One of the biggest marketing myths is that small businesses are at a disadvantage.
The outdated logic goes something like this: Corporate budgets lead to TV spots. This ad space leads to exposure. Exposure leads to sales.
Luckily, things work a little differently in the internet age. Sales are driven largely by Google searches and online content. This content is judged by quality and relevance, not merely by the size of your budget. You have opportunities – BIG opportunities – to differentiate yourself from vast corporate networks by adding real value for your ideal customer.
In my experience, businesses which target a local audience have the biggest advantage in the content marketing game. As local newspapers shrink in size, people of all ages are craving community news and profiles. When families face issues (legal, health-related, financial, and so on) they face them in the context of their location. They seek services from nearby professionals. They buy, sell, and share with their neighbors on social media.
If you’re lucky enough to be a brand connecting with people in a certain location, that location should be at the centre of your strategy. Sure, you can compete with big brands by writing generic, impersonal articles related to your niche. You can cross your fingers that the location in your website footer gives you all the local SEO you need. But content marketing is all about connecting with the people your business can help. If those people are nearby, your content should reflect that geography.
Here are a few things I urge local businesses to consider as they develop their content strategy and seek meaningful branding opportunities online.
Rule #1: Give props to local people and businesses in your network.
While big corporations struggle with impersonal-seeming case studies and complicated cross-promotions, local businesses can use their company blogs to unlock huge networking opportunities. By shining a light on others in a meaningful way, they can solidify community partnerships and expand the reach of their articles.
For example, a business lawyer could profile philanthropic projects from peers and professional associations, creating a relationship with those businesses and their partners. A hotel could blog about upcoming events nearby. A contractor or real estate agent could feature interior designers, community services, or other agencies that work with similar clientele.
These articles, which are often shared by the people they feature, build professional relationships while interesting the community as a whole. It’s networking, SEO building, and content marketing rolled into one. Win-win-win.
Rule #2: Target, target, target.
I’ll be the first to admit that it feels really good to have tons of social media followers and website hits. But when it comes to content marketing, bigger isn’t always better.
Facebook pages with a large fanbase reach less of their audience than pages with a small, engaged group of fans. It’s simple: when superfans interact with your content, Facebook rewards you with greater reach. Bigger pages are held to a much higher engagement standard, and posts are typically shown to only 2-6% of their audience organically. It’s pretty hard to create an online community when you have a huge, disconnected crowd that hardly sees your content. If your goal is to attract paying customers, it’s almost always better to have 100 engaged fans than 10,000 uninterested “likes” on your page.
The same is true for website traffic. One qualified visitor who converts into a lead is worth a lot more to your bottom line than a bunch of people outside your target audience. Local businesses should focus on the people and places they truly want to reach instead of playing a popularity game with everyone online.
Rule #3: Create original content that local searchers want.
There is a LOT of content out there. An estimated 2 million blog posts are published every day (!!!), so standing out from the crowd is a tall order.
Local content has an edge when it comes to providing value online. Sure, articles about farmer’s markets are all over the internet…but what about a strong piece about farmer’s markets in Kitchener? Yes, there are several authoritative databases of French immersion programs in Ontario schools…but is there a map showing the location of those schools relative to available real estate in your market? According to marketing guru Joe Pulizzi, originality is the most important thing to consider when investing in content. When you think local, it’s much easier to come up with useful articles that have never been written before.
Local content also performs better on social media and Google rankings. There are the three main reasons:
- If a person near you is looking for services, stories, or information, Google may consider your local content more relevant than a non-local alternative.
- People are more likely to click on social media content that is relevant to them. A fun article featuring a local business’ random act of kindness will outperform a boring article about corporate philanthropy (trust me – I’ve boosted both).
- Competition will be a lot lower on local keywords. When it comes to getting attention and closing sales, it’s nice to be a “big fish in a small pond.”
Who benefits from local content strategy the most?
While anyone selling goods or services in a certain geographic area can benefit from locally-oriented content, there are a few types of businesses that can kill it with community-centred strategy. These include:
- Geographically-based professionals such as lawyers, real estate agents, or health care providers
- People in communities ranging from 200,000 to 800,000 people. Targeting the half million residents of Waterloo Region much more reasonable task than aiming at massive cities like Toronto or Vancouver.
- Professionals who get a large number of customers from referrals, such as venues or contractors. Cross-promotional or “giving props” style posts are especially successful here.
- Those who have experience nurturing online leads. Driving conversions through a website will mean more email inquiries, so having a structure in place to respond to these is key.
- Knowledgeable professionals who want to be considered a “local expert” in their field and can offer unique insights
Does this sound like you? I’d love to help you create an awesome content calendar that truly connects to your community. Book a free 20-minute strategy call today!