Updated: Jan 19, 2022
Getting noticed can be one of the most challenging things for small businesses. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to reach customers organically (i.e for free) via social media and search engines, but there are some free and simple things you can and need to do that will have a big impact. Making sure your business is visible and stands out will help it thrive in the months and years ahead.
THE ABSOLUTE ESSENTIALS…
1. Make sure your business appears on search engines – primarily Google Search and Maps. You need to create a Google My Business Profile and fill in all the fields. Verify ownership of your listing!
2. Create a website if you don’t already have one and make sure it’s up to date. It’s surprising how many businesses still don’t have websites and, of those that do, how many don't keep them up to date. Include customer testimonials, details of any awards and high quality photos. It’s easy and cheap to build a website, particularly if all you need is a few simple pages. You don’t always need to shell out big bucks for someone else to do it. There are many build-it-yourself sites such as Wix and Sqarespace and you can build something simple in less than a day. For those businesses focussed on e-commerce check out Shopify. It’s worth having a news / blog page so you can share successes or unusual stories and drive traffic back to your site.
3. Get social media savvy! Set up business pages for Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and post regularly. Local content, pictures of your products, funny stories, heart-warming stories, news of new staff or fabulous staff! Share big news with local community groups - Facebook groups are particularly good for this (simply search for your area name in Facebook and see which groups come up). Always be polite and friendly on social media and share posts by other local companies – hopefully in time they’ll share yours too!
If you use Facebook ads, use their ad manager portal rather than just boosting posts. Ad manager has many more tools for targeting, testing and analysing the success of your ad campaigns. It's a little more work but worth it. For video tutorials on all aspects of digital marketing it's worth checking out Neil Patel.
WELL WORTH DOING…
4. Register with online directories. My Virtual Neighbourhood was launched in response to the pandemic to help promote small businesses – it’s free and the platform is supported by Hackney, Islington, Camden and Wandsworth Councils. Thousands of businesses are listed and it’s estimated that the site has generated hundreds of thousands of pounds of trade for London’s independents. It’s a brilliant way of reaching a local audience. We also recommend registering with Yell, Yelp and Bing.
5. Use email! Ask your customers for permission to add them to your mailing list, both in-store and via your website, so you can send them special offers, news or exclusive invitations to events and drum up repeat business. Email campaigns, if done correctly, can offer the best returns for your time investment. There are lots of platforms that will help you create and send out emails and most, like Mailchimp, have free options. Email your audience every week or two with relevant and interesting updates and make them feel part of the family. Put yourself in the customers' shoes when creating content - would you be interested in reading it if you were them?
ACTIVELY GROWING YOUR BUSINESS AND KEEPING CUSTOMERS HAPPY…
6. Get involved in community events and charitable initiatives. The businesses which stepped up to help people in need during the pandemic built huge goodwill in their communities and that often translates into trade.
7. When you have news, share it with local media. Take an imaginative picture that sums up your story and email your local paper or news websites. Make sure you include your phone number so they can interview you if they’d like to. Invite local influencers (press or those with big Instagram followings) to try your product. If you need help producing press releases please contact us.
8. Get reviews! Ask loyal customers to review your business on platforms like Google, Facebook, Tripadvisor and TrustPilot. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Make it easy for them by emailing your customers a link in a friendly email.
9. Reward loyalty and delight your customers. Giving a little freebie or perk to a loyal customer will make them feel special and more likely to tell their friends about your business. Check out local loyalty clubs like www.localbuyersclub.com.
If you'd like us to help with your local marketing please get in touch.
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About My Virtual Neighbourhood
My Virtual Neighbourhood launched in March 2020 during the first lockdown – since then it’s had hundreds of thousands of hits, has been praised by the likes of Jay Rayner and has become the shop-local platform for Wandsworth, Hackney, Islington and Camden councils, with more joining soon. It has become the main source of online referrals for many small businesses in London and listings are free, with an option for a premium listing to gain more exposure.
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Submit your favourite small businesses for a free listing HERE.
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