Local Business Marketing: How Good Is Your Website?

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by on January 29, 2012

How do visitors to your website react to its design and content? If you knew what visitors think about your website, would it change your approach to local business marketing? Discover insights into these important issues that may alter your Internet marketing strategies and techniques.

A recent survey queried consumers about their experiences with local business websites. It sought answers from 1,790 local consumers, of both genders, and yielded 1,212 responses from a mixture of ages and locations in the United States.

The interesting two questions, to me, were what factors might encourage or discourage visitors from contacting a local business while visiting its website. In marketing parlance, it impacts ‘conversion’ of suspects into prospects, and hopefully into customers. Let’s take a closer look at these two survey results for converting local consumers (published January, 2012).

How to Encourage Visitors to Contact a Local Business

Which of the following is most likely to encourage you to contact and use a local business?

28%  A good value, special offer or deal
15%  Visible prices
13%  Positive testimonial from existing customer
7%  Easy to find contact details
3%  Nice photo of the business owner/manager
33%  All of the these

The most frequently selected, single response was a ‘good value, special offer or deal’ on the website. This is a ‘call to action’, which should be part of any traditional or online advertising.

The most frequent marketing mistake that I see on small business websites is the lack or under use of it. A ‘call to action’ should be highly visible – often, the top right corner of a website page. Alternative forms of a ‘call to action’ are a forward phone number, address and/or email address, depending on the type of business and the page’s content and purpose.

If your website is not using prominent calls to action, your business is likely missing prospects that could be walking in the door or contacting it by phone or electronic mail.

When to Show Pricing

The second response, visible prices, is not necessarily a good business practice for local business websites. If the business operates an e-commerce website, where online purchases are transacted, prices are required.

For local businesses where purchases on made in a store or office, showing prices can promote premature price comparisons before the value of a potential purchase is understood. Pricing is most effectively provided after the prospect’s problem or need is identified, and a solution and its benefits are communicated. For many businesses, this is often best accomplished in person or on the phone.

How to Frustrate Visitors from Contacting a Local Business

Which of the following is most likely to stop you from contacting and using a local business?

40%  No physical address shown on website
22%  A website which is slow to use
21%  An ugly and badly designed website
10%  A website which looks old and ‘tired’
7%  A website which doesn’t have any pictures

It seems many offenses are poor usability and appearance, such as outdated design elements that can also impact ease of use. The largest single negative factor, however, is the lack of an address, along with photos, which do little to build familiarity and trust toward a business.

In particular, a physical business address on a website helps visitors decide whether to visit or call, based on its proximity to the prospect. Often, if an address is missing, it destroys trust since it raises doubts – “Is the website trying to appear as a local business, when it is not?” Marketing local businesses online requires building familiarity, transparency and trust into its online presence.

More authoritative advice on this issue, however, comes from a quote in Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson, where Jobs said:

“Some people say, ‘Give the customers what they want.’ But that’s not my approach. Our job is to figure out what they’re going to want before they do. I think Henry Ford once said, ‘If I’d asked customers what they wanted, they would have told me, “A faster horse!” People don’t know what they want until you show it to them. That’s why I never rely on market research. Our task is to read things that are not yet on the page.”

While his comments are often attributed to product innovation and design, Jobs also integrated it into the entire customer experience. We should use a little caution applying user feedback, even “things that are on the page”, could benefit from a little skepticism, and might inform your local business marketing.

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Arrieta April 20, 2012 at 1:12 PM

Mary – these are great insights backed up with some very illuminating data. I think that the point you make about establishing a clear call to action is one that a lot of business owners overlook – to their detriment. Many of the business owners that we’ve worked with have hastily thrown together a website and try to monetize their investment by jumping straight to pay per click advertising. They end up throwing a boatload of money out the window before they realize that they’re not successfully incentivizing conversions because of the lack of a compelling and clearly communicated call to action. That’s definitely a key takeaway that all businesses should implement fairly early on when developing their web presence.

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Mary Brophy April 26, 2012 at 8:25 PM

I agree, most website owners should take an objective look at their websites before jumping into paid advertising. The advertisement can motivate someone to click, but unless the website page where they land persuasively answers the clicker’s needs, the visitor will quickly leave. With a well targeted image, message and call to action, a relationship may be born.

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Paul Breslau April 21, 2012 at 3:51 PM

The relationship between website local business marketing and social media would be interesting to explore. It would seem that optimizing both would be in a businesses best interest. However, where does the biggest payoff come from?

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Mary Brophy April 26, 2012 at 10:06 PM

Paul,

While social media and website marketing are both types of local business marketing, they vary in a people’s intent to buy something. Customers or potential customers usually show up on a business website or blog via local search results or paid ads, with the intent to educate themselves before a making a purchase or to make a purchase.

Social media marketing is meeting the customer where the customer likes to mingle which requires more casual and personal interactions. It is more about socializing and being entertained, rather than wanting to buy something. Some people will make a purchase decision in a social media setting, depending on the product or service, but it is more like a networking event where the odds are low, and the need to nurture the relationship is higher.

Both are beneficial and needed in the long run, the same as traditional marketing where most businesses needs more than one marketing channel, say advertising and meeting people face to face.

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Know more March 7, 2013 at 10:09 AM

Good day! Do you know if they make any plugins to assist with SEO?

I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but I’m not seeing very good success.

If you know of any please share. Kudos!

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Mary Brophy March 18, 2013 at 4:23 PM

If you have a Wordpress blog, there are many SEO plugins to choose from. My favorite is Wordpress SEO by Joost. It’s great for beginners and experts for targeting keywords.

If you are a local business, as it seems you are, targeting keywords is not as simple as using them in blog posts, although it helps. Local businesses don’t need to tightly target keywords as much as they used to, however, it’s best to publish regularly and about topics of interest to prospects and customers. By addressing their interests, your business will earn their respect and trust, making them more likely to purchase from your business.

To rank for your best keywords, local businesses also need to build other types of online authority and trust. This is typically achieved with online citations, listings on directories and local or themed based websites. Finally, make sure your website has the proper internal structure and content, so that it communicates effectively with the search engines while following their guidelines.

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