How to Optimize the Local Customer Buying Journey

How to Optimize the Local Customer Buying Journey

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Local searchers buy from businesses that not only have the best products and services but also, provide a great buying experience.

According to the State of the Connected Customer report by Salesforce, 80% of customers argue that the experience a business provides is as good as their product or the service they deliver.

A purchase happens in stages. By identifying what happens in each stage, you understand what a potential customer is doing, what they need, and their pain points. 

While working on your client’s local businesses, your efforts are focused on providing relevant information to potential customers throughout the customer buying journey. It makes it easier for them to make informed choices and, in the process, helps you maximize conversions and revenue. 

In this post, we’ll talk about how you can optimize your efforts to improve the results you’re getting. Whether you’re optimizing local SEO or your customer journey, it doesn’t require a ton of expertise or effort. Yet, this may be the thing that has a huge impact on conversions and revenue. 

What is the customer journey and why does it matter to local businesses?

The customer journey is the buying process that starts with awareness of a service or product and ends with the purchase. The customer journey happens in five stages: awareness, evaluation, decision, loyalty, and referral.

A local business relies on an offline and online presence to drive traffic and acquire customers. 

An offline presence benefits from word of mouth and a strategic location. However, the terrain changes when it comes to relying on your client’s online presence to drive traffic and conversions. 

To stay competitive, local businesses need to create a solid online presence by understanding and optimizing the customer journey and tracking conversions. Tim Brown, CEO, and founder of Minneapolis-based Hook Agency explains; 

“If we don’t really examine how our best customers buy, we miss giant opportunities. For instance, I see a ton of local businesses whose websites seem to assume that the people already know them by the time they get to their website, meaning there aren’t really quick and obvious trust factors like badges, testimonials and ratings from well-known platforms.”

For local businesses, optimizing their customer journeys helps them identify different opportunities to help their customers have a better buying experience. For example, potential buyers who are in the decision stage want to know whether they can trust the business. And, as Tim pointed out, having trust factors responds to what these potential customers need. 

When growing the client’s local business, you want to make the best use of the resources available to make sure that you build a solid online presence for them. As you do this, you don’t want to direct the resources you have on initiatives that push you to spend more money without a guarantee of consistent ROI. Tim goes on to explain:

 “Another example is that the ‘Top of Funnel’ content often gets neglected and giant lead aggregator sites are out here aggressively answering every common question in the buying process, so the homeowner will be primed and ready to enter their contact information into their familiar and friendly branded website. You deserve to have that lead directly on your site, not pay Home Advisor or its 15 sub-sites like Angi. They often advertise for companies’ names and sell that lead back to the company.”  

How To Optimize Customer Journey Stages to Grow Your Client’s Business 

The collection of events occurring in each stage of the customer journey reveals what’s going on in the potential customer’s mind, and their behavior helps you predict the questions they have, and what they feel and think. Think with Google refers to these events as moments , stating that “consumers want what they want, when they want it and they’re drawn to brands that deliver on their needs.’’

Google Moments

Here’s how to be present, useful, and accountable:

Awareness  

The awareness stage typically reflects “I want to know’’ and “I want to do’’ moments, where the searcher is looking for information to understand their problem better.

While this marks the beginning of their customer journey, the information they find on their Google searches will determine how they proceed. 

If you’re relying on content to drive awareness of your client’s local services, you want to make sure that your content ranks in the SERPs

In addition to optimizing it for search engines, you also need to match the intent and context of the searcher. Amanda Jordan, Local SEO Director at RicketyRoo Inc explains why; 

“Don’t make potential customers search for answers. One of the most important parts of local SEO content is to understand the intent of the custom at each stage and to adequately fulfill it. A service page or location page with no opportunities to contact a business is a missed opportunity. Blog posts that focus on generic content that is not local specific or doesn’t answer the most common questions related to the topic doesn’t provide a good experience.”

Content that matches the intent and context of the searcher delivers a great user experience. A spot check of the results a searcher gets when looking for lawn care tips reveals a featured snippet: 

Featured snippet

video content:

Video SERP

 …and written content: 

Written content SERP

These results show that searchers want content related to this keyword in different formats to help them learn more about how to take care of their lawns. 

If you’re only creating written content for your client, consider repurposing it to videos or images and get hold of searchers who prefer consuming content in different formats. 

Amanda Jordan, explains the rationale behind using different content formats:

“Understanding how your target audience searches helps you determine what elements of SEO are most important for your business. For example, though photos in your Google Business profile aren’t a ranking factor, a restaurant with no photos or very few photos will see a drastic difference than a restaurant with several photos. On the other hand, an attorney or locksmith doesn’t need to focus on having hundreds of photos for success.”

By creating different content formats, these assets can then be repurposed for a number of different marketing channels today, such as social media and email marketing. This further increases the chances of boosting awareness of the local business. 

Still, on user experience, 61% of local searchers rely on their mobile devices to search for local businesses, so you want to make sure that your client’s website is optimized for mobile devices. Use a mobile-friendly checker or Google’s own tool to see how your client’s web pages show up on mobile devices.

For written content, make sure it is easy to consume by avoiding lots of distractions such as ads and pop-ups every few seconds. Instead of trying to get hold of your readers at every turn while they’re on the page, make your call to actions clear enough so that readers know the next steps they should take. 

Evaluation and Decision

Evaluation and decision stages capture two moments: “I want to go’’ and “I want to buy”

During evaluation, the searcher has probably identified potential service providers comparing them with the competition. If your client’s content did a good job during the awareness stage, then their business has made it to the shortlist. 

In this stage, the comparison might include things such as features of the product or what buyers get with different service packages, pricing, and reviews. 

To stand out, create content around the high-intent keywords they’re using and demonstrate why you’re better than the competition. Tim Brown has this to say about content topics in these stages:

“Another mistake is avoiding ‘spicy’ topics like money. Price is the number one objection in the sales process, but we think avoiding it will help us get MORE customers. We need to talk about the things that affect price. We need to talk about competing solutions, and we need to talk about why we’re more expensive, and other difficult conversations. Instead of putting our head in the sand, we need to act like we would in a real conversation with a prospect and address it head-on because that makes it more likely they will trust us and understand the fundamental components of the deal, not freeze up later when they see our quote.”

When you address these issues head-on in your content, potential customers will start setting the correct internal expectations around the brand, the service, and what to expect when they reach out. 

In addition to tackling spicy topics, share reviews from previous customers to demonstrate credibility and help them overcome any doubts they may have about your client’s service or brand. 

Brightlocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2022 reveals that 77% of consumers “always” or “regularly” read reviews when browsing local businesses so you need to ensure these trust factors are prominently featured on your website and other review platforms. 

Given that some of their searches will include specific locations, make sure that your Google Business Profile listing is accurate and up-to-date. You can also use a business phone service to set up custom phone numbers for different locations or advertising campaigns—letting you see how your efforts are influencing the customer journey for your clients.

Loyalty and Referral

It’s easy to pay more attention to what happens before a searcher becomes a paying customer, and seemingly fail to be proactive about what happens after the sale. 

The first three stages require you to provide content. The last two stages require you to interact with the customer and collect feedback from them. And once the deal is closed, then there’s less need to be proactive about customer interactions, right? 

Wrong.

There’s a lot that goes into earning a customer’s loyalty, and great customer service is one of them.

In addition to advising your client to be responsive to customer inquiries, make sure that the contact information that your client provides is accurate. Provide different channels through which they can get help in case they have any questions. 

You also want to have a consistent flow of feedback from customers so that you can use them on review sites and on different touchpoints, such as landing pages and on the homepage..  98% of potential customers read reviews for local businesses, meaning that what other customers say about your client’s business has an impact on conversion rates. 

Optimize your Customer Buying Journey Now

Understanding how your client’s audience behaves at each stage of the customer buying journey is the first step towards optimizing it to deliver great buying experiences. 

We’ve talked about key moments during the buying journey, how each of these moments fits in with the buying stages, and what you can do to improve your conversions. 

To get started with implementing what we’ve discussed, sign up for Brightlocal’s 14-day trial. Brightlocal offers a suite of local SEO tools for agencies, so you can track your client’s local rankings to help inform you of the next steps.

Alex Birkett
About the author
Alex Birkett is the co-founder of Omniscient Digital, a premium content marketing agency. He lives in Austin, Texas with his dog Biscuit and loves to write, scuba dive, and build things.

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