I don't know why we web marketers treat local businesses like something "other." It's been a thing since the web started, really. There are online businesses, (when they are new they even get their own name, called "startups"). And then there are businesses that exist in some other-worldly place that are free to come online and build a site, and stuff, but we're not having them over to our hip warehouse headquarters (with a slide and free lattes) for game night.
The truth is, business is business and we're all offline. We're all location-based. We are all geographically grounded in the real-world. The internet is the new kid on the block, if anything is.
The internet is a glowing phone book - an interactive directory. A place to hang out and play telephone in a far cooler way than our parents and grandparents did. A shopping mall made entirely of light.
Your business uses it to reach out to grab new customers, leads, clients, fans. Just like any business, yours seeks to grow by reaching more of your ideal audience.
When I started marketing online in 1998, Google looked like this:
A face only a founder and a bunch of old farts of marketing could love.
While a lot has changed, nothing really has. At the same time that we're introducing technology to the world that Marty McFly introduced to the silver screen when we were kids, human nature remains staunchly in place.
To sell stuff to people today we have to do more of what really successful businesses have done since selling stuff was invented. We have to make connections. Historically, connections could get away with being shallow. Today, the pendulum has swung in the direction of deeper connections by being "real." Thus we have social media along with a strong rejection of any commercialization of our "personal streams."
Can't market like the old days with a megaphone and a soap box. Now you have to give to the world in order to receive anything at all back - or you're out of business.
It's really quite a great thing for all involved. People are forcing businesses to actually add value to the world. And in exchange, people listen to those businesses and buy their stuff.
I think (hope) we're getting tired of creating mountains of trash and plastic and things with no meaning. We're getting tired of disposable. A bigger piece of humanity craves meaning. A sense of place. Pride. Quality. Relevance. I also think businesses have gotten pretty tired of the meaninglessness of "business as usual" as we all seek a new way to look at our relationship to the stuff that we do for a living.
Why else would all the new startups be focused so heavily on quality of work environment? I mean, to absurd levels, including free food and massages, and all kinds of perks our grandfathers roll their eyes at when they read the paper (on their iPads we got them for Christmas, of course).
The note here is: Do everything you can to be relevant and meaningful with your business, and the people who represent your business, on the web. Relevance, authority, and influence are rewarded on the web with search rankings, tons of traffic from social, and a large increase in following and customers. And every single bit of it comes from what you do with your site content, your social engagement, and the stories you create and tell. Authority and influence in your market cannot be bought anymore.
That's why we started C.A.S.T. (Customer Attraction Systems Training). It's time local business owners and staff became more involved in their online success. For there is no other way to succeed online today.