Local marketing for small and medium-sized businesses (SME), that is marketing for SMEs that serve their local communities, still generally relies on the traditional marketing channels, even today.
If a SME has a long-established presence in the community it serves, it may have the (unsustainable) luxury of depending heavily on its existing customer base and positive word of mouth from them for new business. It may also have an advertisement in its local Yellow Pages and do periodic newspaper ads as well. Seldom will a SME utilize radio or TV advertising because of the high costs associated with these channels. Many will have their own web site (while others still don’t), but typically its content will be fairly static and not updated frequently (if ever…). As a result, it’s not an information source that its existing customers rely on, nor is it a marketing source that new potential customers will rely on either, unless they know exactly how to navigate to it (through one of its other advertising channels).
For newer competitors who are trying to gain some traction in the same local area, how do they compete? They could also take out Yellow Pages and local newspaper ads, but how do they really stand out against their well-established competitors there? Fewer and fewer people actually use Yellow Pages or read their local newspaper anymore (do you?) so these channels are no longer particularly effective. Seldom will they have the capital to invest in radio and TV ads especially when they are new and growing. But even if they did have the capital, radio and TV are generally utilized much less than they used to be by customers. They might rely on direct marketing or coupon mailers, but these types of ads often don’t get much attention anymore since many people don’t pay much attention to “junk” mail.
So what how does the smart SME leverage its advertising dollars to get the best exposure possible, regardless of whether they are new or long-established in their community?
The answer for both is local digital marketing, but each for different reasons.
“Only 26% [of small businesses] have invested in internet search marketing to promote their business, while 82% of consumers use search engines to find local businesses.” Source: Nielsen Online Custom Survey and WebVisible, Inc, 2008.
The up-and-comer looks to the internet for its local marketing efforts to run-around its long-established competitor and attract new customers from under their nose. Afterall, they are able to present themselves at the very moment the potential customer is searching online for their services (or goods).
For the savvy long-established SME, they realize it is critical to re-calibrate their traditional marketing mix and leverage the internet, both to protect their business from hungry competitors and to exploit a very powerful new channel.
The exciting thing for both is that the internet continues to be game-changing and the local marketing spoils will go to whichever one claims and dominates their market’s search results. It’s no longer about simply having a presence online. The keys to the castle for any SME will be claimed by leveraging the internet to:
- be found by potential customers for search phrases that are purchase-relevant, and
- become the local authority for its goods or services in the community from a broader branding perspective.
And even better, unlike traditional marketing channels, local marketing online allows you to easily track what’s working, what’s not and what your return on investment is.
So the longer you wait, whether you sell your goods or services online or not, the harder it will be to catch your competitors…