I love the 'shop local' ethos and if I can support a local business, I do. The truth is, however, that local businesses sometimes don't do themselves any favors, and are missing out on some simple marketing opportunities - and losing potential business as a direct result.
Investing a little time into making sure that these areas are not overlooked will help a local business to attract more customers, keep their business top of mind, and guarantee repeat business and positive word of mouth. And crucially, none of the following mistakes require a big investment to fix.
Here are five elements to stay on top of.
1. Website contact forms that don't work
Here's a real life example for you: it's 10.30pm and my hectic day is nearing an end and I've finally got some 'me time', so I'm online looking for a local salon I can book a beauty treatment with. Already pressed for time, I've visited several websites to see what treatments are on offer, check their location and to contact them to make a booking as I simply don't have time to phone around during the working day.
I find a salon that offers the treatment I want to book, but I find that the website booking form doesn't work and there's no email address, leaving me with the only option of trying to remember to make a phone call at lunch time the following day - which of course I don't do, because I'm too busy and I forget - that's $100 in lost revenue right there.
How to fix
Don't make the mistake of assuming that your website contact form is still working. If you don't have a support contract with your web developer, then it's up to you to test your online forms regularly and to make your developer aware if they're no longer working so they can be promptly fixed.
2. Email addresses that don't get regularly checked
Still talking salons, I'm on a different website and this time, the contact form gives me an error when I submit it. I then write everything out again, this time in an email. Over two weeks later, and I still haven't received a response.
For many, making a phone call is no longer the most convenient way of getting in touch with a business - and this holds truer still for Millennials.
As people have become increasingly pressed for time, so it has become ever more important to make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch in a way that's convenient to them - it's one of the reasons why Twitter is a key platform for customer service. It's often much more convenient to fire off a quick email or Tweet than it is to make a phone call, especially during the busy working day.
How to fix
You wouldn't leave the phone ringing and just ignore it, so why ignore emails? Make it as easy as possible for people to get in contact with you - the phone isn't always convenient and people increasingly expect to be able to make appointments outside of normal working hours.
3. Local people don't know that your business exists
Let's use an example of prominently situated ice cream parlour in my little Cheshire market town. Turns out that what used to be an ice cream parlour has actually been an Italian restaurant for the last two years - I live within a five minute walk of the business, yet I had no idea. Since finding out a few weeks ago, I've already visited the restaurant twice - I wonder how many times I'd have visited if I'd known about it two years ago though?
Local awareness is key, and just because you exist, you can't assume that people in the local area know that you're there or what you do.
How to fix
Use traditional marketing tactics to let locals know you exist, and to inform them of your services and offers.
A local flyer drop is an old-school solution, but it works. A simple sandwich board or additional signage outside your premises can give people valuable information about what you do - or how about when people visit you, you give them a couple of flyers with a discount code on; one for them to use on a repeat visit/purchase and one to give to a local friend or colleague?
4. Ignoring social media channels
Speaking as someone who manages social media for countless clients and teaches businesses how to use it effectively, I see the same mistakes on social media repeated time and time again. Comments and questions (often about bookings, opening times or similar) are either entirely ignored or receive a delayed response a few days later.
If you're going to have a Facebook Page, or any kind of social media presence, then even if you aren't actively posting, you still need to invest time every single day into looking out for, and responding to customer questions, comments and booking requests.
How to fix
Set up notifications, or make sure you're manually checking all of your social media channels at least once a day in order to respond to questions, comments etc. When a customer asks a sales-related question, a prompt answer really can influence a purchase or a booking being made. Simply put - make social media monitoring a priority.
5. Wrong Google My Business details showing
When someone Google's your business name, a business listing appears on the right-hand side of the search results, packed full of helpful information like your opening times, location map and contact information.
It's crucial that these details are correct, as people often won't even get as far as your website to double check, and will simply assume that the information is accurate.
How to fix
Check your Google My Business details and make sure they're all up to date. If they need updating, then login to your Google account to edit. Alternatively If you haven't created your own listing, you can claim ownership of the listing.
Don't just stop with Google My Business though, take time to check your other business listings on places like Yell.com and any other directories you're listed in also.