Turning Local Enthusiasts Into Customers: Part 1
National marketing makes sense for many business owners in the performance aftermarket, especially manufacturers and retailers. For some however, the biggest opportunity for success will be with their local region. Roll bar and roll cage fabricators, custom exhaust and chassis specialists, parts installers, dyno tuners, paint and auto body shops, repair and maintenance pros, and various other service providers will rely heavily on local customers to grow their business. Do a little research on “local SEO” and your head will be spinning in no time with the information overload. This series will focus on proven tools and ideas that will help you leverage the internet to grow your local customer base.
If customers can’t find you in the popular online local directories you are not going to succeed. Gone are the days of the phone book. Today businesses are found in “local search” directories when the user does a search for something like “exhaust shop” or “classic car restoration in Sacramento” on Google. The search results will include a map full of markers, each with a shop that Google thinks the user is searching for. Below that will be mix of directory websites like Yelp, YellowPages, and Yahoo Local, mixed with actual shop websites.
You want to be one of those companies with a marker on the map, and you also want to be listed in the directory websites that show up down below the map listings. Don’t get too caught up in the idea that you have to be listed in ALL of these local directories, as you’ll find hundreds out there and everyone wants to sell you a solution to get your shop listed in every single one of them. Not necessary.
I suggest doing it one of two ways – submit your business manually and focus on a few directories or use a service to get listed in several directories. There are advantages to both approaches. Let’s break it down:
Submitting to Local Directories Manually
Listing your business manually in a handful of the top directories is perfect for those who have a lot of spare time, as it’s free to submit to these directories. There is no cost associated with doing it this way outside of your time.
Unless you’re just opening for business, chances are your shop is already listed in some of these directories. If it is, you’ll need to “claim” the listing – a process that involves clicking a “claim this listing” link and going through a verification process to let the directory know that you are indeed an authorized representative for the business. Sometimes it’s an automated phone call, an email confirmation, or even a snail-mail postcard with a PIN number. Each directory is a little different.
“Which directories should I care about?”
The popular directories usually include Yelp, Yahoo Local, Super Pages, Google+ (and Google Maps). Focus on where your competitors are listed first, and do some keyword searches to find what directories show up with results. For example, if you focus on dyno tuning in San Diego, do some Google searches for “dyno tuning San Diego” and see which directories show up in the results.
– Keep it Consistent
It is crucial that all of your basic information – name, phone number, address, email address, website, and short description are all consistent when you submit to each directory, and that info should all match what is posted on your website. Why, you ask? Because Google rules the web and Google will rank you lower in the local search results if your listings are inconsistent. Do some research on “local citation building” and you’ll get more info on this. It’s also a good practice to use a consistent logo and representative photos for your listings, include payment options, hours of operation, and products/brands you offer – this is more for branding consistency, but it’s something I always do for our clients.
Using a Submission Service for Local Directories
The second option is to use a service to manage your listings – I will recommend Yext since I use it and find it VERY convenient. The biggest advantage to using a listing service like this is that it saves you time, and you don’t have to remember several different log-ins to all of the different directories you submit your listing to – and you WILL need to log back into them at some point, trust me. Either to make tweaks to these listings every so often to update your descriptions (for SEO purposes) and add new photos, or to reply to reviews – and yes, you will have to reply to reviews at some point.
Yext makes this very simple and efficient. The service claims and updates your listings on your behalf, using content you submit through their administration panel. The only downside to using Yext is that if you ever decide to cancel your service down the road, all of your listings will roll back to what they looked like before you claimed/updated them through Yext. All of the changes you made via Yext will be removed from your listings and you’ll need to manually go in and claim them all and update them individually. Keep that in mind.
Go Back and Review Your Listings on Occasion
Theoretically, once you set up your listings there is not much more that needs to be done to them, unless of course you change what your shop specializes in, you change your contact information, or you move your company’s physical location. These directories can be used to post coupons and promotions – though many of them will charge a fee for it. But you can always go in and swap out photos of the shop and keep the listings fresh.
Monitor Your Reviews
Once your listings are all set up and optimized you can move on to pushing for positive reviews of your company in these directories. Be sure to abide by all of the different directory policies – Yelp, for example, tells companies they cannot solicit reviews. No, I’m not joking. Instead, they want you to tell your customers to “Find Us on Yelp”.
Monitoring your company’s reviews is going to be come extremely important as you go. Not only will more reviews help your ranking in local search results, but it helps build your reputation as a trusted local shop – and that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Just be sure to keep customers happy so that they’ll post glowing reviews – and if you receive negative reviews, post a professional reply to it (we will cover this in-depth in a future article). Replying to positive reviews is also recommended.
Choose the person who will be monitoring your reviews very carefully. It should be someone who displays empathy, patience and emotional maturity – someone who is articulate, professional, and savvy when dealing with the public. Your business depends heavily on the actions and judgement of this person.
Now, go out and start building your local listings!
As always, if you need help with any of your online marketing efforts, feel free to contact us.