How To Use A Blog (Properly) To Market A Local, Offline Business

A lot of people think of blogs for marketing an online business. But, how useful is a blog for an offline business? Do they work? Are they worth the work?

Alright, so, we know a blog can be useful for an online business. The question, however, is whether a blog is useful for an offline business.

A blog takes some work. It means you're going to have to write a blog post every now and then. Sitting there as a business owner pondering this thing is going to naturally make you wonder if it is worth it at all.

If you're running a local business with a storefront, or you're a local service provider, does it make much sense to have a blog? 

Will it drive any sales? Will it increase conversion?

Is there anything different about blogging for an offline business? Do you have to blog so often?

First, let's dive right into the big question here...

YES! Your Local Business Should Have A Blog. Here's Why...

OK, take a few minutes and go scope out some of the websites for the average small, local business. Here's what you'll find...

  • Most of them offer no value whatsoever.
  • Most of them pretty much suck when it comes to design.
  • Most of them look like they were thrown together in the 90's and haven't been updated since.
  • Most of them have no personality, use words like "we" when you know there's just one person running it.
  • You get the idea. 🙂

And honestly, having a website at all is a giant stepping stone in the right direction because many local, small business owners don't even have a website yet. That's just not an option today if you want to be relevant.

Your average small business site is a glorified (and poorly designed) business brochure. It offers generic details then throws a phone number up for people to call. 

Some of these sites were thrown together using some page builder with generic business site templates. Most such tools are more about marketing the company who sold it to you than doing your business much actual good.

This just won't do it anymore. The people that you want to become your customers don't raise an eyebrow to that generic crap anymore. 

Customers want to know who they can trust with their business. And they want to know why one business is better than another.

Today, people look at Google reviews. They will search for comparisons. They will ask their friends on social media for reviews and recommendations.

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They are looking for signs of TRUST. And in the absence of that, what will they do?

  1. Ignore you (if they even found you at all) and move onto some other business which seems more trustworthy.
  2. Shop purely on price, putting your business into a big, giant race to ZERO.

This is the world as it is today. Like it or not.

And if you, as a local business owner, are not putting up an online presence that functions in THIS environment, then you are at a major disadvantage.

It just so happens that a BLOG is a highly effective platform for setting up the kind of site that you need for your business. A blog is a marketing platform. A VERY powerful one. But, you need to use it right.

A blog should be engineered to fuel your business. It will work in conjunction with other marketing you do. 

Will A Blog For Your Local Business Turn You Into An Article Writing Slave?

No.

It is a common fallacy that a blog needs to be updated really frequently in order to work. It just isn't true.

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In fact, in a lot of cases, I don't even recommend that you show dates at all in your blog posts. Your blog is going to be more like an article library. It doesn't even have to be that big.

You post to your blog when you have something to say. When you have a strategic reason to do so.

This alleviates the time pressures.

In fact, I have a blogging strategy that I call The Redwood Strategy that is specifically aimed at getting better results with a lot less time creating new, original content.

But, you'll still get the benefits that many small business sites just don't have. For instance:

  • You'll give Google a reason to notice you. Most local business sites are a big pile of nothing in terms of Google search.
  • You can help fuel your Google Local listing with keyword-targeted content.
  • You're giving personality to your business and a reason for people to know, like and TRUST you.

So, What Exactly Do You Post On A Small, Local Business Blog?

That's kind of the biggie, is it not?

We've already established that you don't need to force some high-pressure writing schedule on yourself here. But, it might still feel kind of like a pressure cooker if you have no idea what the heck to write in the first place. 🙂

And let's face it... a lot of small, local businesses aren't exactly exciting. It isn't as if you have newsworthy things happening often. 

So, what do you post to your blog?

Ideas For Blog Posts For Your Local Business Blog

  • "Behind the scenes" photos or videos of day-to-day operations. Your smartphone is a great content producing device.
  • "How To" content that solves various issues your customers may experience. 
  • Examples of work completed, thereby turning your blog into a kind of portfolio
  • Posts which answer common questions you get asked (FAQ-style posts)
  • Personal posts from you (the owner) which shares things you believe, what you stand for, what you stand against, etc.

Now, the key here is not to overthink any of this stuff. Your blog isn't meant to reach some worldwide audience. You're not going to be getting thousands of page views.

The job of your blog is to make your business easier to find for people already looking for what it is your business does - AND so that when they find you, they've got a reason to engage with you.

You are NOT competing with some of the high-end blogs you've seen out there. Nobody is expecting you to do that. Trust me... things are easier when you're a local business owner.

Your Business Blog And The Larger Lead Generation Picture

Some of those content ideas up there might seem cute. They might seem like gimmicks. But, let's not fool ourselves...

The whole point is to generate leads and sales. We never lose sight of that.

So, your blog is part of a larger picture. It serves a very specific marketing function. Actually, potentially 2 of them. They are:

  1. To take a random person and turn them into a lead (by capturing an email address, phone number, etc.), thereby giving you the ability to follow up.
  2. To take a person in active consideration of a purchase and put them over the edge to choose you.

Your site, then, needs to be engineered around getting people to opt in. In internet marketing parlance, we call this a "lead magnet". It is just something you put out there in order to attract a lead. Usually, it is some free thing.

As part of every blog post, there will be a pathway to a lead magnet. What kind of lead magnets could a small, local business offer?

You want to offer them something that only a person seriously considering purchasing what you do would have an interest in. 

Examples Of Lead Magnets For Local Businesses

  • A Tax Accountant. Offer a free checklist on what to prepare and have ready in order to minimize the amount of taxes they need to pay.
  • A Lawn Service. Offer an annual schedule, broken down by month, on the best times to perform certain maintenance tasks on the lawn and gardens to keep them looking awesome and impressing their neighbors.
  • A web designer. A 14-point checklist on the various optimization points on a website and a scoring sheet so they can see how they stack up. 
  • Restaurant/Cafe. A simple coupon for a "buy one meal get a second one free" deal.
  • Beauty Salon. A guide to the most popular haircuts. Might seem funny, but everybody is eyeing everybody else. Just give them what they want.

You get the idea. Lead magnets could even be as simple as offering up a coupon code or a discount of some kind. This kind of lead magnet is quite popular (and easy to do) for local businesses.

You want to get into the habit of pointing people into lead magnets on your site rather than just generic calls for them to call you on the phone. In this day and age, people like to make decisions in private in a lot of cases. They are less likely to pick up the phone to ask you questions. That's something they'll only do when they're ready to buy NOW. But, you want your website to also not lose people who are still earlier on in the decision process. And you want to build up a list of LEADS. You want to be able to follow up with them. With nothing but a phone number at the top of your site, you won't have that capability.

Always remember...

Your ability to proactively communicate with them about your business is very important.

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This is why you need a lead capture mechanism on your blog. Do not rely on people filling in a form for a "free estimate" or picking up the phone and calling you.  You need a lead capture mechanism that can work before they've even gotten that far in the decision process.

An Example: A Simple Lawn Service Business

So, let's take the kind of business that exists in most cities. It is just a simple lawn service business. People pay you monthly to simply take care of their yard for them.

Now, truth is that most lawn service businesses don't even have a website. So, you're ahead of the game by even having a site at all.

But, we don't want one of those generic business sites that do nothing. Throw some background graphic of grass out there and a few BS generalities about "the best prices" and all that and call it a day, right? No sir!

We want to create an online presence that puts most lawn service businesses to absolute shame. So, what could we do?

First of all, we want to capture their attention with the primary benefit right when they get to our site. What do people want when they hire a lawn service? They want to avoid taking their precious weekend time to mow their own lawn. So, a solid headline might be...

Get Your Sunday Back.

Now, like most businesses, you should definitely have your phone number and a contact form on your site. But, we want to go the extra mile and have an actual lead magnet. Perhaps a branded calendar (with logo) of the schedule for recommended service on lawns, gardens, etc throughout the year. Just a simple PDF they could print and put on their fridge.

Something as simple as a "free estimate" or a discount off first month of service could be a lead magnet, too. But, I would find a way to capture the lead upfront and not depend on them to pick up the phone as the only option.

Then, there's the notorious blog. What kind of blog content could a lawn service come up with?

  • The best kinds of sod for your local area and treatment regiments to keep the bugs from taking over
  • Seasonal plants for the gardens
  • Simple smartphone videos while driving to a client's place. These kinds of videos don't have to be about anything deep. 
  • A "Day in the Life" video (again taken simply with the smartphone).

Lawn services are notorious for those services which can easily be faceless. They show up, do their thing... and leave. The customer may hardly ever even see you. By simply being HUMAN, showing some personality and talking about some of the seemingly arcane (even boring) aspects of your business... it can really make it stand out.

Again, The Whole Point Is...

The point is to make your business stand out in a sea of sameness.

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The good news is, when it comes to local business this is usually pretty easy to do since most small business websites suck.

Just remember...

When people are evaluating your business alongside a host of other ones, they are looking for signs of trust. People generally like to do business with people they know, like and trust. In the absence of that, it is all about price and that's why most businesses end up competing on price.

A blog is the perfect platform to inspire KLT (know, like and trust).

A blog gives your site personality.

A blog gives Google a reason to pay attention to your site and can even help enhance your local searching list and put it ahead of other local competitors.

A blog does not have to be a big "time suck". You don't have to write every day. Not even close.

You've got a business to run. You've got a business to promote and market.

A blog is one of the most powerful marketing platforms that exists. You might as well use it. 🙂

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About David Risley
David Risley is the founder of the Blog Marketing Academy, a 20-year veteran blogger and online entrepreneur. His focus? Building a reliable, recurring business around his "lifestyle" and the lives of his students. He has this weird obsession with traveling in his motorhome around the country with his wife and 2 kids. David also likes to talk about himself in the third person. In bios like this one. Read his full story.