In a smaller town or suburban centre, it can be fairly easy to dominate your market, because the competition is very low. Your site can pick up top-5 search engine rankings without even working for them. And if you like, you can increase your exposure with AdWords.
But what do you do, if you’re still not getting enough business, even as the biggest fish in a small pond?
1. You could settle for the business volume you have. If you’re the local florist, there are only so many people that will think about sending flowers on any given day. There are only so many weddings, graduations, funerals, and holidays. If it pays the bills, maybe that's all you need.
2. Another approach is to target other neighbouring communities, or the closest city. (And we have some effective strategies for doing just that.) If you’re the local plumber, there are only so many toilets to unplug, drains to unclog and new construction to plumb. If you want more business, you may have to expand into someone else’s backyard.
3. Or, you could expand your local customer base in your home town. Let’s say you’re the local kitchen retailer. At some point, everyone who wants a premium set of cookware or a knife set, already has one. Within a few years, the locals have everything they “need,” but there’s still plenty of opportunity in showing them things they will “want.”
Search engine rankings and AdWords are passive
Search marketing is effective only when your target audience is motivated to conduct a search. It’s like the old Yellow Pages book everyone once had beside the phone. You have to wait for people to think of you.
Our plumber, above, has to wait for the kid to flush the doll down the toilet. The roofer waits for a storm to make roofs leak. And the wedding photographer waits for John to propose to Becky.
On the day something triggers the thought in your customer’s mind, there’s nothing like top search engine rankings and paid search. You should definitely optimize your website and pursue top rankings. But to expand your customer base you will also have to find a way to become top of mind to all the people that aren’t normally thinking about you and what you sell.
When I was a boy, I would dig up some worms in Mom’s garden, pack up my fishing rod and head to Mill Lake, plop my hook in the water and watch the bobber. I’d wait… and wait… and wait… Most days I’d skunk. Search marketing can often be just like that.
Active online marketing
In 1993 I watched A River Runs Through It and was inspired by the Maclean brothers’ active approach to fishing. There was a strategy behind it.
These anglers studied the fish species and examined the hatch. They spent a day hand tying flies. They brought a selection of flies in their box and chose one of the same size and colour as the ones the fish were biting on. A notebook held a log of the pools in the river that had produced fish in the past.
They then carefully presented the fly, drifting it without any drag, through the pool the fish were holding in. With skill and persistence, and a bit of experimentation, a fish would eventually rise to take the fly, and the battle began. After expertly playing the fish, it would finally be placed gently in the wicker creel.
Wow, this was a lot more effective than watching a bobber all day! I never used the passive approach again.
Every day, millions of website owners check their websites traffic stats several times. Grrr! Why are there no emails or calls? The good news is that it doesn’t have to be a waiting game.
Content marketing is just like fly fishing. We carefully study our ideal customer. We find out what they’re interested in and where they hang out on the web. And then we craft content just for them.
We become involved in the places we know they’re hanging out. We present our content and engage with our audience. Tantalizing information and new ideas draw them to our blog, and tempt them into giving us their contact information on our landing pages.
We reel them in by providing brilliant content by email, nurturing our leads until they become buyers.
So where do you start?
I completed a consultation a few months ago with a client in a small community. They owned a costume rental and party store. Six years earlier, when the store opened, they were a novelty, and business was booming. But the novelty had long since worn off. Halloween sales were good, and the odd masquerade party brought in a bit of business. Long story, made short, they were in trouble.
I’ll just cover a few broad strokes, but the content strategy I laid out involved making their customers the stars. They were doing a bit of blogging and social media. But, as is so often the case, it was all shameless self promotion. Yuck! Who follows that?
I advised them to begin posting ‘case study’ posts following every customer party or event. We set up a cross promotion campaign in which a local photographer provides a free photo shoot of each party. Another set of images goes to the party organizers, so they can hit the social circuit. Their customers just loved it. Our posts include photo credits, with links, so the photography cost our clients nothing.
Our posts are magazine-style, full page spreads, with big in-your-face masonry wall galleries and video. Lots of photos of people having fun and getting a bit crazy. We promote the posts through all the major social channels: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, YouTube, Vimeo, Vine, Pinterest and Instagram.
We track social shares and local party goers could earn a discount on costumes and party supplies simply by sharing our posts. Their customers, attendees of the parties, and people who want to be invited to the next one, became their marketing team.
We have introduced a Murder Mystery Night marketing campaign, and it’s starting to take off.
If you’re tired of waiting for people to think of you, why not reach out to them through content?
If you have any questions, I welcome your comments; or send me an email.