Local search marketing is the next digital battleground for your brand. But only marketers with strong strategies will win the war for customer loyalty. Those are among the takeaways from “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search Marketing,” a January 27 webinar hosted by Shar VanBoskirk, Forrester Research vice president and principal analyst, and Jon Schepke, CEO of SIM Partners.
The purpose of the webinar was to help marketers better understand the local search opportunity and some best practices to maximize its value. The webinar drew upon on the findings of a recently published Forrester Consulting report sponsored by SIM Partners.
VanBoskirk started the webinar by elevating local search as an important starting point to embrace contextual marketing. She indicated that according to Forrester, brands will invest $100 billion into digital marketing by 2019, and by 2016, digital marketing will overtake television as an investment priority.
“It’s not just the numbers that are important,” she said. “The way marketers think about digital has changed. Brands are shifting from mass digital marketing to investing in more personal, contextual experiences. And local search marketing provides a starting point to embrace contextual marketing.”
A Landmark Study
Given the heightened importance of local search, in 2014, Forrester Consulting conducted a study examining how marketers perceive local, VanBoskirk indicated. Sure, marketers understand the importance of local, but do they understand local and how to deploy it? The study, “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search,” consisted of in-depth interviews with 13 marketing leaders from multi-location brands. The findings, published in December 2014, were revealing:
1. Marketers Perceive Local to Be Extremely Valuable, but Local Search Efforts Are Limited
The actual mechanics of applying search marketing at a local capacity is somewhat new. Stumbling blocks to applying local search include limited budget, lack of reliable data, and limited skill sets.
2. Experienced Marketers Find Good Value from Local
Marketers who have overcome stumbling blocks and moved forward with local report strong benefits such as brand awareness, better-quality leads, and more leads.
“I was pleasantly surprised that respondents were able to measure and understand how local efforts promote their brands to customers who might have not considered them in the past,” VanBoskirk commented.
3. Many Marketers Just Don’t Know How to Proceed with Local
Hampered by obstacles such as a lack of budget and an understanding of local, many marketers don’t even know to get started. As one executive from a U.S. financial institution told Forrester, “I’m not sure how local search fits into my long-term marketing strategy. But I know it is a growth opportunity for us.”
A Way Forward
To address marketers’ uncertainty and to help them understand the urgency of getting started with local search, Forrester created the Local Opportunity Matrix. The matrix helps marketers prioritize local along two dimensions:
- Your Local footprint: the more geographies where you are present, the more important it is that you place a higher priority on local search.
“If you have a large local footprint and a mobile audience, local is critical,” she said. “If you have a small local footprint and a less mobile savvy customers, you should focus on the fundamentals first. Spend your time and budget building a foundation.”
The Importance of Strategy
VanBoskirk then turned the floor over to Jon Schepke, who emphasized the important of local strategy and adopting local at the right pace.
According to Schepke, a well-formulated strategy is critical to help marketers succeed with local search. In Schepke’s view, a local search strategy helps marketers not only identify the local search opportunity but also how to maximize the value of local.
He said, “The opportunity for local is much larger than most brands realize. But the information gap exists because most brands have not implemented a local search strategy.”
He indicated that a strategy should address elements of local search such as a brand’s approach to listing management and content distribution; and identification of tangible benefits that cuts across paid, earned, and owned media.
He added, “A local search strategy helps you maximize the value of local search at scale. A local strategy ensures that your local content is contextually relevant across multiple properties.”
Clients that formulate strategies should start to see results in about 60 days. And the results will go beyond improved local search results.
“A comprehensive local strategy changes the conversation from lowering your cost per lead for local to achieving a lower blended cost per lead across paid, owned, and earned media,” he said.
“A strategy is not only about driving incremental clicks lead and phone calls from local but also increasing conversion rates across channels.”
The Local Adoption Curve
Once you have a strategy in place, what happens next? According to Schepke, marketers should embrace search by crawling, walking, and running — a framework he calls the Local Adoption Curve.
In other words, proceed at the right pace:
- At the crawl stage, brands should focus on building awareness and understanding by mastering some of the fundamentals of local search, such as listing management.
- At the walk stage, brands should drive positive perception, buy-in, and participation by addressing needs such as optimizing local pages for search and being present on Google My Business listings.
- At the run stage, brands should be getting more sophisticated with local search to achieve sustained value. For instance, brands should have a local content management system in place, and they should maximize the value of search across social properties.
Whereas a strategy prepares you for success, the Local Adoption Curve ensures that you achieve success on a sustained basis, according to Schepke.
“Local is the next digital battleground for brands,” he concluded. “Brands closest to their customers will win, and local is a way to do that across all channels”
VanBoskirk concluded by exhorting webinar attendees to get started with local. “Just try local,” she said. “And make sure your data are accurate and represents everything you want it to about the things you think customers want to know about your business. We are at a point with digital where marketing must deliver contextually relevant, multi-brand experiences. Local provides a starting point to do so.”
To download “Uncovering the Benefits of Local Search” in its entirety, as well as see a replay of the webinar, click here.