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 their stories online in a variety of formats? For example, does a print newspaper also post their stories online and share them on their 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 where 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.
Our team works as a fluid extension of each of our member’s businesses by developing strategies and executing projects in whatever capacity is best for their unique needs.