It's no secret that customers trust word-of-mouth above corporate advertising: according to Nielsen, 92% of consumers trust peer recommendations and only 53% trust content that you create and post on your website. Engaging your local audience is key to attracting new customers on a neighborhood level.
Even for national companies, the benefits of thinking local can be impressive. Drug store chain Duane Reade recently initiated a campaign to boost their New York City customer base through localization strategies that focused on user-generated content to reach new audiences. Duane Reade partnered with brand advocate bloggers who are "not actual employees, but we treat them as such [and] we offer incentives and introduce [them to] initiatives before the public" and allow them to amplify the corporate message at a local level. The result was a 28% lift in year-over-year sales, a 5x ROI, and 20 million impressions over the entire period of the campaign. "[We had] almost 2,000 pieces of original content being generated over this campaign, so it was huge for us," said a Duane Reade spokesperson.
For any company, large or small, partnerships with local bloggers can be a powerful way of tapping into local networks and reaching potential new customers. You need to be confident in your bloggers to allow them to generate the content for you, so some sort of vetting or oversight might be necessary during recruiting and engagement phases. If you are a small business, you can do it manually. But if you have some budget, the best way to do so is create a bespoke influencer network and host it on a dedicated platform specifically designed to create such programs. The platform should allow you to recruit and engage local influencers in a sustainable way, as well as measure the impact these networks have on your bottom-line. Advocate blogging can generate locally-targeted content that resonates with their readership.
Marketing budgets are often tight and it is important that you know your resources are being well used: every dollar counts when it comes to reaching new audiences. Social networks can be invaluable for businesses wanting to make an impact locally as the only outlay to your business is your time. Don't underestimate what a time-sink online networking can be, though. You want to focus carefully on putting your efforts into reaching your target customers.
Google+ Local is the new Google Places, and it is essential for locally-based businesses to have a presence here. Google is the world's largest search engine and Google+ Local brings together some of Google's most powerful features, such as Google Maps, Google+, and Google's review and scoring capacity, into one place. Businesses that have activated Google+ Local are prominent in local searches: if someone searches Google for "Restaurants Washington DC", the results will be biased towards the ones that feature on Google+ Local. You can list your own business details, upload photos and videos, but by far the most influential feature is customer reviews. Encourage your customers to review your business, rank it, and even upload their own photos, and watch your search engine ranking skyrocket on Google.
8 Tips for activating your local advocates:
- Research local bloggers and talk to them about potential partnership opportunities. Be sure to read their work thoroughly to find bloggers who are a good fit for your business. Build long-term relationships with them.
- On Twitter look for local hashtags that would fit your business, such as #SeattleWeddingBusinesses or #MaineLandscaping and include this hashtag in your tweets. This helps to build a community of similar local businesses, affiliates and customers who can re-tweet your messages and mention you.
- Local 'Tweetups' are becoming very popular: literally, people who are linked on Twitter who meet locally. Be sure to include your Twitter handle prominently on your website to encourage customers to mention you, and don't forget to re-tweet positive messages. Be sure to respond to criticism too by getting in touch and trying to resolve any problems.
- Use social media to reach out to loyal customers and offer promotions, first-looks and discounts to your audience for sharing your message. You might want to explore usage of the location-based services for help you do so.
- Be sure to always ask for reviews on social media, whether it is Google+, Trip Advisor, Amazon, or any other online forum for customer feedback. Customers are far more likely to give reviews if you ask them for it. Remember to thank them for their time once the review is posted.
- Create a referral program that rewards customers for referring others.
- Recognize your most vocal advocates by featuring them online and celebrating them offline through Fan of the Week or similar programs.
- Build social communities for sustainable word-of-mouth. And make sure to feature the links to your social communities such as Facebook page, Twitter handle, Pinterest page, Google+ page, etc. on:
- In-store receipts
- Storefronts and walls inside your business location
- Menus and napkins
- Email communications
- Any marketing assets such as images and videos
- Local advertising such as local newspapers and more
Advocacy is a powerful force at a national level, but if your customers are locally based, then their recommendations can be invaluable. Taking advantage of local reviews, blogs, and networks can boost the visibility for your business and get the word out to new customers. Let your valued customers do the talking for you: they are your greatest marketing asset.
Originally posted in Entrepreneur