Aug
15

There are dozens of web-based tools and services that claim to drive online traffic to local retail and service businesses. But some of them, such as daily sites like Groupon and LivingSocial, actually wind up costing businesses money — and don’t deliver sustained traffic.

So how does a small retail or service business decide which web-to-local service can best serve their business needs and deliver the right kind of customers, the kind who actually buy stuff and tells their friends about you? First you need to formulate a web-to-local strategy.

Start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • Is my main goal to acquire new customers or to retain existing customers? (Ideally, you want to do both, but which is more important right now?)
  • Who is my target customer — and which sites or services do they use?
  • What’s the cost (both from a time and money perspective)? Do I have to spend a lot of time on this? Is it a laborious process?
  • What are the benefits of using a particular service? Will using it put me in front of 100, 1,000, or tens of thousands of nearby, potential customers? And are these customers going to be one-time bargain hunters or the kind of people who will become loyal brand advocates?

Next, ask fellow small business owners which web-to-local services and/or tools they have had the most success with.

Then do some research — including reading my latest article, “3 Online Tools to Drive Traffic to Your Local Business.”

Finally, try a few no- or low-cost web-to-local services, such as foursquare, Milo, and Yelp, out for yourself.

“Probably the best way to look at it is as a simple cost-benefit analysis,” said Jack Abraham, the founder of Milo and director of Local for eBay.

And remember, the best way to attract customers is to have a multi-pronged online marketing strategy, which means having an attractive, user-friendly, search-engine-optimized (SEO) website with great content; being active on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter; and using tools such as foursquare, Milo, and Yelp.

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