrow in on the platforms that perform the best for your local services business. Overall, social media platforms are going to be great for brand awareness. Google and Bing ads are going to be your best option for attracting customers who are actively looking to buy your services.
GOOGLE & BING ADS
Utilizing Google and Bing ads can help put your business in front of customers who are shopping with intent.
For Google Ads, you have the option to choose to use the Search Network or the Display Network.
Search Network ads can help you target high-intent keywords. They look like text ads on the search results page to help people go further in the buying cycle.
One opportunity for local services businesses that is unique to the Search Network is to encourage your audience to reach out and contact your business directly through call-only ads, as well as call and message extensions.
Display Network ads typically show ads to people who are still in the “research” phase of the buying cycle. They can show ads on other websites with a topic related to your business, or to people who show an interest in your product or service. They can also show ads to people who have already visited your website in order to bring them back while they are researching. Using the Display Network, you also have the option to create new audiences to show ads to people who have similar traits.
Using Google and Bing ads, you’ll be able to easily remarket to any visitor who interacts with your business without asking for their contact information because you’ll be able to place your ad on other relevant websites that they visit.
If your business targets big decision-makers of companies, then your business may want to utilize LinkedIn because you can advertise specifically based on job titles, company size, industry, skills, and more.
It’s important to note that since your audience is likely not actively searching for your services – like they would be on Google or Bing – they will be early in the buying cycle, and thus conversion rates are lower on LinkedIn than they are on other platforms.
However, LinkedIn has many unique benefits compared to other social media platforms. Not only can you target your audience by company, job title, industry, and more, but you can also layer multiple targeting options to reach the ideal customer.
There are multiple ad types on LinkedIn:
- Sponsored content ads are similar to “boosted” posts. They are made to feel like posts from the company’s own page, which are a good option for strengthening the company’s brand awareness.
- Text ads are similar to the ads shown on Google or Bing and are featured in the sidebar. These ads are smaller and less prevalent than the other ad types but may provide a cheaper source of clicks.
- Sponsored InMail ads are unique to LinkedIn. These allow marketers to send personalized messages directly to a person’s LinkedIn inbox. This ad type is not ideally used as the first touchpoint but is great for re-engaging prospects who’ve already interacted with the business.
When it comes to choosing which types of LinkedIn ads to use, consider your goals. Sponsored content ads and text ads are great for the initial outreach to decision-makers of companies in the industry you want to target but don’t expect many direct purchases from these ads. Sponsored InMail ads work best as part of a remarketing strategy.
LinkedIn advertising does come with a few minimums that all advertisers must spend:
- $10 daily budget per campaign
- $10 total budget per campaign (this is optional for Sponsored Content)
- $2 bid for CPC or CPM on Text Ad campaigns
LinkedIn advertising also has a minimum bid for Sponsored Content campaigns, but the exact amount for this ad will depend on the audience that you’re targeting.
Facebook is valuable for B2B advertising. Facebook recently implemented income-level segmentation and this platform also allows you to target your audience by job titles.
Unlike on LinkedIn, on Facebook, you can’t target people in specific company types or industries. However, it can be very valuable as part of a remarketing strategy and as a brand awareness tool. It is another good way to re-engage prospects who’ve already interacted with your business, and you can create lookalike audiences to target people with similar attributes to those prospects.
Twitter can be good for B2B, but it really depends on what type of business you have. This platform should be considered after you’ve explored other channels for B2B marketing.
Advertising on Twitter is primarily used for brand awareness and consumer engagement efforts.
When it comes to targeting your ideal audience through advertising, you will want to use a mixture of demographic, keyword, geographic, interest, and device targeting.
If you don’t know the demographics of your audience, then you must first collect data. After you collect enough data, you can see which audiences (by demographic) bring in the most traffic and are fulfilling the current marketing objective. It’s best to have a diverse reach for your advertising while also having the highest spend (bid) on the audiences that are fulfilling your objective. Do this by lowering the bid significantly for the audience that is bringing in only about 20% of the results.
Start with keywords with at least mediocre search volume and keyword difficulty, and have a low cost per click (CPC). If your business typically has a high CPC, like real estate, you may need to start with long-tail keywords to get results with a low monthly budget. Then, group all relevant keywords together in the same categorial ad group to facilitate a higher ad relevance score. Each ad group should have 5-10 keywords for small-budget accounts. In some rare cases, it might make sense to have 10-15 keywords in an ad group.
When using keyword targeting, it’s vital to optimize the keywords used on an ongoing basis to get the most cost-effective ROI. Start by updating the negative keyword list by viewing the search term report, search for keywords that are bringing in bad traffic (these are peripheral, low-intent, and irrelevant keywords), and utilize the keyword planner to add more high-intent positive keywords (these are typically best added as an exact word or phrase match).
KEYWORD TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
For keyword targeting, you want to maintain a quality score between 7 and 10, ideally. However, in some rare cases, this is not possible due to some industries being blacklisted under Google’s hidden, strict guidelines.
A quality score of 1-3 is only okay if it’s not for a high-intent keyword or one that is bringing in most of the good traffic to the business. You can increase your ad rank for the most important keywords by increasing the quality score and max bid. You can increase the quality score by trying to increase the expected clickthrough rate (CTR), ad relevance, and landing page experience.
Pro tip: Google secretly keeps a blacklist of certain industries where the highest quality score you can get is between 4 and 6. Sometimes you can get lucky to increase this number – say, for example, from a 4 to a 6 quality score – by talking directly with a Google representative to ensure that you’re running a legit business. An example would be the word “Botox.”
Search Impression Share: Throughout this process, you will want to keep in mind search impression share (IS) at the keyword and at the campaign level (budget search IS). Use data of “search IS” with data of “lost search IS.” For example, low-search IS, high-lost search IS, and low-search IS (at the campaign level) are clear indications that your bid for the keyword needs to be higher to stay competitive. If this is a high-intent keyword with a high conversion rate, then you need to allocate your budget appropriately to increase the search IS for this keyword.
Adjustments should be made on a case-by-case basis, but overall, you will want to pause lower-performing keywords and increase spend on high-performing keywords. Using this tactic, CPC will go up, but in the end, because you know that a high-intent keyword has a high conversion rate, the cost will be offset by the potential increase in profits.
Bad Actors: One last thing to consider are bad actors, which are people who purposely click on your ads to drive up the cost. This is typically coming from competitors, which happens most often for highly competitive local businesses. If this does occur, you need to speak with a Google representative to get these bad actors filtered out of your ad spend.
Try to avoid visitors “interested” in the location to prevent any traffic outside the country or unnecessary traffic. If the business covers all 50 states, then input all 50 states individually. If the business is local and has a physical location, then set a small radius around the physical store (about a 1- to 10-mile radius) and try to include locations individually at a granular level, such as cities, zip codes, or county, etc.
Be sure to choose one type, such as zip codes only. Exclude locations in rare scenarios where the general population of a geographic location is negative towards the business or laws do not favor the business.
Start with the observational option to see the potential for an in-market audience. Don’t be afraid to split test targeting vs. observation.
INTEREST TARGETING STRATEGIES & CONSIDERATIONS
Hour-Day Strategy: Adjust bids by day first, then by the hour. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur, and lower bids otherwise.
Users among various devices behave very differently. Increase bids where there is a higher probability of conversion to occur and lower bids otherwise.
Advanced Bid Adjustment Strategy: If the business receives calls regularly, then you may want to make bid adjustments for call extensions. Observe the data collected first before making any bid adjustments.
Once you know what advertising channels you’re using, who you’re targeting, and how, it’s important to optimize your ads and strategy. You will optimize your first campaigns and continue optimizing campaigns as you continue your advertising program.
Understand the psychology of the customer and what services you can offer them. Mention the pain points or problems they would be searching for. Offer a solution that your service provides and the unique selling proposition for why they should choose you over your competitors. Act like you’re their best friend in the headline.
Benefits should be stated first, then your features or free offer second. This will help build their trust and persuade them to click your ad on impulse. Be sure to use calls to action that are very specific to your business, such as “Reach your financial goals now” or “Find your dream home.”
SOCIAL MEDIA AD CONTENT
Since your customers are not making purchases directly on social platforms, ad copies must vary. Use varying content to spread brand awareness and collect data. As you do so, you need to split-test various ad copies and pay very close attention to your demographic metrics to get a better sense of who your high-converting audience segment is.
With a larger budget, split test 3-4 ad copies. With a smaller budget, split test 2-3 ad copies to collect enough data within 30 days or so. Headers are expected to have the most impact but split test everything from ad text, phrasing (e.g. fun, catchy, negative first, cute, or emotional), benefits, offers, features, unique proposition, etc. It really depends on who your audience is, and that’s why you need to split test to understand who your high converting customer is, and what they are likely to respond to.
Pause your lowest-performing ad copy (do not edit it!), and replace it with a fresh one that is modeled after the best-performing ad. I want to emphasize not editing the ad copy if it’s low-performing because you do not want to convolute the data when you, or especially when someone else, tries to analyze it.
Converting prospects who click on your ads will typically happen on your website, which is why optimizing your website is just as important as your paid advertising strategy. (50% of all searches are done on mobile, so your website needs to be mobile-responsive in order to optimize for more conversions.) If your business takes calls, then the landing page should have a big phone number at the top that is visible. Your website as a whole should be easy to navigate, even on your landing pages. Your website should mention testimonials, accolades, or any other kind of social proof that supports the legitimacy of the business. Each page of your website should state the unique selling proposition of your business. Make your contact information easy to find. Include social buttons to help build your organic ranking.
Remarketing (i.e. targeting prospects based on their previous actions on your website) is one of the most powerful tools that you can leverage in online advertising and it’s a feature built into all advertising platforms. Building custom audiences and lookalike audiences is a must when extending your reach, and optimizing the conversion rate and cost. You need to have conversion tracking installed so you can analyze the data on behavior and website performance. Also consider seasons and holidays that might offer great opportunities for promotions, discounts, limited-time offers, etc. However, holiday ad placement can be competitive, so it might benefit your marketing efforts to begin holiday or seasonal advertising before peak times.
Keep in mind that your conversion strategy should include not just your website and ads, but also your email marketing program, opt-in landing pages, and more.
GOOGLE ADS AND BING OPTIMIZATION
Utilize remarketing for Google Ads and Bing ads. You can build custom audiences based on prospect behavior on your website. After collecting data for a couple of weeks or at least until you have enough results, you’ll also optimize based on the hour and day of the week. Lastly, you’ll be updating that negative keyword list to refine that high-quality custom audience.
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVERTISING OPTIMIZATION
Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer the same features available on Google Ads and Bing, but the demographic and interest-based targeting on social media is a lot better. Split testing is key because you’ll be able to take full advantage of Facebook’s algorithm (for Facebook and Instagram) when you split-test different audience groups to figure out the best combination that leads to the highest quality of conversions.
For LinkedIn specifically, target audiences at a granular level, such as by industry, job title, company, and more. The type of conversions will depend on the business marketing objective. Split test different demographics, geolocations, etc., to zoom in on high-converting traffic.
Optimizing Facebook specifically includes swapping the ad copies, testing the ad copies, and testing the ad sets, as well as creating a custom audience or lookalike audience and continuing to track custom conversions.
Swap Ad Copies: Facebook’s algorithm favors ads with fresh ad copy, so be sure that your ad copy is consistently updated. Be sure to use a similar theme to continue to receive similar results. Overall, this will lower your advertising costs.
Split Test Ad Copies: Split testing ad copies is important for optimization.
Split Test Ad Sets: Use different segmented audiences to fine-tune and discover the best segmentation that is going to give the right balance between conversions and cost.
Custom Audience/Lookalike Audience: Analyze and make adjustments as needed to increase the performance of lookalike audience targeting and custom audience retargeting.
Custom Conversions: Keep tracking custom conversions to understand important KPIs of the business. Eventually, after analyzing the data and making performance adjustments for a few months, switch the campaign objective to optimize for conversions. You will need to justify this switch after analyzing and optimizing results (or conversions) and cost.
Pay close attention to your website performance because it’s as important as Google Ads performance; website performance can refer to load time speed, bounce rate, time per session, etc. One of the most common mistakes businesses make towards digital marketers is wrongfully blaming them for poor performance on campaigns and advertising when their website is poorly optimized for conversions. You can bring the highest quality traffic at the lowest cost to the website, but all that doesn’t matter if they cannot convert due to website limitations.
Local services businesses need a strategy when they communicate with prospects, customers, and the community in order to have a positive reputation online and offline. This strategy should be centered around conveying reputability through various avenues, using brand messaging, positioning, and visuals. Conveying your reputability can help increase sales conversion rates, nurture leads, help streamline the sales process, and increase the lifetime value of the customer by encouraging repeat business and referrals.
Many local service businesses are tempted to focus on industry terms when they talk about their business, but this often confuses customers. Instead, it’s important to discuss the problems and challenges your business solves through your solutions (services). When creating content, it’s vital to speak directly to your audience and create content they will understand. Often with local service businesses, customers care less about how you work and more about how you can do the job right in the most effective, cost-efficient way. This means that conveying reputability will focus on customer testimonials and reviews, complete business transparency, and easy-to-understand solutions.
The communications strategy for every local services business should evolve with the business, the customers’ needs, and the industry. To do this, it’s important to monitor how prospects and customers interact with your content. This is where analytics comes in on all platforms – your website, social media pages, and email marketing account. Since marketing communications is all about content, it’s important to constantly monitor what content is read, viewed, and liked by your audience. When content is read and liked, take note for future social media posts, blog articles, emails, and more. When it doesn’t, ask yourself these questions:
- Is this content clear?
- Is this content focused on one topic and purpose?
- Is this content attractive? Consider the vocabulary, images, videos, etc.
- Is this quality content?
- Does this content benefit my audience in some way? Education, entertainment, informative, etc.
- Is this content served in a format that my audience prefers?
Local services businesses should utilize email marketing to streamline and automate processes. This can be done in three ways: newsletters, campaigns, and automated email sequences. Local services businesses should use all three types of email marketing when appropriate to best serve their customers. Knowing how to present different types of information about your business is half the battle.
SENDER ADDRESS & NAME
When you create your email address for your email marketing program, use your domain (this builds trust) and get creative, as long as it fits in your messaging guidelines. For example, try [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]. The key is to create an email address for each section of your sales and marketing efforts, so your customers can keep each aspect of your business separate in their email according to their personal preferences. e.g. [email protected], [email protected], or [email protected]. Plus, if they unsubscribe to your marketing emails, for example, they’ll still receive transactional emails.
This setup is critical, so be mindful of this decision and get feedback from your team before setting up the email addresses and email marketing account. You want these email addresses to be used by your customers and prospects, so be sure to include that note in your emails, too. Then, be sure to assign team members (or add it to your to-do list as a solopreneur) to monitor each email account so you can provide customer service through these avenues.
Tip: Avoid using [email protected] or any free email address (e.g. @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, @outlook.com) as they reduce your overall trustworthiness to customers. They also show customers that you don’t want to communicate with them via email, showing them that email is only a one-way ticket for your sales and marketing efforts. Don’t make these mistakes. Make your email addresses friendly so your customers feel comfortable communicating with you via email if they need your assistance. (Many customers prefer email communications, so let it be two-way.)
As a small business, you will likely want to say that your emails are from your Business Name. Typically, only celebrities can get away with being recognized by using their First and Last Name or Name from Business Name.
Tip: If you’re unsure of what sender name to use, A/B test. Then, once you have your winner, be consistent. Lacking consistency will only confuse subscribers and may lower your open rates.
CHOOSING AN EMAIL MARKETING PLATFORM
Using an email marketing platform is important to organize subscribers, review analytics, and automate the business’s email marketing. Email marketing cannot be done effectively in Gmail or Outlook. It’s best to start by using a free email marketing platform, such as Zoho Campaigns, Mailchimp, MailerLite, SendPulse, or Sendinblue.
There are also industry-specific platforms available. Strategically, there are no big differences between each platform. The important thing to do is to choose a platform and start creating and sending emails and gathering subscriber emails. Once you do gather subscribers, it’s important to organize them in some way, either in different lists or by tags. This will not only help you send better campaigns to each audience, but it will also help you transfer lists to a different platform if you decide to use a different one later on.
COLLECTING AN AUDIENCE
Local services businesses should never pay for an audience. Instead, they should create a simple system to request a prospect’s or new customer’s email address when they create an appointment online, over the phone, or in person. This can be as simple as pen and paper (before adding them to your email marketing platform), but the key is to separate prospects and customers so you can send them different email content.
Lead magnets encourage people to subscribe to an email list. Subscribers give up their email address, and in return, businesses give them a lead magnet, such as an assessment, checklist, or ebook (see Types of Content in Other Communication Efforts). Nowadays, people guard their email addresses, so businesses use lead magnets to encourage people to sign up for their marketing emails. If a subscriber is willing to do that to receive the lead magnet, they are already interested in that business.
The best lead magnets for local services businesses are assessments or quizzes, guides or reports, and checklists. The format of the lead magnet will depend on the business’s services and what its customers could benefit from having.
For example, a heating and cooling business in a tourist town could offer a checklist on how to properly shut down a home for the winter. The checklist itself would benefit their clientele, who are likely older and are unlikely to search for a checklist on their own. Plus, it relates to their business so they can include their business details on the checklist (or even include calling their business for an annual checkup on the list itself).
EMAIL CREATION & DESIGN
Newsletters primarily educate and engage subscribers on a recurring basis, such as weekly or monthly, to help keep your brand top-of-mind with your subscribers. Newsletters are a great place to showcase testimonials and customer success stories, introduce new staff members, product and service changes, and more. Newsletters should follow the same format each time so subscribers can recognize them.
Email campaigns can be one or multiple emails promoting one thing, such as a sale or event. Campaigns can either be automated to send at specific times or intervals, or based on specific subscriber actions, but they don’t have to be. Campaigns can be created in advance or just before they are sent, depending on the need for them. For local services businesses, campaigns are best used for promotional purposes.
For example, if a local services business is having a special discount on all services booked during a one-week time frame, then an email campaign would be a great way to inform prospects and customers about the sale. The business could send one email on Monday, another one on Wednesday, and two more on Friday, counting down the hours for the special. Each email would focus on that one topic (the special) and the call to action would lead directly to the business’s website where the subscriber could create an appointment and lock in the special. Testimonials could be added and photos of the business’s previous work could be shared alongside the special details. Each email will be short and similar to the others without replicating the exact messages, while still maintaining the same special.
Most emails are opened on a cell phone, which means campaigns developed solely for large computer screens are often useless on a small screen. Simple, mobile-friendly emails that are responsive are more effective than immaculately designed campaigns that aren’t responsive, so businesses should be sure to use a simple layout and test all emails on multiple devices (or using a service like Email on Acid) before sending them out.
Within most email marketing platforms, businesses can see what devices their subscribers are using to view each email. Combined with testing, you can ensure that every email looks good on those devices.
Depending on the business and services offered, a local services business will want to showcase long- or short-form content within their emails. The length of the content depends on the intent of the email. If an email’s purpose is to provide a transactional purpose, such as confirming an appointment or sending a digital bill, the content should be very short. If an email’s purpose is to provide an informative purpose, the content can be longer.
For example, a funeral home emailing a family of a deceased loved one may include long-form content with condolences and next steps while a handyman emailing a repeat customer about maintenance on his lakehouse’s upkeep may be short and bulleted.
In general, local services businesses will send short-form content because their subscribers are busy and primarily seek that business to solve a problem rather than learn more about the business extensively.
Newsletters primarily educate and engage subscribers on a recurring basis, such as weekly or monthly, to help keep your brand top-of-mind with your subscribers. Newsletters are a great place to showcase customer reviews, blog articles, service updates and launches, and more. Typically, newsletters are longer emails with multiple sections and calls to action.
Newsletters should follow the same format each time so subscribers can recognize them. Be sure to test frequency as well as send days and times to see what works best for your subscribers, and then be consistent for most of your newsletters.
To start, send a monthly newsletter after your audience has received a Welcome email (see Automated Email Sequences for more information on Welcome emails).
Tip: Make your newsletter about the inside scoop on your services. Let your email subscribers be the first to know anything about your services.
In addition to regular newsletters, we recommend sending promotional emails as needed. These are one-time emails that promote a product or service launch, company news, sale, contest, survey, or something else. Typically, promotional emails promote one thing with one call to action.
When sending promotions, you can increase the frequency (e.g. daily for three days for a three-day flash sale) and change the send days and times of the emails to align with your sale or launch.
When you do send promotional emails, you may benefit by using scarcity marketing tactics. This means you showcase a limited time frame of the sale. When using this tactic, only promote the limited time frame of a sale if you are not going to extend it. Scarcity marketing can increase the urgency and effectiveness of a sale when you do it with honesty and integrity.
Tip: When determining whether to include a promotion in a Newsletter with other updates or in a separate Promotional Email, consider how big the news is that you’re sharing. If it’s time-sensitive or you want to maximize click-throughs, send one or a few Promotional Emails. You can also tease a promotion in the Newsletter you send before the promotional email, if time allows, and on social media to drum up excitement.
AUTOMATED EMAIL SEQUENCES
An automated email sequence is ideal for nurturing prospective customers based on the challenges they commonly experience and your solutions to resolving them. An automated email sequence is also ideal for streamlining the sales process by leading prospects and new customers through the process of how your business works. This can be accomplished by leading customers to complete forms or pay their bills online, for example, which automates mundane processes for your team.
Automated email sequences can be time-based or trigger-based. Time-based emails are scheduled in advance at a specific time. Each email in the sequence is sent at a specific time interval. (For example, email 1 is sent immediately after a subscriber is added to the list, email 2 is sent one week later, email 3 is sent one day after that, etc.) This type of sequence is ideal for sending onboarding sequences to inform your new customers how your business works, what they can expect when working with you, and general maintenance tips for after your team leaves the job.
Trigger-based email sequences are based on triggers, meaning when a subscriber opens an email or clicks on a specific link within an email, they are “triggered” to receive a specific email based on their open or click (or lack thereof). These triggers show your subscriber’s behavior, so it helps them see more relevant content based on their actions and preferences.
Trigger-based sequences are often more complicated than time-based sequences because they offer more options within the sequence, but they deliver a more unique experience for each subscriber based on their behavior. By delivering a more relevant user experience to your subscribers, open and click rates, and purchases or appointments are likely to increase.
Common uses for automated sequences are for lifecycle emails. Sending specific emails at the right times during the customer journey can improve the customer’s experience. These emails include:
- Welcome emails
- Follow-up emails
- Thank you emails
The short and sweet emails essentially show the subscriber that the business cares in a timely manner. These emails can be automated and trigger-based or they can be created in advance and sent in batches, depending on the structure of the business. Either way, they can help customers stay engaged with the business and help them through the customer journey in an automated fashion.
EMAIL MARKETING BEST PRACTICES
Email Design: When a business uses both marketing and transactional emails, it’s best to have the same basic look for all emails to offer a better customer experience to each subscriber. It can be jarring if the latest campaign emails are on brand and inviting, and then the “Thank you for your purchase” email is colorless and stale. When beginning an email marketing program, you should unify the look of all emails. Yes, the look can change over time and adapt for individual campaigns, but there still needs to be cohesiveness among all emails so subscribers know it’s your business within the first one-second glance (see Visual Branding in Foundation).
A/B testing: Creating and sending content to subscribers isn’t enough for local services businesses. Emails should be tested using the A/B method. Testing means taking a small portion of the business’s list, say 10% each, to send two versions of the same email to see which one leads to more opens, clicks, and appointments. Each test should only test one thing, such as:
- Subject line
- Sender email address/name
- Call to action button color
- Plain text vs. HTML
- Long- vs. short-form email content
After the test is done, the business can wait about 24 hours for the results to see who won. Which email led to more appointments? Then the business should use the winning email to send to the other 80% of the audience. Testing should happen frequently and, if possible, for every email sent to increase conversions.
Personalization: Personalizing emails starts with using the subscriber’s name in the email and continues by using the user data to personalize each subscriber’s emails in an effort to improve their customer journey. For local services businesses, this means sending customers on your email list a reminder when their water heater needs to be replaced, for example, because the business knows when they last serviced said water heater.
This also means recommending services in an email after they received a similar service that is relevant. For example, a dog walking business might recommend a dog sitting service for when their customer is on vacation, but they wouldn’t recommend a cat sitting service because that customer doesn’t own a cat.
Segment Subscribers: Segmenting your subscribers is a great way to personalize messages to groups of your audience. Segments can be as simple as “prospects” and “customers” or far more complicated. Segments, however, can also be used with tags to increase personalization, allowing the business to send a specific message to a specific group of subscribers, increasing ROI immensely because the subscribers will find the email highly relevant based on their needs and place in the customer journey.
Local services businesses can segment or tag subscribers by the services they’ve used, city or neighborhood of residence, business or residential client, type of home or pet (or detail related to the business), how they came across the business, when their water heater needs servicing or replaced (for example), and more. The more a local services business can narrow down its customers within its email marketing, the better it can send the right messages at the right time.
Email Scrubbing: Even with local services businesses, subscribers can become unengaged. When more subscribers than usual are unsubscribing or reporting the business’s emails as spam, it’s time to scrub the list because an email marketing program is only as effective as its lists.
Before scrubbing a list, it’s important to attempt to re-engage the unengaged subscribers first. This can be done by sending a re-engagement campaign to try to get them interested in the business again. This campaign can include a lead magnet or special promotion from the business. Those who open the re-engagement campaign stay. Those who don’t will be scrubbed from the list.
Scrubbing an email list means deleting inactive subscribers, looking for and removing spam and duplicate subscribers, and narrowing down the list to active subscribers who are likely to benefit the business. Spam email addresses can be easily spotted by searching for letters and numbers jumbled randomly in an email address. Duplicate subscribers can be found using a spreadsheet. There are email scrubbing services, but a local small business can manage these processes in-house better because they know their customers.
Resend to Non-openers: Email is effective, but subscribers are busy. To increase the performance of campaigns with minimal additional effort, you can resend campaigns to non-openers. This can be automated in most email marketing platforms by checking a box or copying an email and setting the trigger to “did not open” the initial campaign. However, this should only be used on the most important campaigns because some subscribers may see the duplicate content as spam. To mitigate this possibility, businesses can limit the use of resends and be clear in the subject line that it’s a resend. In fact, you can A/B test your resend subject lines to see what performs best.
Many consumers use social media to look up and research a business before they choose to purchase its services. These consumers want an inside look at your business before trusting you. Social media is a great way to build trust with your audience because of the variety of post options and the opportunity to dive deeper into the values your business holds.
The focus of your social media program should be on conveying reputability by encouraging customer reviews, which are connected to your digital presence and ORM, and showcasing your business offerings, values, and personality on a consistent basis. The overall followers and engagement numbers are not as important as providing your prospects with another way to learn about your business from your team and your previous customers in an online social environment. Again, it’s important to only use essential social media channels to maintain consistency in posting and communicating with your followers. Having outdated social media pages can negatively impact your reputation and turn prospects away.
SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS
People search for business solutions on the go, which means they not only use search engines to look up your services, but also social media. The best social media platforms for B2B businesses depend on how much your services cost. For higher-ticket services, you should focus your social media efforts on LinkedIn and Twitter as these are commonly used by professionals in a personal and professional manner. This limited presence is ideal for higher-ticket services because your audience is likely more niche.
For lower-ticket services, focus on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, as well as Instagram if your business is visually focused. Having a larger presence for services with a smaller price tag will help increase brand awareness and prospect communication.
Be specific when choosing social media platforms for your business. What do your customers use the most? Do they interact with businesses on those platforms? Asking them will reveal a lot about your opportunities with social media. Your customers can help you narrow down the platforms themselves as well as the content to share on them.
Also, look at your competitors’ pages. What platforms do they use? Which pages do they see the most engagement? Consider using those platforms.
The key to posting on multiple platforms is to cater the content, image sizes, and hashtags for each platform. You want to set up each page to look similar (according to your visual branding), but each page should cater to the audience members who are likely to follow it.
For example, if your employees follow you on LinkedIn but your best customers follow you on Facebook, your content and messaging will differ for each platform. This takes trial and error, so don’t be afraid to ask your employees and customers what they think (and watch the data).
At SharedTEAMS, we recommend starting small and scaling up from there. So, start with one social media platform; ideally, the one that is most likely to benefit your business. Then add additional platforms from there once your team can manage the additional workload well.
Social media pages should be consistently active. Daily posts or multiple posts per day are ideal, but unrealistic for many small businesses. Instead, focus on publishing three quality posts per week and scale from there if it benefits your business and you are able to do so.
The day and time you post don’t matter as much as being consistent because the algorithm for most platforms, such as Facebook and Instagram, means posts are not seen right when they are published, but instead in the order the viewer is likely to want to see the posts based on interest. However, Twitter still shows viewers’ posts when they are published. Nevertheless, it’s best to post when your audience is likely to be on, which is probably before and after work, and maybe even during lunch; be sure to A/B test posting times as you dive in as your audience may be scrolling at different times.
When you need to promote something timely, such as a sale or event promotion, create multiple posts on the same topic and spread them out in advance to give your audience multiple reminders.
To publish social media content, you can use social media scheduling tools, such as Hootsuite, TweetDeck, and Buffer, which include free plans, as well as ZohoSocial, Oktopost, SocialOomph, Sprout Social, and more. We recommend choosing one social media scheduling tool based on your platforms, needs, and budget. This way, you can create posts in one sitting and schedule them to publish in a week, a month, or at a later time. This streamlines the time you spend on social media for your business, but don’t forget to check your pages, too. Alternatively, you can publish directly to each native platform, but this often takes longer, especially if you want to share a similar post on multiple platforms, and most platforms don’t have scheduling options, limiting your publishing times to “now.”
SOCIAL MEDIA CONTENT
Local services businesses need to be authentic on their social media pages. Promotional posts have their place, but educational and entertaining posts should be the majority. Local services businesses have a great opportunity to take photos and videos, and show the inside scoop on their jobs in real-time (if their customers approve of it). That means dog walkers, handymen, and cosmetologists can show off their work to their followers.
Using user-generated content is a great way to show your customers what working with you is really like. Encourage your customers to share their experiences online in the format of a review, preferably with photos. When a customer is very satisfied with their experience, they are often happy to do so. Then the reviews benefit your online reputation (see Online Reputation Strategy in Foundation) and can be repurposed as user-generated content on your pages. (On Facebook, customer reviews are not shared on the business page like posts are; instead, they are located in a separate section.)
Video content is powerful on most platforms, including social media and your website. Many local services businesses provide unique services or common services performed in a unique way. The best way to showcase these services is through video. Not only are followers more likely to watch a video than read a block of text, but it may be the best way to inform your customers how your business works – by literally showing them. These informative videos can answer questions and calm nerves, depending on the service. Videos can be recorded and edited on a smartphone. Remember to use your Brand Guidebook when developing video content.
Creating and sharing video content also involves adding helpful descriptions for YouTube or Vimeo and social sharing. Descriptions that help viewers understand the context of the video (beyond just the video title) can improve SEO as well.
To develop your video content strategy, you need to determine whether it will replace or augment other content you are sharing. Depending on your business and resources, your answer will vary; however, augmenting long-form content, such as blog articles, with videos can help showcase your industry expertise in a digestible format. Capturing a quick video in addition to before and after photos of a customer’s job can provide you with more content per customer experience, allowing viewers to see your team in action in multiple formats.
USE THE DATA
Social media is always changing just as your customer’s needs are always changing, which is why it’s important to review social media analytics for all of your active pages at least monthly. This will help you review the latest comments, messages, and reviews, as well as see what content received the most engagement (likes and comments).
Engagement isn’t the top priority for B2B businesses (instead, informing your ideal audience is), but it’s still a good practice to see what content your followers like and what content helps reduce common customer questions. Since your social media pages are meant to convey industry expertise and skills, using the data to make changes to your social media program will only benefit your social media program and business all around because you will be helping your customers.
Social media is always changing just as your customer’s needs are always changing, which is why it’s important to review social media analytics for all of your active pages at least monthly. This will help you review the latest comments, messages, and reviews, as well as see what content received the most engagement (likes and comments).
Engagement isn’t the top priority for local services businesses (instead, informing prospects and customers is), but it’s still a good practice to see what content your followers like and what content helps reduce common customer questions. Since your social media pages are meant to inform followers and convey reputability, using the data to make changes to your social media program will only benefit your social media program and business all around because you will be helping your customers.
Social media is meant to be “social,” so local services businesses need at least one dedicated team member to check each social media platform daily, minimum, in order to reply to follower comments and DMs.
If your team can manage it, set up and use a Facebook Messenger bot for your business, which allows you to utilize the benefits of chatbots without any legwork. Messenger can benefit your local services business because it is likely that a large segment of your audience would prefer to contact you via Messenger than through other avenues.
Once you set up your Facebook Messenger bot for your business page, be sure you have a team member who can check it and respond to it most of the time, especially during business hours. It’s also best to create automatic messages so your customers can see your business hours and receive answers to common questions, even if your business is closed.
Local services businesses that utilize content marketing are organically listed higher on search engines. This means taking the time to commit to consistent blog articles (on your website) with an SEO strategy could be the difference between your prospects searching for your services and choosing you or your competitor.
Other content, such as website content, business listings, and social media, all benefit your business and prospects, but only the content updated often with SEO will help your website and business the most.
Blog content can help establish trust and an emotional connection with your prospective customers. This long-form content helps them see beyond the services and prices to learn about your business values and personality. It helps them choose your business because they see the humans behind the brand, personalizing their intended experience and helping them trust that you will meet their needs.
Local Media Outreach
Many local services businesses can benefit from local media outreach. If your community has a newspaper (print or digital), radio station, magazine, or TV station, you have access to local media. Local media can help spread your story throughout the community, increasing your brand awareness and improving sentiment.
The key to successful media outreach is to reach the right media personnel at the right time with the right story. This sounds complicated, but as a local services business, you have a leg up on the competition because you know your company, the local area, its needs, its traditions, and its challenges. Looking through the lens of your business, find stories within your business, with your customers, or related to your community, and pitch those to the right media personnel.
Before you can find the right journalist to pitch to, you need to look at the media outlets first to see if that publication accepts pitches and publishes stories about businesses. If they do, look at their readership; most publications offer this information online or in a media kit. Does their readership reach your audience? If so, does the publication itself share its stories online in a variety of formats? For example, does a print newspaper also post its stories online and share them on its social media pages? You want to choose publications that promote their work. Once you know what publications you can work with, it’s time to figure out which journalists to pursue.
Journalists and other media personnel each have their own beat. When pitching a story idea, it’s vital to pitch it to a journalist who has written stories similar to that before. For example, a sports writer will not be interested in writing a story about how your business collected coats for a local charity, but a lifestyle or local news writer may be.
When you narrow down the best journalist for your story, you need to be timely. Send them an email with the pitch and ensure the subject line of your email emulates their headline writing style because then they are more likely to open that email. If your story pitch is up their alley and they have time to pursue the story, they will likely respond to your email.
Even before you have a story idea or pitch, it’s important to start developing media relationships. Follow your local community’s news online (or in newspaper format), follow media personnel whose work you like, and let them know via social media or email why you enjoyed their latest piece. The key to this is being authentic. These simple acts of honest outreach before you ask them to write a story for you will help nurture that relationship. This type of relationship takes years to build, so accept when a pitch is rejected or an email isn’t responded to.
The most important factor when developing a content strategy is to determine who will be reading that specific piece of content, where they are in the customer journey, and what content will benefit them in that current phase. After all, content created purely for SEO purposes will fail because content needs to benefit readers in order to have a high search engine ranking. Plus, you want to create content specifically for your prospects and customers because those are the people you want to convert into customers and repeat customers. Note that not everyone will want to read your blog, which is okay because you’re not selling to everyone either.
One way to determine what content would benefit your prospects (so they can learn something of value, build more trust with your business, and eventually turn into paying customers) is to pay attention to your audience. This can be done online and offline. When customers speak to your team to set up an appointment, inquire about your services, or any other communication, what questions do they ask? Are there questions many customers ask? If so, consider sharing your answer in a blog article and/or through other content avenues (social media, newsletter, etc.) and formats (text, image, video, etc.).
After you create content, you need to share your content. For example, if you publish a blog article, repurpose it for your next newsletter and share the link on your social media pages with appropriate hashtags. Wherever you repurpose blog content, be sure to showcase the most interesting information so the reader is more likely to click the link to read the full blog article, which brings them to your website.
TYPES OF CONTENT
Content is more than just words. When we say “content,” we mean:
- Social media posts
- Blog articles
- Customer testimonials and success stories
- Infographics and other visuals, such as images
- GIFs and memes
- Case studies
- White papers
- News releases and newspaper articles
It’s not important to use every format listed, but it is important to use the formats that speak to your audience. When beginning your content marketing program, perform some mild research to see where your audience goes to find information. What social media platforms do they use? Do they prefer reading a newspaper in print or digital form? (This may vary if you are in a big or small town.) Do they watch the news or binge-watch YouTube videos? Do they like receiving emails or do they prefer listening to podcasts?
Knowing where your audience goes to find information will help you determine which formats to use. If you know how your current customers found you, you will be able to narrow down your formats even more. From there, you can monitor and update your content marketing program accordingly.
It’s important to not only use formats your audience uses but to also use formats your business likes. For example, if you hate Facebook, don’t force yourself to use Facebook for marketing. If you did, your audience would see the inauthenticity in your sporadic posts and they might not get a lot out of your social media content. Instead, use formats that you enjoy so you can genuinely connect with your audience through those formats.
Local services businesses often do well with email marketing, social media marketing, customer testimonials, videos, infographics, and checklists. Depending on who you serve, you may be able to use GIFs and memes, though we recommend those for younger audiences.
There are two types of content: content you create and user-generated content. User-generated content includes pieces like customer testimonials, reviews, success stories, and social media posts your customers create about your business (and probably tag your business in). It’s best to use both types of content whenever possible to provide various content for your audience. Plus, user-generated content adds legitimacy to your content and business. Always ask the user if you can share their content on behalf of your business before doing so.
Blog content is long-form, informative content that will likely answer your prospects’ questions. This content can even give away some of your trade secrets because your customers are likely not willing to perform the services you do in a DIY fashion. In this manner, they will see how complicated your services are and how well your team fulfills those services. This type of content is informative while also being promotional.
Blog content can also touch on stories and information related to your local area and industry. The key is to write content about what your customers and prospects are looking to read while also relating it to your business. For example, a hair salon in Maine may share hairstyle tutorials based on seasons and events, such as keeping long hair frizz-free under a wool hat or how to style short hair for prom. (To take it one step further for content marketing, the salon could create a blog post with instructions and photos for each tutorial as well as create a video to share with the blog article and across all social media platforms.)
Why does long-form content marketing matter for local small businesses? Customers are likely to find a local services business in one of three ways:
- Searching for your services using a search engine based on an immediate need
- Searching for answers related to your services based on a non-immediate need
- Happening upon your storefront while walking or driving (likely a non-immediate need)
The second way customers find you is when blog articles come into the picture. Local services businesses can have customers in the prospect phase longer if the prospects are interested in their services in some fashion but don’t have an immediate need. For example, if a woman is interested in learning how to trim her bangs between haircuts, she may look for the answer online and find the answer on a local hair stylist’s blog. If she finds that blog article informative, she may sign up for that salon’s email newsletters and when she needs a haircut, she may seek out that stylist.
The first way customers find you is the most popular and the third way is unpredictable; however, repeat customers often happen because the customer had a good experience with your company. Adding content marketing to an already good customer experience helps them remember your business the next time they require your services.
For some local services businesses, text marketing may be more efficient than email marketing. The content is much shorter than email marketing, but it performs very well and can either replace or augment an email marketing program.
Local Event Marketing
Local services businesses should get involved in their community and participate in local events in order to increase brand awareness. Events like parades, festivals, farmer’s markets, auctions, conferences, conventions, trade shows, networking events, and more, are great places for your business to show your team’s faces.
If you regularly attend local events, you will need a booth design. This booth doesn’t have to be complicated, but it has to showcase your business succinctly through the design. Everything from the tablecloth to the brochures, and from the signage to the giveaway needs to scream your brand. To develop the booth design and accompanying pieces, review who will be there.
If the majority of people attending the event are likely to be locals, then that will be a good place for you to be. Why will they be attending the event and what could they need during that event in relation to your business or in general? Create your booth using answers to that question. Then go to the event to meet people. Collect email addresses and receive permission to email them.