business phone

Local Search Marketing provides you, the business owner, with the most targeted and cost effective customer acquisition opportunity.

Your customers are more and more often searching for businesses like yours on the Internet. Studies show that these customers have a serious buying intent.

As a local business you need to figure out how to cost effectively reach out to these customers and start the business relationship. You need to do this even if you don’t have a web site and don’t want one!

The Internet has changed the way that customers are looking for your business. The days of pulling out 2 kilos of two or more volumes of phone books are coming to an end. People are still letting their fingers do the walking but it’s on a computer keyboard. The Kelsey research group published these statistics and trends.

q 74% of households use the Internet as an information source when shopping locally.
q Approximately 45% of local searches had a buying intent.
q The percentage of respondents who used yellow page directories decreased from 75% to 62%. (If you have a yellow page ad, it is time to consider buying a smaller ad and shifting your marketing dollars to the Internet.)

As local business owners you need to take action now. You need to keep your existing customers, and gain new customers, so you need to be found where they are searching. Local Search Marketing is where your future clients and customers will come from.

So where do you start?

Most likely your customers will have a default setting on their computers and this will be set to one of these sites for search; Google, Yahoo, MSN or AOL. These search engines all index web pages and have some form of paid advertising referred to as Pay Per Click. This is fine if you have a web site but what about many small and local businesses that have little or no web presence at all? And even if you do have a web site, does it show up in the search engines above?

Okay, so what other choices have you got?

Well, for example, in Australia things are pretty limited. There are those folks, you know whom I am talking about, who will place you not only in a hard copy directory but also have services on line. The challenge is in what the financial cost is, BIG, but hey, they have been around a long time and have deep pockets. The other issue is that they often advertise in the search engines and you will find them there BUT if you follow the link to them, you need to do your search all over again! What a pain.

There are other commercial “local search engines” and some of these are good value but many are not comprehensive. If there are only a few thousand businesses in a local directory most users will leave given the limited amount of content.

So what you need to do is use a search engine like Google and search for “local search directory”, make sure you limit your search to the country you are in. For this article I am using Australia. The results include Yahoo local search and a number of local directories. You should check these out and see what it takes to participate in the directories that make the first page of the Google search.

Many on-line marketeers forget the key point to being found on the Internet. What is the “Action” that you want to happen once someone finds your web page or directory listing? If you can’t or don’t sell products from your web site there are only two actions you want. First, that they call you, or second, that they email you.

That’s it!

You want a call or an email. These are the only two outcomes that can lead to interaction, a relationship and the potential to do business.

Many small businesses already know, and the current research is proving them right, that a “call” is worth 15 times a click.

Why is this?

Email is to often being viewed as spam, sometimes it never even gets through “filters” and it lacks the emotional and personal “touch” of voice. So what we really want is a phone call. We want that phone to start ringing. But ………

Why people don’t call as much any more.

It is getting harder and harder to get people to ring these days. They “hide” behind email or resist picking up the phone with fear that one of these things will occur:
1. Please press 1 for …. and 2 for …. or 3 for ……, or
2. We value your business and you are number 17 in the queue, or
3. This call maybe recorded for training and quality purposes!

No one wants this response to picking up the phone and making a call.

So what is the alternative?

It’s called Pay Per Call, but all it is, is a “push to talk” button. Someone presses a button on a web page, puts in their phone number and they are connected to the company that put up the button. It’s simple, easy and direct.

Not a click, it’s a call!

This is what we see as the future of local search. People finding companies that are in their area and pressing a button to talk with them. Could be a local cleaner, carpet layer, pool builder, alarm installer, baby sitter. You name it. These are the local people you want to attract and do business with. To do this, you need them to find you and talk with you. If they can find you through an Internet search and know that they won’t be placed on hold, since you are calling them, you win. Now it’s business as usual and your back in control of the sales process – not the Internet!

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This article was written by a contributing author or freelance journalist.