Grand Rapids is a growing, thriving city. Named one of the best places to live and retire in the US, it’s become a hotspot for people looking to grow their families and advance their careers.
It’s no wonder so many businesses want to grow alongside it.
While that desire is strong, many business leaders aren’t sure how to achieve local growth. The constant shifts in the economic and social landscape mean that business is continually evolving. Handshakes and in-person networking are still important, but online presence is becoming more and more critical to business success. That’s where many savvy business leaders—whether they have an in-house team, work with a professional marketing agency, or want to take on the efforts themselves—are turning to digital marketing strategies.
That information likely isn’t new to you. But if you’ve spent any time searching for digital marketing strategies online, you know that there are millions of options out there. How do you know what strategies will work and which are a waste of time? Which will cost you massive chunks of your budget and which are so cost-effective you’ll wish you did them when you were just starting out?
The team at Hughes Integrated, a digital marketing agency based in Grand Rapids, put together this guide to answer those very questions.
In the sections that follow, we explain what digital marketing is and why it’s so important. Most critical for your business, we explain in clear and concise language the top 4 digital marketing strategies you need to grow your business in Grand Rapids. Every single strategy has been tested and proven through our work with clients just like you. Based on our experience and successes we show you the best ways to get started in each strategy and begin expanding your local digital presence.
Note: The information in this article is useful no matter your industry or business size. The tips and strategies that follow can help you whether you’re leading a team of one or serving a customer base of thousands.
We know your time is valuable, so we’ve made navigating this guide as easy as possible. Click on one of the section headings in the table of contents below to quickly jump to the section that most interests you.
What Is Digital Marketing?
Digital marketing is the practice of promoting products, services, or brands using digital technologies and online platforms.
This practice involves a diverse group of strategies and tactics, designed to reach an ideal audience and achieve specific objectives (increasing brand awareness, driving website traffic, developing customer loyalty, converting sales, etc.). Unlike traditional marketing and advertising methods, digital marketing doesn’t focus on print ads, billboards, TV commercials, and the like. Instead, it uses digital channels like search engines, social media, websites, and emails.
Why is Digital Marketing Important for Grand Rapids Businesses?
Digital marketing is important because it is one of the best ways for a Grand Rapids business to establish its brand and reach its target audience. Digital marketing is:
Digital marketing has been shown to outperform other marketing efforts. Why is it so effective? Namely, because it meets your audience where they’re at—whatever your business or industry, we can guarantee that your target audience is online.
85% of Americans have smartphones
92% have at least one email address
72% use social media
And worldwide, individuals spend an average of six hours and 35 minutes online each day
Compared to other marketing and advertising methods, digital marketing offers the most bang for your buck. It has repeatedly been shown to be a more cost-effective way to reach your target audience.
3. Endlessly Customizable.
Digital marketing isn’t one-size-fits-all. The sheer volume and diversity of strategies mean you can tailor your marketing efforts to your brand, audience, and goals. Not only do you have your pick of platforms you can also blend different types of content to create a winning strategy. That helps you further distinguish your business from your competition and interact with your customer base in a way that truly resonates with them.
4. Easy to Scale.
Traditional marketing and sales efforts are difficult or expensive to scale. You are either limited by a budget or a salesperson’s capacity. Not so with digital marketing. Once you find a strategy that works, it becomes easy to build on your successes. Campaigns can be replicated or automated with minimal extra resources. A new website page costs far less than a new billboard or print ad and a sales email can deliver conversions long before you can interview and hire a new sales rep.
One of the greatest advantages of digital marketing is its relationship with analytics. Online platforms are designed to provide comprehensive data. You can easily track hard numbers that show what is working, what’s not, and how to improve. Online data is easy to collect and manage and can be reviewed much more frequently than information from other sources. That enables you to make adjustments to your digital marketing strategy so you’re always getting the best ROI.
What Does Digital Marketing Do for Your Business?
1. Increases Your Online Presence
Digital marketing expands your reach. With an online presence, you’re not just dependent on someone stumbling across your storefront or a salesperson networking at a convention or business luncheon. Even if your focus is purely on Grand Rapids, it is important that more people discover you and develop interest in your offerings. An online presence means customers can find you quickly when they want to and enjoy fewer barriers to purchase.
2. Draws the Right People to Your Business
Digital marketing has an unrivaled ability to qualify your audience. You don’t have to depend on the right person driving past your store or seeing your ad in the newspaper. Instead, you can customize your approach with laser-like precision. Advanced targeting strategies ensure you are getting information in front of the right people and smart nurturing techniques allow you to weed out unqualified people while earning greater trust from ideal audience members.
3. Distinguishes You From Your Competitors
Grand Rapids is the second largest city in the state of Michigan. While that leads to many opportunities, it also means that your business isn’t the only one of its kind in the neighborhood. You likely have a few competitors who either offer similar products and services or cater to a similar demographic. To your audience, many businesses like yours start to blend together. You’re likely to become white noise unless you can find a way to distinguish yourself from the crowd. Digital marketing lets you showcase what makes your business unique, helping you stand out and earn valuable market share.
4. Builds Relationships and Engages Customers
Digital channels do not replace the need for relationship. In fact, customers are increasingly discerning and increasingly skeptical of businesses. They only want to interact with brands that they like and trust. Instead of replacing human connection, digital marketing presents multiple opportunities for you to begin and nurture a relationship with interested prospects. With the right strategies, customers can get to know you over time, foster trust in your brand, and develop unflinching loyalty to your product or services.
5. Provides Data for Smarter Business Decisions
As we suggested earlier, digital marketing brings science to your business decisions. You can use strategies to better understand your audience and how they respond to your business. You might discover an untapped market, double down on your most-searched-for products, or gauge interest in a new offering before spending money on development.
4 Digital Marketing Strategies for Grand Rapids Businesses
While there are many digital marketing strategies that can help your business, there are 4 that make the biggest difference when it comes to growing your business locally.
1. Claim and Refine Your Google Business Profile
Forty-six percent of Google searches have local intent, meaning it is critical that people in Grand Rapids can find your business with a simple online search. Fortunately, Google makes this easy with a Google Business Profile.
A Google Business Profile is the search engine’s version of a business listing in a phone book. It’s a simple profile that includes your business name, services, location, hours, and other vital information. It’s the easiest way for people to find your website, read reviews, and get directions to your physical location.
The best part is that a Google Business Profile is completely free. And yet, many businesses either don’t claim their profile, or leave it woefully incomplete. A little work spent optimizing your profile can make a big difference and is one of the easiest ways to expand your local presence.
Here’s what we recommend:
- Choose high-quality photos to feature on your profile—they’re the best way to capture and keep attention.
- Add product or service descriptions. Not only will these help your profile show up in different searches, but they will also provide valuable details on your offerings to interested visitors.
- Ask satisfied customers to write reviews (more on that later!)
2. Optimize Your Website for Local Search (Local SEO)
Search optimization is a process of structuring your website and its content to rank highly for relevant keywords. That simply means that people find your business when they’re searching Google for problems you solve, services you offer, or products you sell.
Local search features keywords that are specific to your particular location. This may be when people search for “Grand Rapids” as part of their keyword or when Google’s algorithm determines a local result will be most relevant. (Search “Chinese restaurants” or “Chinese restaurants near me” and you’ll be shown restaurants in your neck of the woods rather than across the country.)
Local SEO is important because it will help people in and around Grand Rapids find your business. If you’re a local business with a physical storefront or service area, this will help put you in front of people that are close enough to be your customers. Even if you specialize in e-commerce or have a national reach, local SEO can help reach qualified people without the competition of national search rankings.
Here are a few recommendations to help your site rank in Grand Rapids:
- Incorporate location terms throughout existing pages. Adding “Grand Rapids” or other city names to your website content will help you rank when someone searches “near you.”
- Consider a location-specific page. A location-specific page on your website is the ideal place to focus on your local audience. It allows you to capture searches for a specific business location or audience without distracting from your homepage.
3. Ask for and Curate Reviews
Reviews are one of the most important tools in your marketing arsenal. Very rarely will anyone make a purchase without consulting a review or testimonial first. The reason why is obvious: reviews provide an unbiased look at the value of your business. When customers read a review, they know they’re not being sold to. They see how your business genuinely helped someone like them.
While reviews are important for any business, they gain special relevance for local businesses. Reviews for an e-commerce site may speak to the quality of a product, but reviews for a local business can also speak to the conditions of a storefront or level of service.
Here are some tips for gathering and featuring reviews that grow your business:
- Use automated surveys to gather feedback immediately after someone interacts with your brand. Send a survey to customers once they make a purchase. You can even consider incentivizing their feedback with a special offer or thank-you gift.
- Feature reviews on your Google Business Profile and other sites like Yelp. Customer reviews provide social proof that your business beats the competition. Other sites like Yelp become an important authority that can also create backlinks for your website.
- When featuring reviews on your website, consider including the customer’s location. This is an easy way to reference cities in the area, making it an easy SEO opportunity.
4. Create Locally Targeted Email Campaigns
Email remains one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience. Once an interested prospect gives you their email address, you have permission to nurture their relationship with your business. Strategic nurture campaigns can help grow trust in your brand and provide valuable information to readers.
The most effective campaigns have a very specific audience. While that list segment could be based on many factors, one of the most interesting is location.
If you have location data for your contacts, you have an inside track to things that are relevant to them. You know the community they call home and all the different cultural, economic, and social characteristics that go with it. You can send emails that reference local events or places, tying into things that are already important to their world.
The point here isn’t to force some Grand Rapids references into your email copy. Instead, it’s using your position as a local business to make connections and provide value. What does that look like? The answer will vary depending on your business, but here are some ideas:
Promote location-specific offers. If you’re a landscaping company, offer a special for homeowners in a certain town or neighborhood.
Reference local news. If there’s a major (or relevant) development in the local news, it might make a good tie-in. For example, if you’re an HVAC company, you can mention a heat wave in your particular zip code.
Highlight a “made in…” statement. If you do business across the region or country, specifying your Grand Rapids location to residents can earn you some hometown trust.
Grow Your Business in West Michigan
Grand Rapids is full of opportunities for a growing business. Use the strategies we’ve outlined in this article as a guide to local digital marketing. With these tips in mind, you can increase your local presence, engage a qualified audience, and grow your business in West Michigan.
If you want to make the most of the opportunities marketing in Grand Rapids, consider the difference a comprehensive digital marketing strategy can make. Contact the team at Hughes Integrated digital marketing agency, to learn how the right partner and plan can help your audience fall in love with your brand.
About Hughes Integrated: Hughes Integrated is a digital marketing agency based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. We’re a team of creatives, business coaches, and digital strategists helping brands attract, connect with, and nurture their ideal audience. To learn more about our relationship-driven approach to marketing, visit www.hughesintegrated.com.
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