Direct Marketing Article
Take Your Online Local Advertising to the
By Allison Nuanes
Your business probably has a Facebook page, and maybe even a Twitter
account, but what about an active local profile, such as on Google+ Local,
Yelp, or FourSquare? If you're not using your local profiles to get
customers to "check in" to your establishment and write reviews about your
business, you're missing a large marketing opportunity. In fact, by being
active on your online local profiles you have the power to engage, retain,
and attract offline customers for little or no cost.
Having an active local profile puts your business on the map, literally. For
example, a customer can use Yelp or FourSquare to search for nearby
restaurants, hair salons, clothing boutiques, etc. If you have a local
profile on those sites, your store's information will appear in the results.
People can even opt to get driving directions to your location. And being
present on Google+ Local is directly related to Google Maps, which is a very
important place for any business to be found.
Once at your business, customers can "check in" on certain local platforms
such as Yelp, FourSquare, and Facebook, which means they are sharing where
they are with their local community. Gaining check-ins gives your business a
few valuable benefits. First, it allows you to see exactly who is coming to
your business so you know if you are marketing to the right people.
Check-ins can also impact your online rankings. The more check-ins you have,
the higher your ranking may be.
After someone has done business with you, they can also write a review
within the local platform. While the idea of public reviews can seem scary
to business owners, they really are a great marketing tool. Obviously, good
reviews encourage others to do business with you. But even negative reviews
can turn positive because you have the opportunity to reach out to the
community and correct the negative experience. Often, how you handle and
turn around the negative experience carries more weight than the negative
So while online local profiles can seem like "just one more thing to
manage," they really do have a large business impact and can greatly
influence your offline business activity. To make the most of your local
online profiles, here are a few key strategies:
1. Claim your listing on the major local platforms: Google+ Local, Yelp,
If you do nothing else, at least claim your listings on the local platforms.
Doing so will help your overall online rankings. Notice that the suggestion
is to "claim" your listing, not "create" it. Chances are that your business
is already listed (even if you never personally created the listing). How?
Often, when customers want to check in to a business but can't find the
business listed, they simply create the listing themselves. Google also
creates business listings automatically based on information available
online. Therefore, do a search for your business on the local platforms.
When you find your listing, click the button that says "Is this your
business?" and complete the verification process. When you're verified your
business can be ranked higher in searches.
You want to be proactive in this process and manage your listing to ensure
that the information showing for your establishment is accurate. If you
leave the listing claiming and/or creation step to customers, they may
misspell the business's name, mis-categorize it, or include inaccurate
information. If there's currently no listing for your business, create one.
2. Find out which local platforms your customers use most.
With your listings created and/or claimed, you can decide which local site(s)
to devote your attention to. The best way to decide is to ask customers
which sites they use most. If your business is one that has lots of direct
interaction between staff and customers, such as a casual dining restaurant,
a boutique, a barber shop, etc., encourage your staff to directly ask
people. For example, if they notice a customer checking in on their smart
phone, they can say, "Oh great, you're checking in. Which site are you
using? We're trying to decide which site is best and would love to know what
you prefer to use." Likewise, if your staff sees someone taking a photo of
their food or an article of clothing, chances are they are going to post it
somewhere. Find out where. Engage the customer in conversation, as that's
the best market research you can get.
You'll quickly find that there is a group of people who embrace the culture
of journaling their life online via check-ins and photo sharing. These
people usually feel happy and appreciated when they get asked questions
about it or acknowledged for doing so because they're doing it out of their
own interest. So don't worry about being obtrusive or appearing nosey. If
you approach it from the mindset of engaging customers so you can better
serve them, they'll be happy to talk about their online preferences.
If your business is one that does not have a lot of personal interaction
between staff and customers, you can add a sign reminding customers to check
in at your location. Yelp and FourSquare in particular have many marketing
items you can get for free, including window stickers and QR codes, to
educate and remind people.
3. Watch your local profiles and interact with your customers there.
To get the most from your local profile, you need to manage it. Train your
managers to check the profiles daily or at least once a week to respond to
new reviews. If there's a negative review, you want to immediately reply to
the customer to turn the situation around.
For example, if a customer writes that they received poor service, apologize
for the service, assure them that's not your company's culture, and offer
them an incentive to return and try you again. When others see how you
handled the negative comment, they'll see it as an isolated incident and not
the norm. Conversely, if they see negative reviews with no resolution,
they'll think you don't really care about customers.
Likewise, when you receive positive reviews, thank the person for visiting
and encourage them to return. Use it as an opportunity to reinforce your
brand and your company's image in the community.
4. Post an offer.
Incentivize people to check in, post a picture, or interact in some other
way by offering a discount or other perk. Some ideas include a free
appetizer, 10% off their purchase, a double punch on a customer card, or
anything else that would be of value to your customers. Realize that for
most people, their smart phone is an extension of their personality, and
it's something they carry with them at all times. When your incentive pops
up on their app, you're keeping your company in front of your customers and
they will take action, especially if they feel rewarded for doing so.
Small Steps Yield Big Results
Using local platforms to engage and interact with customers is a way to
influence offline behavior using online channels. For many people, it's a
new way to look at online marketing, especially since it's not designed to
generate online sales. Therefore, you need to view it as one component of a
comprehensive promotional strategy. When you embrace online local marketing
as a tool to influence offline sales, you'll reap the rewards of an
integrated marketing campaign.
About the Author:
With over 7 years in Internet Marketing, SEO and Social Media Marketing,
Allison Nuanes is the Director of Off-Site Promotions at Volume 9 Inc. She
focuses on identifying opportunities for brands to expand their footprint
online; whether that means leveraging their Facebook community, engaging
influential bloggers, or driving foot traffic through online check-ins and
local search promotion. Volume 9 creates custom search marketing campaigns
for clients, including a mix of SEO, social media, local search marketing
and Internet marketing strategy for over 100 clients and 200 managed
websites. Allison and Volume 9's enterprising team leverage search marketing
into real bottom line results for their clients' businesses. For more
information, please visit