As a local business owner, you undoubtedly recognize that getting and keeping customers are equally important to the growth and success of your business. Loyal, repeat customers are the meat and potatoes that sustain your business organism, while new customers help it to grow and expand. Your marketing efforts, therefore, need to cover all bases from getting found to converting interested consumers to keeping loyal customers and leveraging them for positive customer reviews and referrals. Those are the key components that go into the five stages of the local business marketing funnel.
Stage One: Awareness
Awareness is important in order for your local business to be included in the wide mouth of the funnel, before local consumers have to make a decision about a purchase. Ideally they’ve seen you or heard about you, and your business is the first they come up with as a solution once they have a need. Local awareness is achieved through general marketing efforts involving local advertising, community activities, following up with past customers and giving your customers a reason to talk about you.
Stage Two: Consideration
Once a consumer has decided they have a need to make a purchase, they’ll gather all of the information about products and services that he or she is aware of. Today’s buying journey is a much more consumer driven process than in the past. In making a decision, today’s consumer does an online search, sifts through online reviews, asks for recommendations from their network, and recollects past in-store experiences. In this stage, your online presence is critical as consumers search online to find new relevant businesses and look at directory listings and reviews to research businesses they already know about.
Stage Three: Conversion
Now that the customer has narrowed the selection, it’s time to make the sale. The first step is adding a call to action wherever consumers can find you. Ask them for their business or to call or email you for more information. After that, targeted marketing software allows a business owner to key in on customer inquiries with prompt, informative responses and strong purchase incentives. This responsiveness fosters a feeling of connection between the customer and the local business, setting the stage for trust and loyalty. When a consumer feels their needs and concerns are being addressed, it’s easy for them to make the decision to buy from you.
Stage Four: Loyalty
This is the stage where keeping customers comes into the equation, and this can be increasingly challenging in today’s market. Your competitors are probably using advanced marketing techniques to try and poach your loyal customers at every turn. On top of offering quality products and services at competitive prices (i.e. value), fostering customer loyalty involves staying connected through email and SMS marketing, and an active and effective loyalty rewards program.
Stage Five: Advocacy
The advocacy stage takes the funnel full cycle, from getting and keeping customers to getting new customers through word-of-mouth, referrals and customer reviews. Even customers who rave about your products and services may need to be prodded or incentivized to help you expand your customer base. Referral programs are only effective if your customers know about them, and business owners should never miss an opportunity to encourage customers to check out their Yelp page or like them on Facebook. Remarketing plays an important role here, in connecting with customers and encouraging them to get the word out.
It’s a Brave New World
When it comes to local business marketing, conventional one-size-fits-all advertising is no longer sufficient to help your company thrive in an increasingly competitive marketplace. In order to get found, get considered, make conversions, foster customer loyalty and nurture advocates that generate reviews and referrals, local business owners need to leverage a wide variety of means and methods in order to reach consumers in the right place at the right time with the right message.