Starting a brick-and-mortar business is already difficult enough, but securing funding to support growth is an entirely different battle. In this article, capital-raising expert Dave Lavinsky explains how marketers can use their expertise to help clients grow their business by raising capital, and build a long-term client relationship to boot.
Helping your client to grow their brick-and-mortar business is no easy task.
This sentiment is even more powerful in today’s business landscape, where viruses and variants threaten the existence of established brick-and-mortar businesses around the world. Even before COVID-19 changed the way we consume and make purchasing decisions, business owners were already facing challenges of a different kind.
An oft-cited statistic from the U.S. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says that 20% of American businesses fail within the first year. Within five years, that number jumps to 50%. Some of the best retailers of the 21st century faltered: Sears; J.C. Penny; Pier 1 Imports; GNC, and Toys R Us, among others. In 2019, a record-breaking 9,500 brick-and-mortar stores went out of business. In 2020, an additional 12,500 stores closed.
But this isn’t a grim tale about the highly-debated future of brick-and-mortar stores; if anything, the pandemic has given people a new appreciation for neighborhood retailers, restaurants, and experiences. Companies who were able to pivot their strategy survived—and even thrived—during COVID, with those that were able to quickly adapt to online marketing particularly well-placed. In fact, many businesses were launched during these tumultuous times.
As a marketer, the key to growing your SEO or marketing business is uniquely positioning yourself to help clients beyond the technicalities of citations, on-site optimization, and link building. Instead, consider how you can help your clients grow their businesses, and make your work indispensable to their success.
The Rise of New Businesses
In the midst of one of the biggest economic catastrophes in modern history, business startups in the United States increased by 24% from 2019 to 2020. The burgeoning interest in starting a business is clear.
And when you connect the dots, it makes sense. During the height of COVID-19, many Americans revisited abandoned hobbies, reassessed career goals as unemployment rates skyrocketed, and questioned their goals during lockdown and social distancing. My company Growthink, a business plan consulting firm, saw a record-breaking number of business plan template downloads in 2021.
The modern business landscape is changing, but one thing has stayed the same: no matter what type of business your client has, they need a business plan to get a bank loan or raise money from investors. Brick-and-mortar businesses need strong business plans and traction (or demonstrable interest) to appease lenders.
If you want to help your client raise money and renew their SEO and marketing contracts, it’s time to collaborate with them to work your local SEO strategy into their business plans.
Integrating Your Local SEO Strategy Into Investor Documentation
It’s no secret that local SEO is a must for brick-and-mortar businesses. Local SEO attracts potential buyers who want to make an immediate purchase. According to Google, nearly half of all searches have local intent, and even as early as 2015, 93% of local searches display the coveted local pack. Furthermore, Google searches with the phrase “near me” have doubled in 2020. The majority of people who conduct a local search visit a store within five miles and 18% of local mobile purchases lead to a sale within one day.
Savvy, up-to-date marketers understand the relevance of local SEO and have likely heard the aforementioned statistics before (and used it in sales pitches of their own).
However, these statistics are important because most companies that create business plans only briefly mention local SEO, if at all. If the power of local SEO is strong, so why isn’t it used to communicate growth potential in fundraising documents?
The first step you should take is to help your client integrate local SEO statistics and metrics into the “marketing plan” section of their business plan or pitch deck. Many lenders (accredited investors and financial institutions) are not SEO experts—it’s a foreign language to them.
Once you and your client feel comfortable about the data you’ve compiled for their business plan, it’s time to start meeting with investors. Even if you aren’t a part of the in-house team, consider attending these meetings with your client and structuring a new revenue share agreement for your participation. Having an SEO professional on-site will help your client appear more professional, informed, and well-equipped to communicate the competitive advantages of local SEO.
The investors your client chooses to meet depend on the type of business they’re running. For a simple coffee shop or retail store, the chances are that they’ll meet with a bank lender. On the other hand, if they just launched their first coworking location, they might meet with an angel investor.
During a meeting, it’s crucial that you communicate the value of local SEO with simple language and concrete data, just as you would with a new client. Here are a few tips to help you achieve this:
- Use visual graphs. The age-old adage “show, don’t tell” is an important part of communicating how local SEO plays a major role in the company’s growth trajectory. Bar charts, pie charts, and line graphs can help convey the power of local SEO in a visually appealing way.
- Share and explain growth reports. Lenders and investors aren’t always sales-focused; many investors invest in companies with little profits because they see long-term potential. Pull your Local Rank Tracker report, show clickthrough rates from local results, and report page positioning increases. Any metrics that show a story of growth will help.
- Cite statistics. Investors want to know that real studies have been conducted and data has been collected. Fortunately, you don’t have to hire a market research firm to do this for you, as there’s plenty of publicly available data on local SEO.
- Avoid teaching. If you’ve ever tried to explain to a family member or friend what SEO is or how it works locally, you probably understand that the conversation can go on for quite a while. Investors don’t need or want a crash course in SEO—they need easily digestible pieces of information that show the bigger picture.
In addition to the “Marketing Plan” section of your client’s business plan, you can also include the benefits of local SEO in the “Competitor Analysis” section. Numerous competitor analysis tools can reveal the local SEO efforts that other companies are putting into their business.
In a traditional business plan, the competitor analysis section hones in on a competitor’s market share, pricing, strengths, weaknesses, and customer reviews. But every search engine optimizer knows that there’s plenty of value in examining their traffic, ranking keywords, and local influence. Use this data to help demonstrate that your client is better-positioned to attract local customers than its competitors.
A Sample of a Local SEO Strategy for a Business Plan
Let’s examine the competitive analysis section of a business plan for a fictional coffee shop called Bohemian Cupsody.
Using the Competitive Research Dashboard on Semrush, we pulled the following metrics for Bohemian Cupsody. It shows that Bohemian Cupsody has 67 keywords contributing to featured snippets and 19 keywords that contribute to local packs.
Tip for communicating SEO lingo in simple terms:
Snippets: A few sentences of useful text pulled from your website and placed at the top of search engine results pages.
Local Packs: A digital business card that appears at the top of search engine results pages along with direct competitors.
Now here’s the same competitive research screenshot for another local fictional coffee shop, Bottom of the Drip.
As you can see, Bottom of the Drip will not appear higher than Bohemian Cupsody in search engine results, and customers conducting a search for local coffee shops are more likely to go to the former.
Marketers and SEO professionals are taught to use dashboard metrics to communicate progress to clients, and sometimes clients include those reports in their business plan.
However, by leveraging your knowledge of local SEO and insight, you can uniquely position yourself to build a long-term partnership with your client by helping them secure funding that supports long-term contracts. Looking beyond financial plans and forecasts can help your clients prove their potential to lenders based on the place where almost every consumer begins to shop: Google.