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? 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 businesses. 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. 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 review itself.
Four key strategies
So while online local profiles can seem like just one more thing to manage, they really do have a big 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 platforms
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 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 platforms customers use most
With your listings created and/or claimed, you can decide which local site(s) to devote your attention to. Encourage your staff to directly ask customers which sites they use most. 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.
Consider also posting 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.
3. Watch your profiles and interact with customers
To get the most from your local profile, you need to manage it. Train your managers to check the profiles regularly. If there’s a negative review, you want to immediately reply to the customer to turn the situation around. 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.
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. Offer a small discount on service or a gift branded with your business name or logo. 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. Customers will take action 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.