It’s pretty clear, customers prefer to deal with local businesses. According to a Yodle survey of over 6,000 U.S. based consumers, conducted in April 2015, 96% believe local businesses beat national chains on delivering personalized services. That’s an astounding and overwhelming insight.
Further highlighting that preference, 72% say they are willing to pay more to a local business for better quality work than they would expect from a national chain.
That bias toward local business is a real competitive advantage for small business owners. Think about that for a second – the big, national chain with millions in advertising is at a disadvantage to your one-man operation.
Yet, so few businesses take advantage of this imbalance. Choosing to hide behind a toll-free number and PO box to appear bigger than they are, when there is a clear advantage to promoting their small-time status. It’s time to fix that.
Promote Your Local Street Cred
Your business sends out a lot of signals on a regular basis. Marketing communications, business identity, letterhead, business cards, your website, and many more. Each is an opportunity to highlight your local presence.
The easiest place to start is with your contact information. Nothing says “hey neighbor!” like a local phone number and address.
That’s right, skip the toll-free number and pick up an area code that people around you will recognize.
According to a 2014 study by Software Advice, people are nearly four times more likely to answer an unknown number that is local compared to an unknown toll-free number.
Consider the expectation that a local presence sets with the customer, and that disparity makes a lot more sense. Local means real, local means personal, local means quality.
Be Local, Without Being Local
Naturally, right about now, you’re thinking “That’s all fine and dandy, but I need to reach multiple markets near me, maybe even across state lines, and I can’t afford to setup an office everywhere”.
Fair enough, that’s a legitimate concern. The beauty of the 21st century is that you can get all of those benefits, without the overhead.
Setting up a local phone number in each of your target areas is extremely easy. If you’re already a Ruby customer, a quick email will get you taken care of.
Ruby will even host your local number for you, so you don’t have to deal with a separate provider—it’s a pretty sweet deal. Certainly, you can look toward services like Grasshopper and RingCentral, among many others, to provide local numbers as well.
When it comes to addresses, that can be a bit trickier. There are several solutions available that cater to local address presence. You might have heard of virtual offices from Regus, Davinci Virtual, or Alliance Business Centers to name a few.
There’s also Earth Class Mail, which offers virtual addresses in many markets with the added benefit of mail scanning. Unlike virtual office providers, a virtual address service is much more affordable and scalable.
Armed with your new tools, you can take advantage of that local business bias in your marketing campaigns.
There’s a lot of opportunity to improve ad performance online by featuring your local number instead of a toll-free. Especially on mobile, where click-to-call has become a dominant way for prospects to interact with businesses.
Similarly, there’s still a lot of opportunity in direct mail, especially if you’re sending your materials via first-class to high quality leads. Imagine the impact of that lead knowing that you’re in their neighborhood, not just some faceless organization with a PO Box in Delaware (unless you’re in Delaware, of course).
And don’t forget the power of Google.
An updated and current Google My Business profile puts your company’s address, phone number, website, and directions right in front of Google searchers. When somebody searches your business category near me (grocery store near me), your business will be readily available on search or maps.
In fact, Google My Business information shows up on the side of Google search or with a map segment at the top of the search results. These results are more noticeable, segmented, and likely to be clicked.
Of course, this can be tricky if you don’t have a physical address. Google requires an address to match the listing, and there can only be one listing per address.
If on the other hand you have multiple addresses, it’s important to make sure your information is listed, verified, and accurate across all your locations.
If you find yourself with a little bit of budget and a desire to reach out locally, Google advertising is also a great option. By targeting local keywords—service in location—you can ensure your business appears local, even if you don’t have a physical address.
Local is the new cool (and you’ve already got what it takes!)
Getting started with this strategy is really easy, so don’t hold back. Whether you’re a real estate agent, attorney, home service provider, plumber, electrician, or anywhere in between—there’s a real opportunity to capture more leads and grow your business.
Michael Beck is the Head of Growth & Marketing at @EarthClassMail, constant tinkerer, and gearhead. He’s always happy to share his experiences and help others avoid his missteps.