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Why Local Marketing Really Makes a Difference for Small Businesses

Local marketing is more important to small businesses than ever before. Our theme for the month of November is “why local matters,” and this month we’re going to be featuring some stories about how small businesses can do more to improve their local outreach and marketing to connect with customers in their local communities.

One of the ironies of the Internet Era is that even though we now have the ability to instantaneously do business with people and companies all over the world, the world is in many ways becoming “smaller.” That’s because many consumers are increasingly using the web to find information about the world in their immediate vicinity.

With the rise of smartphones and tablets, mobile devices are becoming the primary way for many people to access the Internet. For example, according to data from comScore, as of January 2014, mobile devices accounted for 55 percent of all Internet usage in the U.S., while PCs only consisted of 45 percent of Internet activity.

The rise of mobile devices is going hand-in-hand with the rise of local search – as people are accessing the web more often from smartphones and tablets, they are increasingly doing “mobile local searches” by searching for information that is specific to their location. According to stats from BIA/Kelsey, mobile local search volume will exceed desktop local search for the first time in 2015. This makes it more important than ever for businesses to be able to connect with consumers on the go. And this makes it more likely that many consumers will shop local if they can find the information they need from local businesses.

As part of this mobile Internet trend, more consumers are looking for local search results to find out more about businesses in their neighborhoods. This means that you have a big chance to grow your business by taking advantage of local marketing opportunities right in your own backyard.

According to research from Google, Ipsos MediaCT, and Purchased, “Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior,” there are many trends reinforcing the importance of local marketing for small businesses:

  • · 4 out of 5 consumers use search engines to find local information.
  • · 54 percent of consumers use smartphones to search for local business hours, 53 percent search for directions to the store, and 50 percent search for local store addresses. 45 percent of computer/tablet users search for availability of products at local stores.
  • · 50 percent of consumers who conducted a local search on their smartphone visited a store within a day.
  • · 18 percent of local searches on smartphones lead to a purchase within a day, compared to only 7 percent of non-local searches.
  • · 4 out of 5 consumers want to see ads that are customized to their location – city, ZIP code, or immediate surroundings.

Clearly, consumers are using local searches to find information about businesses like yours. But are you ready to be found? Unfortunately, according to a survey from local directory and ad provider Hibu, only 6 percent of U.S. small-to-medium sized businesses currently have a mobile-optimized website – and 45 percent don’t have a website at all!

The Hibu survey also found that U.S. small-to-medium sized businesses estimated that they were losing an average of $60,000 per year in revenue as a result of not having a mobile-optimized site. Why? Because customers don’t like to use non-mobile optimized sites from mobile devices. What existing and prospective customers want is a way to easily find and purchase directly from their smartphone.

For example, according to statistics cited in Huffington Post, “5 reasons you absolutely must optimize your website for mobile,” 57 percent of mobile users will abandon a site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, and 30 percent will stop short of making a purchase if the site’s shopping cart is not mobile-optimized. Time is of the essence for today’s on-the-go mobile shoppers. They want to quickly find what they need from your business’ website – whether they’re doing research about a future purchase, or especially if they’re ready to make a purchase right now.

Here are a few ideas for how small business owners can get the most from their local marketing online:

  • · Sign up for Google My Business: One of the simplest ways to make sure your business gets found on local search results is to set up a location-specific page for your business on Google My Business. This helps you get found on Google search, Google Maps, and Google+, and ensures that your business details are updated and correct – your hours, your phone number, your business address, and directions.
  • · Sign up for Yahoo Localworks: This service lists your business across more than 40 sites and local directories, such as Yelp, WhitePages, Bing, MapQuest, YahooLocal, and more.
  • · Make your website “local-optimized:” Even if you don’t have a fancy website, you need to make sure that your site covers the bases for local customers who are trying to find you. Put your business name, address, phone number, and hours in a prominent spot on the site. Make it easy for local customers to find the most important information. Use a big, easy to read font and simple design – you want people to be able to instantly find the information they need, and then call you or get directions to your location.
  • · Get a mobile-optimized website: If you’re one of the many small businesses that doesn’t have a mobile-optimized website – or doesn’t have ANY website at all – then now is the time to change that. Fortunately, you don’t have to be a tech expert or spend a lot of money to get a good-looking site. There are tools available such as Strikingly, a website builder for mobile websites that makes it easy to set up your own site designed specifically for mobile devices. You don’t have to have a separate “mobile version” of your site, either. Most of the simple design features that make sites good for mobile devices will also make the site look great on a PC desktop browser.

Local marketing is about a lot more than technology, but these are a few of the big online technology trends that are driving the rise of local marketing. Stay tuned for more articles this month from the Kabbage blog about how you can keep connecting with your community, finding local customers, and motivating people to keep “buying local” – from you!

What have you learned about “local marketing” in the past few years? Does your business have a mobile-optimized website, and if so, how did you get it done? Tweet us at @KabbageInc or submit your answers in the comment section below.