Marketing a local business can be challenging. You might have a limited budget or be catering to a very specific target audience, for example.
Things get even tougher when that target audience includes millennials and Generation Z.
Millennials are more tech-savvy than ever: They’re always on their smartphones and over 54% of them shop online. So marketing a local brick-and-mortar business to someone who loves to shop online can require creative techniques.
As the owner of a popular millennial blog, I learned a thing or two about what tends to work for this age group.
So what type of marketing techniques should you use to promote your local business to young consumers, including millennials and Gen Z?
In this article, I’ll present some of the leading approaches to help market a local business to younger consumers.
Provide a professional website
Even in 2020, it’s not a given that all local businesses will have a website. And even if you do have one, if it isn’t well-maintained and professional, you could be losing out on potential customers.
Even if you prefer to use offline marketing techniques, investing time and money in building a user-friendly website is important. Let’s face it — it’s a digital world and we’re just living in it.
A professional-looking website is the first thing that a local business should have.
In 2016, BrightLocal research found that 40% of young consumers are more likely to contact a local business if it has a website. Meanwhile, 14% will never buy from a local business if it doesn’t have a website.
In a more recent study, BrightLocal uncovered that the first step taken after looking at a company’s review profile is to head to their website.
Another study showed that more than half of consumers trust a business’s website above and beyond their Google My Business listing. So, even if you have the most exciting, well-optimized profile on Google, having a website is still vital to build trust with your audience.
It’s also worth building up as much of an online presence as possible, given how frequently young consumers use the internet to find local businesses. In 2019, 51% of young people used the internet to find a local business on a daily basis.
In an increasingly digital climate, it’s vital you have a website that’s well-designed, optimized, and has great UX.
According to BrightLocal’s studies, young consumers look for the following features in a local business’s website:
- Information about the business
- Business proximity to the searcher
- Address and contact details
- Quality design
- Customer reviews
- Clear photos
The same survey asked respondents about features that stop them from using a local business. Here is how young consumers responded:
- Poor quality content
- No phone number, contact information, or contact form
- Unavailability of pricing details
- Slow website
Not only do you need a website, but it has to be an easy-to-navigate, professional website with business details, contact info, an About section, and photos. It should also be technically sound and must load quickly.
Arguably most importantly, all information should be easy to find.
How often have you found yourself struggling to locate a business’s phone number on their site? And if so, did that affect what you thought of the business in question? I’m guessing your answer would be “yes”.
Unfortunately, there are some things you can’t change quite so easily, such as business proximity.
Luckily, there are also some quick fixes available to us to solve the other potential issues:
Check your “PageSpeed” score using Google’s PageSpeed suggestions and then implement the suggested changes to make your website faster.
If you’re using WordPress to host your site, install a plugin like Imagify that compresses image files automatically (or manually compress your images before uploading them to the CMS of your choice).
In addition to having a dedicated contact/information page, you can boost NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) visibility by adding it to your page’s footer so it’s accessible on every page.
Know your audience
TargetMarketingMag suggests asking yourself these four questions to ensure you tailor your website to the user’s journey:
- On what page(s) do millennials most often land?
- For how long do they stay on those landing pages?
- Do they exit your website on any specific page(s)?
- What page(s) have the longest session duration?
Making these changes and analyzing the data can do wonders to your business’s site and is a key step to winning young consumers’ business.
After all, the internet is how most young consumers find local businesses and what represents you better than your own website?
Increase visibility in SERPs
Unfortunately, having a well-designed website for your client’s local business isn’t enough. It needs to be optimized for search engines, too.
What’s the point of having a website if it isn’t mobile-friendly, if it’s buggy, or if it has poor navigation?
Research shows that 68% of young consumers use their smartphones to conduct research online. They prefer using a search engine to find what they’re looking for, compared to social media. The search engine is the first place a millennial will look for when searching for a shop or service.
Source: Search Engine Land
This is why it’s essential to work on your client’s website and optimize it to rank in organic search results. Here are a few practical pointers to improve your SEO:
- Research and target relevant local keywords in your content.
- Improve on-page SEO — link internally, set up H1s and H2s correctly, use schema markup.
- Publish quality informative content that targets long-tail keywords, young consumers’ interests, and relevant local events or news.
- Improve website load time as it’s one of the most important factors that is directly related to UX.
- Acquire relevant backlinks naturally. The number of backlinks from unique domains is still one of the most important Google ranking factors.
These days, if you want to get found in search results, you’ll need a Google My Business (GMB) listing. Along with your professional website, you should ensure your GMB listing is fully completed and optimized.
Once you’ve provided searchers with the basics (namely, your NAP) you can begin adding extra features to woo young consumers, including:
The more relevant, useful, and exciting information you can provide, the more likely Google is to trust you as an appropriate source, and surface your GMB when searchers are looking. Making use of features like photos and videos is also a great conversion tactic.
Why not offer a video tour of your business? Photos of happy customers or the behind-the-scenes team? Or share your Holiday offers through posts?
If you’re hoping to get found via Maps or Search, you’ll want to keep this listing up-to-date and active, ensuring any reviews or questions are responded to in a timely manner.
If you’re hoping to be found by young consumers online, it’s absolutely vital you have up-to-date accounts set up on the major social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and — depending on your vertical — Instagram.
That said if you don’t think you’ll have the time to keep these channels active, reply to customers, and share updates regularly, it’s probably best not to set them up at all. The only thing worse than having no online presence is having an outdated, inactive one.
Plus, if you have a presence on socials, you need to be prepared for young consumers to contact you through those channels with support issues and other queries.
Acquire authentic online reviews
Online reviews are essential for any business. But when it comes to young consumers, they’re in love with online reviews. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey, more than half of 18-34s always read reviews before making a purchase decision, while 81% of them trust online reviews and consider them equivalent to personal recommendations.
The average consumer reads up to 10 online reviews before they trust a local business. This makes online reviews essential. As such, it’s vital that you understand the importance of online reviews and are willing to spend the necessary resources to source and showcase them.
So how can you acquire legitimate online reviews for a local business? Here are some best practices that you can use to grow your client’s online reviews:
Register your business with online review platforms
Young consumers need a place to publish reviews. Even if a customer wants to share a review, if they don’t find your client’s local business on review sites, they can’t.
And bear in mind, if you don’t have adequate review channels set up, young consumers may take to social media to publicly out your wrongdoings (note the below example directed at ClassPass).
The first step is to ensure you have a presence on major online review platforms including:
- Your own website using an appropriate review plugin
- Facebook business page
- Google My Business
You should also check out niche review sites relevant to your industry. For instance, if you’re a local furniture shop, look for furniture-specific or decor-related review sites and business directories and get listed there.
A good rule of thumb is to position your business on review and business listing sites that your customers are most likely to be using, as well as any sites that rank on the first two pages of Google. While citations are a foundational part of local SEO, it’s more important to be visible for your customers than for search engine algorithms.
Ask customers to leave reviews
The best way to acquire online reviews is simply to ask customers to share their feedback. Instead of telling them to leave a review later, request that they submit reviews while they’re still in your store.
Once the customer leaves the store, it becomes less and less likely that they will take the time to leave a review. The best moment to request feedback is when the customer is still in the store.
That’s the time when the review is most likely to be detailed and honest because the customer can recall the experience most clearly.
If you plan to do this, make sure you have the means to do so, such as an in-store review platform so they can leave feedback. If you provide all the resources necessary to leave a review, you’re limiting your chances of receiving a “no”.
Alternatively, if you’re a service-area business, you can send your customers a quick SMS post-visit to gather their feedback.
Whichever method you choose, you can then request a review on your preferred site. If, for instance, you know that young consumers find your business through Facebook, you might want to request recommendations on there, where they will get maximum exposure.
That said, diversifying reviews is, of course, still important, so be sure to get a healthy mix across your chosen platforms, keeping even the less prominent review sites updated on a monthly basis.
Share review handouts
Not all young consumers will want to share their reviews right on the spot. Having review handouts with all the details in the store is a great way to increase online reviews. And as a bonus, using a template like this doesn’t cost a thing.
Give your handout to customers who don’t share their reviews when they’re in the store. The handout will remind customers that they have the option to share a review at a later time. Clearly write all the instructions and steps as to how they can submit a review to make things as straightforward as possible.
Alternatively, if your business uses business cards or loyalty cards, ensure your GMB short name, TripAdvisor link, or chosen review site is specified on there. Then you can provide a business card along with the customer’s receipt or purchase.
If you’ve got a storefront, why not make use of Google’s free marketing kit? You can print out posters, stickers, and social posts to place your customer feedback front and center. Seeing testimonials in-store will not only make your business seem more trustworthy but also act as an incentive to customers. The idea of seeing their review up on their favorite shop’s window is sure to encourage young consumers to leave feedback.
Asking for reviews through a variety of channels will only increase your chances of convincing young consumers you’re worth their time to leave a review — just be careful not to bombard the same customers with multiple requests!
Show off reviews
Given the importance of reviews to young consumers, you should showcase customer reviews and testimonials on your site.
To bring testimonials front and center, make use of widgets or even repurpose testimonials into videos that sit on your homepage.
Young consumers have quite different searching habits to the generations before them, including how they search, how they purchase, and how they interact with their favorite brands.
As such, you can’t rely solely on traditional techniques to promote yours or your client’s local business to young consumers — it’s a different game altogether.
It’s your job to understand how young consumers are different and how best to connect with them so as to find and retain new customers.
With the help of the three techniques outlined above, you’re sure to be off to a great start when it comes to winning the next generation of consumers over.