By Ravi Kumar
Small local businesses account for nearly 30% of GDP and employ more than 100 million people in India. While the search trends for local and “near me” terms have shown exponential growth, the turnaround of these searches also shows promise.
As per the stats shared by many trend-watchers and analysts:
- Google trends for “near me” searches reportedly grew 1.6 times in just a year.
- Almost half the searches on the internet are about finding local information.
- A significant number of searches for any business happen from within the locality (usu. within a 5-mile radius).
- Mobile device searches are more inclined towards the transaction and result in a store visit or purchase.
The question is, “Is your business part of this trend?” Here’s a six-step process to bring local searches to your business and reap the benefits of digital in your growth:
Google business listing
Your Google business listing is the first and most visible online place for your local business. Setting up your business profile on Google is completely free and gives your store or office an instant online presence, plus a location marker on the map.
A Google business profile allows you to create content, share offers, interact with customers, and help them find you and your business. The best part is that you do not need any technical expertise or even a computer for this.
Open your smartphone and start creating your Google business profile. At the same time, start local SEO and run local search ads to improve your visibility for relevant searches. Riding the growing near me searches, a leading e-commerce brand in India drove its ROI 1.3 times with a 1.7 times increase in traffic.
Social media and hyperlocal targeting
Facebook is the second most popular online platform and the most popular social media platform. With almost 3 billion users worldwide and 330 million users in India, you can rely on Facebook to find the relevant consumers.
A Facebook presence also offers a more informal or intimate way of engaging with your consumers. Hyperlocal targeting is another way of using social media to leverage your local business. Use social media influencers in your locality to broadcast your presence to specific audiences.
Additionally, your Facebook presence benefits your other digital assets, including a website, if you plan to have one.
Build a website
A website means you are seriously considering growth. Building a website solidifies your online presence. A website gives you a chance to grow your market by engaging users who are yet to identify your brand or solutions.
Your website is going to be the ultimate confidence booster for your consumers. You may feel that a website is a tech-heavy venture, which is not the case anymore. You can start your website-building journey even without any technical knowledge.
HubSpot, WordPress, Google Sites, Strikingly, Wix, etc., let you build a website without having to go through the pain of hosting and domain registration.
Remember, the purpose of a business website is to increase transparency. So, make sure to include all the details in the appropriate places.
Reviews, ratings and conversations
While social media pages like Facebook and Instagram could be a great way to connect and hear your consumers’ opinions, you also need a one-to-one communication channel. And this is not just a subjective need or a good-to-have asset:
- WhatsApp has an open rate of 70%, double that of e-mails.
- E-commerce platforms have registered more than 50% growth in new orders after using WhatsApp for business.
- More than 70% of customers check reviews and ratings online before deciding on a purchase.
- Big brands have seen more than 100% growth in consumer engagement.
- Conversational marketing is the next stage of digital.
“While larger brands are spending money building chatbots and developing advanced AI chatbots, small businesses can simply use WhatsApp to drive conversations for absolutely free,” says Ravi Kumar, CEO of MadHawks, a Gurugram-based digital marketing agency.
“If you can spend a little bit of money, you can also integrate the chatbot API with WhatsApp and turn it into a 24×7 customer service,” adds Ravi.
Distributing pamphlets, putting up posters, and setting up kiosks have been a staple for local businesses to get their message out. Although the real ROI of these methods has always been hard to determine. However, digital channels are not so obscure.
You can run ads and check their effectiveness, conversions, and other relative metrics almost in real time. Still, the best part is that you can target and retarget your intended audience. Thus, maximising the effectiveness of your ad campaigns.
You can use Facebook’s store traffic ads to draw traffic to your real store and Local Search Ads on Google to drive footfall to your clinic/shop/store.
More than adverts, videos are great content assets. Creating engaging video content can work as an ad for the brand all by itself (organically). Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, etc., are a few channels where informative and entertaining video content performs well.
Plus, content allows you to collaborate with businesses of similar interests or those that share synergies with you. For example, a pizza bakery collaborating with a delivery company or a vehicle showroom sharing informational content with insurance providers and lenders.
These six steps are the pillars of building your digital presence as a local business. Your digital story is unlikely to stop here. In fact, these are the first six steps towards a strong digital presence. With the ongoing trends, you can continue to add more strategic and long-term plans to turn your digital presence into a business.
The author is founder, MadHawks