Today I’d like to share some tips about how to maximise the local audience in Ealing, but first -“why?”. Why should businesses like ours want local people to buy our stuff and use our services?
Yes, you’re right – the first thing is credibility. Wouldn’t you prefer to buy a product from someone who lives in your neighbourhood, rather than some vague online presence that may or may not be a real business? On the other side of the transaction, a local customer will be more likely to pay invoices and pass on recommendations.
Being recommended by a mutual acquaintance is likely to do more for your business than any advertisement or social media message you can write about yourself.
So, credibility is important. It also means you can be a better business than one in another town, for example you can offer same-day delivery, less travel for customers, fresher produce, alterations, and can then provide follow-up products or services.
Apparently, according to Google, 97% of customers search online for business, including local business, and the average consumer will use two or more different sources to look up local business information.
So the first thing we need to do is let local people know we’re here. They can’t shop with us if they don’t know we exist, and where we exist. We need to let them know we’re close by, and give customers the opportunity to benefit from shopping locally.
My five top tips
Here are five ways to make sure customers find you. I’m going to use Ealing examples, because most of are from Ealing, but what I’m saying can easily be applied to any other area.
1.Use the actual word ‘Ealing’.
If not in your business name or product, at least make sure ‘Ealing’ is mentioned in your various online profiles, hashtagged often in your Twitter posts, and in tags and keywords for your website and blog.
Depending on the context, for example on LinkedIn, it may help to add London or West London after the word Ealing. It lets people know where you are. Ealing people love to follow other Ealing people on social media. Also, if you have an 0208 landline, consider adding that into your profiles or listings, along with your mobile number. Make use of Google Places if you’re ok with everyone knowing where your business is located. This may not work for home-based businesses, but it’s still something to consider, especially as Google Reviews come with Google Places, and these star-rated reviews are priceless.
2. Pay for local exposure.
Use all or as many of the local advertising options as you can afford, not only my Contactus magazines (e.g. ‘Contactus Ealing’ and ‘The_Ealinger’), which offer good value as they are published online and sometimes in print, but also the local newspaper Ealing Gazette, and local radio station Westside Radio.
The key thing is to spread out your message to as many nearby places as possible, to increase the chances of customers seeing your message. The more places they see your message, the more likely they will be to take notice of it. I call it the “drip-drip” effect.
This is all in addition to your usual marketing material like t-shirts, balloons, pens, posters and flyers, distributed to local places.
Other useful places to pay for exposure are school calendars, festival booklets, sponsored banners, neighbourhood newsletters, and event sponsoring.
The advantage of paying for exposure is that it’s guaranteed, and will not end up in the editor’s bin, or relegated to a one-line mention.
3.Maximise the free options.
Be sure to make full use of free online listings such as on the EalingToday website, or the Ealing Times online newspaper, and keep these listings updated. You can also get a free listing at Mumsnet Ealing, or at iLondon, Hibu and Scoot, and CityBiz is one of the new phone apps that aims to make it easy to find a business based on your location.
If you belong to any membership group, such as The Athena Network, there is usually some amount of free online exposure. Make sure to take advantage of these, adding photos, videos, links, etc. All these external listings have the additional benefit of boosting your SEO, so your potential customers can find you faster.
4.Be busy on local social media.
Facebook pages may not be as effective in reaching people as before, so pay more attention to Facebook groups, especially the closed local ones where the posts show up in members’ email inboxes.
Start with my group of course, ‘Businesses in Ealing’, but try to be active in one or two of the main neighbourhood ones: Pitshanger Area Friends, Northfields Friends, West Ealing Neighbours, or Hanwell Friends.
The key here is to interact – reply to questions, join in conversations. Just posting and disappearing won’t work. Use other local businesses, comment about them, leave reviews and share their links, and they will be more likely to do the same for you.
Similarly on Twitter, the local business community is quite active, particularly on a Tuesday evening between 8pm and 9pm, when it is #EalingHour, and if you tweet something useful, and include that #EalingHour hashtag, it’s likely to get retweeted several times and gain you lots of local exposure.
On LinkedIn, we have a couple of local groups, such as the Ealing Business Network, and Growing West Ealing – these groups are very useful especially if your business is a B2B model.
5. Network in different places.
My final tip for building a local presence is an offline one – be seen out and about in Ealing. Attend lots of networking events.
For this to work properly, you will need to have posted your photo somewhere in your online presence. People really react to this; and saying “I recognise you from your LinkedIn profile” can be a real ice breaker.
Where should you network? Why, here of course, at Ealing Connect, and other local networking events. I post a list of these events in my Ealing Business Diary every Monday morning, which you can find on the Contactus website. The Diary is also published in The_Ealinger magazine, subscribe here to get it for free by email: eepurl.com/bLdZQb.
Try to get out to support local events, like markets, festivals, sport matches, tweetups, or street fairs, and if there is a raffle and you can donate a prize and be announced while you present it to the winner, even better.
The ultimate boost is to put on an event yourself, that way you promote the event and it promotes you, and you increase your credibility.
It is important to be local
I’d just like to finish by acknowledging that there are actually downsides to pushing the local agenda too hard: you can end up limiting your business if you’re not careful, making it difficult to expand when you’re ready.
Also, not everyone wants to be seen as local, some businesses may prefer an anonymous profile which they find relaxes their audience.
But ultimately, most businesses will benefit from having more local customers, and if they are regular, loyal customers, even better. It’s not just about supporting the community and investing in local business who then spend with others locally thereby boosting the economic status of our town; it’s also about how business begins at home, and how building a solid base will lead to stronger growth, and enable a smoother expansion when the time is right to scale up the business.