Are you a small business owner with a service-based or brick-and-mortar business? If so, it's likely that generating leads—specifically, local leads—is a major focus for you. (And if it's not, it probably should be!) Lead generation converts to customers, and customers convert to sales.
Without sales, your business is up the creek without a paddle.
A few decades ago, local lead generation stemmed primarily from word-of-mouth referrals and—of course—the Yellow Pages (what are those?). While word-of-mouth referrals are still valuable, the vast majority of today's lead generation, even for small businesses, comes from one source and one source only: The internet.
Be it from organic search engine traffic, paid advertising, social media platforms, or landing pages, identifying and funneling potential customers to your business is a key element of entrepreneurship in today's digital world.
But how do you do that? How do you generate and capture strong leads and convert them into loyal paying customers? In this post, we'll take a look at some current local lead generation strategies as well as some tips to help you choose the path that makes the most sense for your particular business.
What Is Local Lead Generation?
Alright, basics first. Lead generation is the process of identifying potential customers. Local lead generation is the process of identifying potential customers in your local area—usually within approximately a 15-minute physical radius of your business. Local marketing focuses on your surrounding community with the aim of finding high-intent leads and turning them into paying customers.
In today's global society, not all businesses rely on local leads. In fact, many business models cast a wider net and target specific audiences at a national or even international level. Examples of the types of businesses that rely heavily on local customers, even in this day and age, include restaurants, independent retailers, and realtors.
If your business falls into one of these categories (or a similar niche), you're looking to capture a highly localized market. And the good news is that, with the right strategies, this goal is very achievable!
Advantages of Local Lead Generation
When done right, local lead generation can be much more manageable (and much less expensive) than lead generation on a larger scale.
If, like many small business owners, you’re a people person at least as much as you’re a digital native, you'll be pleasantly surprised that a lot of local lead generation can happen in person and through a strong community presence.
If you’ve opted to own a small business, chances are that you enjoy connecting with the people around you. And this is a wonderful way to generate leads! Contributing to your local community and gaining customers go hand in hand.
We'll get to the technical stuff in a minute, but at its core, local lead generation is about developing loyalty through relationships. Making your brand (and yourself, too) a trusted and recognizable part of your community is truly a key element of your business's growth and success.
In today's increasingly virtual and digital world, customers appreciate a local business owner who knows them personally—someone who greets them by name instead of corresponding with them from 5 time zones away.
Satisfied customers will talk to their friends and neighbors, and this sort of old-fashioned word-of-mouth promotion can still produce an excellent return on investment (ROI). Instead of investing only in marketing campaigns, you can also focus on building relationships with great results!
A lot of relationship-building and community connections can (and should) be built online as well as in person. Fortunately, creating a local online presence is relatively simple when compared to national or international lead generation.
Deciding How To Handle Leads
So, you've decided to create a local lead generation strategy for your business. But what route should you take? Will you work on generating your own leads directly from your business's website, or will you hire out some or all of the work to a lead generation business?
Yes, it's true. If you'd rather not focus too much energy on lead generation, you can pay someone else to do it for you.
Local Lead Generation Websites vs. Local Business Websites
If you opt to stay in-house with local lead generation, your strategy will likely include a combination of the three methods discussed in the next section of this post (SEO, Google Ads, and Social Media).
If, however, you choose to hire a lead generation service, you'll be paying someone else to find you qualified leads. In general, there are two main models for a lead generation business: The direct model and the affiliate model.
With a direct model, you (the business owner) will directly pay the lead generation business a retainer and/or you will pay them on a per lead basis. Together, you and the lead generator will define what constitutes a lead. Examples might include someone who fills out a form on a landing page or who makes a direct phone call to your business.
With an affiliate model, you (the business owner) will pay a larger lead generation business to provide you with the contact information for strong leads from their database.
You can also combine in-house lead generation with lead referrals from an external lead-generating system. It all depends on how much time and effort you have to dedicate to lead generation!
How Do You Generate Local Leads?
Search Engine Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing website content to increase its visibility and rank in organic search results. Ranking well on search engine result pages is critical for lead generation in general, but converting local leads into loyal customers requires a specific approach.
For local searches, search engines like Google rely on cues such as local content, social profile pages, links, and citations to provide relevant local results to users.
Focusing on local keywords and backlinks as well as improving your website's technical aspects, mobile friendliness, and internal linking structure can be key elements in driving local traffic directly to your business. Ideally, you'll make it into the Google 3-pack (top 3 results on Google Maps), which can be a huge boost for business.
Localized Lead Magnets
A localized lead magnet is essentially content with a high perceived value that’s offered to potential customers in exchange for their contact information. Once you have contact information for strong leads, you can get busy increasing your conversion rates!
Examples of lead magnets might include anything from a free consultation to downloadable information to a coupon, discount, or some type of course or educational experience. Thinking about your specific business, what do you think might be a lead magnet that could effectively generate local leads and convert to more future sales?
Google Ads for Local Searches
Paying to funnel local leads to your business website is also a real and valid option. Using Google Ads (PPC), you can target users in specific demographics and localities.
PPC advertising can be a great choice for getting your website to the top of a Google search for keywords that are important to your business but difficult to rank for. It can also put you on the map (pun intended) with Google Maps.
Though it has its place, PPC advertising can get expensive pretty quickly if you rely on it too heavily. If you’re struggling in this regard and still working to boost your organic traffic levels to where you want them to be, social media ads may be another interesting option for your business's lead generation.
Facebook ads are less expensive than Google ads, and they allow you to pinpoint and target users specifically by filters such as age, sex, interests, and—you guessed it—location.
While Google ads target users who are already searching in your business's niche, Facebook ads are classified as "interrupt marketing". In other words, they interrupt potential leads' social media browsing and need to grab their attention so that they'll interact—hopefully making their way to your landing page, where you can then funnel them toward visiting your business and making a purchase.
Social media platforms are highly visited, and their impact on local lead generation cannot be underestimated. Beyond advertising, social media platforms offer a network for you to establish your business within the context of the local community.
On social media platforms, you can engage directly with potential customers. You can also connect and collaborate with other local business owners and show your human side with posts that showcase not only your products but also your interests and humor.
To keep your social media platforms up to date, be sure to post regularly—but not so regularly as to irritate potential customers. You can also create a buzz about your business with strategies such as hosting a contest.
Running a contest on a social media platform is a great way to get your business noticed. Post a picture of a prize (ideally swag, a free service, or free merchandise) and encourage people to enter by sharing the contest with friends, liking your post, tagging people, or commenting on your post.
For a contest to successfully generate leads, potential customers have to feel that they’re receiving something of value in exchange for promoting your business—so be sure to be genuine, generous, and not too sales-y in your approach.
Software To Help With Lead Generation
There are quite a few options out there if you’re looking for software to assist you in your quest for local leads.
A good starting point when you're deciding what to invest in is to consider specific customer relationship management (CRM) software. CRM software solutions are integrated and data-driven. They intuitively improve how you interact and do business with your customers.
While CRM solutions are often used by larger businesses, they can be very effective for small businesses as well. After all, effectively managing your interactions and relationships with customers and potential customers can go a long way toward building trust and loyalty in your brand.
In conclusion, local lead generation is more personal and involves more community building than lead generation at the national or international level. It’s more affordable, too, and relies on more direct targeting and less competition than many other forms of promotion.
Good old-fashioned face-to-face encounters are still at the core of local lead generation, but three main areas also comprise its foundation online: Search engine optimization (SEO), Google Ads, and social media.
If you don't wish to do all of your own in-house lead generation, it’s possible to hire it out to specific lead generation businesses—either direct or affiliate. A combination of both strategies is also a valid approach.
Finally, there are a variety of software options out there that can support you on your local lead generation journey. We highly recommend specific customer relationship management (CRM) software, such as GoHighLevel, though multiple types of software can help you track and pinpoint your target audience in different ways. Read our full review of GoHighLevel.
Ultimately, local lead generation is a crucial part of any small business marketing strategy, and if you're not making a conscious effort to generate new clients, you’re ultimately missing out on sales and revenue.
The team here at SerpFocus is always available to answer questions, and we would love to hear your experiences, tips, and tricks for local lead generation. Please reach out to us at any time for individualized support. Whether it's local lead generation you want to discuss or another topic related to marketing your small (or larger) business, we're ready to help!