In theory the internet has opened the door for local businesses to market their services across the globe, but in practice is has often allowed global players to consolidate their stranglehold on local markets. The top four or five bike shops have big budgets, slick websites and can often undercut small retailers. So how on earth are local bike shops supposed to compete?
First, a few key facts. More than 4 out of 5 consumers have searched locally for goods or services at some point and a clear majority (over 60%) would consider paying more to support a local businesses.
Yes, the internet opens small bike shops to global competition, but the solution isn’t resignation. With a clear and defined local marketing strategy, the big players can be taken on and beaten. The first step is to be willing to compete; the rest is about applying the correct strategies and know-how.
Traditional marketing still applies and works online, especially when combined with local knowledge, a little flair and a strong identity.
Local or Global?
Much of the information on marketing is geared towards global marketing. Even if you’re concentrating on business within the US or European markets, you’re still applying global marketing techniques.
Scaling these methods down to a local level doesn’t always make sense. In fact, if you specialise in offering bikes and parts to your local community then there is no real need for you to be recognised globally. Focusing on multiple markets at the neglect of your core business isn’t really focus at all – it’s simply confusion that can damage you long-term.
Marketing your bike shop at a local level is all about having a local presence. This is something that most business owners understand intuitively but can sometimes forget when they go online. You won’t need to rank highly on Google for ‘bike shops’ but ‘bike shop in…’ would be highly beneficial.
Identifying and choosing appropriate keywords makes you far more useful to your local customer base and will drive more of the traffic you actually need to your site. Today we are focusing on the three of best methods to drive customers to your site: social media, SEO and paid advertising.
Yes, you already know about social media. What you may not already know is that most businesses give up on it far too early, long before they have maximised its potential or gained much benefit from it at all. If you properly calibrate your efforts and are deliberate in your approach, social media really does work.
So, first things first, let’s set up that facebook page, get a Twitter handle, start posting a few photos to that Instagram page and... STOP!
All marketing begins with identifying your customer base and that is no different online. Who are your main customers? How old are they? Do they cycle for recreation or to simply get around? Are they extreme sports enthusiasts?
Different social media platforms have stronger representation in key demographics. The types of customers you have (and want to have) will determine exactly where you need to focus your efforts.
There are tools out there to help you figure out the demographics of each social media platform. Alternatively, you can turn to an expert in online marketing to do this for you.
Make it personal
Social media allows companies to break down barriers between the business and their customer base. Why sell bikes rather than fruit and vegetables? The truth is that people get into selling bikes because they love them, and social media allows you to share that passion with your customers.
This is more true of local businesses than with the sort of faceless goliaths where the people in charge often have very little interest in the end product. Once you fully develop your voice you need to stay authentic to yourself. If you’re a family-friendly company, you need to be consistent across all platforms and media; if you’re more edgey in tone and appearance you need to unapologetically own it.
Whatever social media platform you opt for, it is important you give value to your customers. If your online presence is nothing more than a series of self-promotional ads they will soon grow tired. Value could be anything from promotions to events to tutorials on the best way to maintain your gear. You could use your phone to create a video demonstrating the quickest way to fix a bike chain.
Having a website independent of social media is a key factor in the likelihood of you being discovered by people within your town or city. Setting up a website is actually more affordable than most people realise and the benefits to your business can be immense.
Focus your search engine optimisation on local search terms. 88% of consumers now use their phones in order to find local businesses, and half of these visit that shop within 24 hours. Ask friends and family what they would type into Google in order to find a bike shop within your local area. These are terms that should be included in your site.
If you’re consulting a professional to help you with keyword SEO they will use tools to correctly identify the very best search terms in your area and boost your traffic further.
Whether you’re using Google, Facebook or some other method, online marketing is a great way to reach potential customers. The first step is to target your advertisements to geographical location or you’ll waste time and money you simply can’t afford. This is local marketing after all.
Once you’ve done this you can start to think about the ideal customer you identified earlier and refine your paid advertisements to target age group, gender and a multitude of other variables. Since you only pay for the adverts customers click on, you won’t be throwing money after people who simply aren’t interested.
Well go on then
There’s no better time to start than now. Know your customer, work out your strategy, do whatever you can yourself and don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. The service you offer is better than that of the faceless big players, so why leave them to steal customers from right under your nose? Get out there and claim what’s rightfully yours.