Marketers hear it constantly: The brands that are closest to their customers will ultimately win.
But this is becoming increasingly more difficult as consumers continue to put distance between themselves and brands. Consumers are paying to remove advertising from their apps and games, installing ad-blocking software for a better browser experience and purchasing DVRs that now allow them to instantly skip commercials (or even skipping the networks altogether and "binge-watching" on Netflix).
Rest assured, there is one surefire way national marketers can build their brands -- at the local level. Local is a great way to create closer connections across search, social and mobile, in the moments where and when it matters. But some marketers are hesitant to dive headfirst into the local pool.
This is completely understandable. Local search marketing encompasses a complex ecosystem that spans paid, earned and owned media. It is always on and continually evolving, and that need for fluidity and adaptability is a barrier to entry for even the most digitally savvy marketers.
However, marketers cannot afford to take a "wait-and-see" approach. They need to be proactive and execute a local search strategy. Google reports that 72% of consumers who search for local information on a smartphone visit a store within five miles. That built-in intent is a huge opportunity to build brand awareness as well as drive customer acquisition via local search marketing efforts.
To get closer to their customers in 2015 and beyond, national marketers should develop thoughtful local search programs that integrate with broader marketing and branding strategies. Here are a few tips to help you jump into the pool and take advantage of the local opportunity:
1. Understand how to prioritize local search. Brands should pursue local at a pace that is right for them. The scope of your local search efforts depends on the size of your local footprint and the degree to which your customers are mobile savvy. For instance, if you're a multi-location brand that has a large local footprint and an aggressively mobile audience, you should ramp up your local search efforts quickly and make it an urgent priority.
2. Identify your approach for adopting local. Given how complicated local search can be, it is important that brands plot the steps it will take to fully embrace local. To help brands do this, we advocate following a local marketing adoption curve, which stipulates the steps a brand should take depending on whether the brand is at the crawl (getting the basics right with local listings), walk (SEO, optimizing local pages) or run (hyper-local paid search and paid social targeting DMAs) stage.
3. Assess the role of an automation tool set. Some marketers may be reluctant to embrace local search marketing because their previous attempts have required lots of resources and manual work. There's a reason for that: According to a new study by Forrester Research, most marketers pursuing local are attempting to use non-local search tools. There is a general lack of awareness of the quality and quantity of tools available in the market specifically designed for local search marketing. These tools offer automation capabilities that make local marketing more manageable and less complex in creating contextual brand experiences.
Don't wait and see when it comes to local search marketing -- jump in. Start embracing local marketing more fully by creating thoughtful strategies and defining an adoption approach that delights your customers, suits your brand and builds your business in 2015 and beyond.