This post (and podcast!) wasn’t queued up to go live for a few months but after a sales call I had with a potential client a few weeks ago, I knew I had to press publish NOW.
The woman I chatted with runs a really successful retail brand in the Des Moines metro and is pouring a TON of money into advertising services and products that aren’t returning anything for her. And she isn’t alone. I’ve talked with so many business owners that are still using old-school, pricey marketing that’s all glamour and no grit. Impressive reach and numbers but no return on investment in terms of dollars, relationships, or connections built.
So I set aside a few hours and pulled together clients I’ve worked with to share some of the things that we did together to holistically grow their business, things that generated new business, repeat business, and helped their brands expand. Holistic strategy is my bread and butter because in a business you want to see new people walking through the door or booking a call or sending an email. But, you also want people to keep coming back, write heartfelt reviews, and become your word of mouth marketing arm. It’s about how the pieces of your business work together in synergy rather than individually. You have to strengthen parts individually, of course, but you can’t ever lose sight of how each part works together to build the business.
That’s where my team and I come in.
We want our clients to understand that they can use their business for purpose not just for profit. This means we encourage our clients to integrate into the local community through brand partnerships, events, and collaborations. We help move the local business owner out of the day to day details so they can show up in the community whether that’s through IG stories or networking in real life with people.
This doesn’t have to be complicated. Or incredibly expensive. Maybe it’s the scrappy roots I’ve grown from, but I’ve worked with many types of clients in different industries to grow their business to the level they desire. Whether it’s hitting an income goal, creating more space for creativity, or setting up systems so vacations are a possibility, it doesn’t matter.
I want to help you illuminate that possibility for your business.
Each business we work with is unique which means the strategies we create are customized to the client, their needs, their market, and their community. But right now, I’ve pulled out some of the best nuggets you can take and run with to make better decisions with your marketing dollars.
First up is a local medspa we’ve worked with for the last couple years. We’ve helped this client gain momentum by helping them implement consistency across the board. Consistency in processes, systems, social media, emails, and more. Our initial goal was to streamline the systems of bringing in new clients, ensuring we knew how they heard about the medspa, doubling down on what was already working, and looking for creative ways to test out new ideas to generate more impact.
What we did FIRST was ensure her systems were working FOR her. At the time we started working together she didn’t have an easy way for her customers to book appointments outside of calling, messaging her on her Facebook Page, sending an email to her, or filling out a contact form. It was all over the place. I’m all about systems that get business owners OUT of the day to day work so they can be in their zone of genius and really show up for their customers to increase the likelihood of those customers coming back and telling their friends about them.
We knew that consistently emailing her list with promotions, events, product launches, and need-to-know info would drive sales… but we didn’t realize how impactful it would be until the first few emails. This client has a fantastic open rate and click-through rate. Her subscribers take action when we tell them about something new and exciting and it always translates into revenue.
In fact, during the pandemic, when the doors were completely closed, we created a campaign for e-gift cards to create a cash infusion in the business. Everyone who bought one online got 25% off their gift card. We created this mini campaign to support her bottom line, launched it on social and email, created urgency, and generated over $10,000 in unexpected revenue.
I see a lot of local business owners ignoring email marketing, but I would highly advise getting educated and using it on a consistent basis. You might think to yourself, “I hate promotional emails,” but the reality is that email is how some of your customers prefer to be communicated with and where most of them are getting updates. Emails don’t rely on an algorithm like social. People can hold onto your email and refer back to it.
In addition to email marketing, we created a well-rounded social media content strategy with giveaways to increase their visibility and grow their audience. We consistently educate visitors and loyal customers on the variety of services, their benefits, and how simple it is to book an appointment. We’re partial to Facebook for this client, which honestly isn’t my go-to for a lot of local business owners, HOWEVER, her audience demographics skew a little older and based on data and insights we saw, we put more energy there. In general, I steer people to Instagram, but she has a very active audience on her business page, unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a business Facebook Page. So we’re showing up there because it creates results.
Honestly, I could go on and on about this client because we’ve created and implemented so many digital and in-person strategies that create relationships, build deeper connections with existing customers, increase revenue, and eliminate tedious work with automation.
It’s wild, but after working together over the last couple years she’s seen her revenue double.
Love Local Lessons:
Start an email list and send emails to your list consistently; have a social media content strategy that focuses on what your customers want to hear or learn or know about. Use the insights from social media to create more of what’s working.
We brought on a physical therapy clinic that was already doing really well. Much like the medspa, their goal was to optimize a bit more to ensure that as they brought on new PTs they could generate new business and stay top of mind.
We implemented a digital strategy that was intensely focused on testimonials, Google reviews, and Facebook reviews. There are hundreds of options with PT’s. The more reviews you have, the faster you build trust. We created an entire page on their website devoted to success stories and regularly feature people who “graduate” from their PT programs on social media.
In addition, we’ve focused on ramping up the email marketing. We send an email once or twice a month with different areas of focus. Sometimes it’s about an annual holiday clothing drive, other times it’s about Covid neck, encouraging people not to ignore that subtle pain but get it addressed right away. It led to re-booking appointments, forwarded emails to a friend who just might need this, and previous clients still feeling connected to the brand.
It’s easy for someone to end their time at the PT clinic and be gone forever. I mean, that’s the point of a physical therapist. They want people to feel good enough that they don’t come back! Our intention is to keep current and previous patients in the loop in a valuable way so when pain arrives, or a friend mentions a twinge in their neck, they tag this brand in a Facebook post, forward an email, or mention it in a real-life conversation. And of course if this clinic expands their services or has an announcement like moving their clinic (which recently happened!) they have an active list of subscribers they can communicate to.
We also used Google Analytics to deeply understand user behavior on the website. We optimized key pages people were spending time on. We noticed the website got a lot of organic visits so we recently experimented with some Google Ad dollars and continue to see incredible results for a fairly low spend. This approach doesn’t work for every local company but it’s working for them and bringing in new clients! We get emails from their team on a regular basis with people saying they came from the Google Ad, including not only patients, but other providers who want to be referrals. This is a huge win for this company for not a lot of money.
Love Local Lessons:
Collect reviews and testimonials as frequently as possible. It will bridge the trust gap in ways you may never truly know. Share those testimonials in all different types of content you create.
I’ll repeat this again: build your email list. And finally, use Google Analytics to understand where people come from and where they spend time on your website. Then optimize those pages with clearer wording, testimonials, and more powerful calls to action. If the organic traffic is significant enough, consider investing in Google Ads to bring more people to your site.
When a local cycling studio launched in 2018, they came to another one of the brands I’ve built (serial entrepreneur 👋) the hummingbirds to bring 30 local influencers into a class together, and offer a 5-pack so they could come back again and bring a new friend every time if they wanted.
If you have a product launch, grand opening, or you simply want some buzz: work with local influencers.
If you haven’t listened to Episode 10 of the Local to Legend podcast, where I talk about the hummingbirds with Matt Niblock, be sure to check that so you can learn more about this newer service that exists in Des Moines, and is expanding all over the country.
This partnership with the cycling studio is STILL talked about almost two years later. The owner has said it was her best investment. It led to not only 30 people having a great experience, but they came back and brought new friends every time. Some of them became paying members because they loved the studio. I know one of the hummingbirds became an instructor.
When it comes to working with local influencers, you can do the research yourself and stalk people on the Gram, or you can reach out to companies like ours who have already done the work to bring people with local influence together.
We know that 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family. So maybe it’s local influencers who are getting the word out about you or maybe it’s a core group of 10 customers who love talking about you on Facebook. Give them opportunities to talk about you on social media, tag your brand, and share authentic content so their friends and followers can learn about you through the lens of someone they already know, like, and trust.
When we see what our peers, old colleagues, or next-door-neighbors are posting about on social media, we’re naturally curious. We know these people. We exchange emails and texts and DMs with them, so when they talk about something new or an experience they had, we listen to them. We trust them.
Love Local Lessons:
If you have an offer you’re willing to give away for free, ask a few of your best customers or a few influential Instagrammers if they’ll experience it for free in exchange for an authentic post.
You can always DM me to learn more about the hummingbirds. We’ve worked with dozens of different types of businesses in the Des Moines metro specifically and are bringing on some pretty rad clients as we kick off 2021.
My first ever freelance client was a direct sales consultant who was working on building a customer base more strategically using social media. Facebook Groups were growing so I suggested creating one to bring customers together in one space to build trust, share promotions, unveil new products, and create community.
It has been four years and the group has 400+ members who actively engage in the platform, place orders in the Group, and generate new business consistently for my client. This Group is responsible for a lot of repeat business, referrals, and much more. Every time this client has a new shopper, she invites her to the Group to continue learning about the brand, the products, and personal styling tips.
This strategy works so well that we suggested it to one of our clients in our Local Business Launch 90-day program. She uses it for her brick & mortar as a “be the first to know…” type of thing and offers specific promotions just to that community. Over 100 people have joined and she’s releasing tickets to events before anyone else, giving away freebies for people in the Group who come to her store, and cultivating a community of action takers.
Love Local Lessons:
Facebook Groups are a fantastic way to build community and keep your brand top of mind.
If you’re wondering if a Facebook Group is right for your company here are some questions to ask yourself: Are you an expert in your industry? Do you have a list of customers who would love to know what you offer before anyone else? Do you want to build community and actively engage your audience?
Similar to email marketing, you can use it as a way to communicate directly to your customers. Of course people will miss notifications, but if your top 20% of customers are actively paying attention to any of your updates, you have a brand new, highly effective way to communicate.
There are a lot of ways to build a Facebook Group and I cover them here.
I worked with a local nonprofit to help them go all in on Facebook Ads to promote their free program. Their program helps people get jobs or change their career path and really connect to their purpose as an individual. It’s amazing.
Before I came around, they relied on fliers that were available in their office, someone going door to door with applications, posting on Facebook, and dropping off applications at other locations in hopes people would pick it up.
At one point, they used TV commercials and spent a fortune in hopes the large audience would reach the right people at the right time.
When we started running Facebook Ads and using the pixel to track completed applications, we realized this was going to be a very viable avenue.
They agreed to spend $5/day, and after a month, over 30 applications came through. We’ve used this strategy over the last year and the last program cohort had 89 applicants with just an $800 budget.
It was a fairly significant investment for this nonprofit, but the results were astounding. We built a very specific sales funnel to draw the right people in, build trust on their program page with dozens of testimonials, drive them to the application, and nurture them in an email sequence after they applied. Since this program is free, we really had to think through the ways to ensure those 89 applicants actually showed up. Oftentimes when something is free, it’s hard to ensure you’ll get the attendance you desire. It’s why Facebook events should NEVER be a true indicator of how many people will actually come to your event.
The ripple effect with the program attendance success is tremendous. Most nonprofits rely on grant programs to fund their operations and programs. When you are serving 90 people in a program versus 25, your results are much more impactful. If you can place all of those people into new jobs or higher paying careers because of new skill sets, people will be more eager to invest in your nonprofit.
Love Local Lessons:
You can learn how to run your own ads as well, reaching new people for your own programs, events, products, and more for just $5/day. If you have $150/month to invest and the patience to learn Facebook Ads, we continue to see amazing results in local markets. There are also many experts like us who can set up, manage, and optimize ad campaigns for a fee!
A local photographer came to us wanting to grow her business with consistent social media content, while addressing the biggest questions her clients have when booking shoots like… “where should we do this photoshoot?”
Not only do we use different strategies like sharing reviews on Stories and saving them to highlights, but we also came up with the idea to put together different Facebook Albums with specific locations her previous clients love. So there’s an album at Gray’s Lake, an album in specific locations downtown, etc., so in her follow-up communication with clients she can link to all of the albums in a canned email to give them an idea of what would suit them. We do the same using Instagram Highlights.
Love Local Lessons:
The question we ask ourselves and YOU can ask yourselves is this: how does my social media content and presence educate and empower both new AND existing customers? If I want to learn about your process, how can I easily find it? Is it in a Guide? Instagram Highlights? A Facebook Group?
There is not a perfect way to do this, but you need to have an understanding of the buyer’s journey within YOUR brand. It can take a lot of different touch points for someone to become a buyer. How do you make it as easy as possible for someone to say yes to you?
We covered a lot of ground. My hope is that this gave you some ideas on what you can explore or implement with your existing agency or marketing team or tweak what you already do.
Of course, the virtual door is always open if you want us to take a peek at what you’re doing and see if we’re a good fit to support your business’s growth now and in the future.
I want you to know that you can grow your local business without spending thousands of dollars on expensive advertising. I know because I’m doing it, and have done it for a decade, building different local brands in Des Moines.
Want to chat further? Click here and scroll down to fill out the application and book your call. I’ll bring my iced oat milk latte, you bring your beverage of choice, and we’ll dig into what I love talking about most: local business growth & possibility.
My name is Emily Steele and I teach local business owners how to be the legends they are and build an irresistible and profitable local brand.