6 Secrets No One is Teaching Local Business Owners

My mom is constantly sharing Instagram posts with me from different brands in my city with things like “we should try this!” or “want this for your birthday?”

We have similar taste so if my mom thinks something is cool, I probably will too.

When people we trust share experiences they’ve had or local brands they tried, in just a moment we are clicking over to that brand’s Facebook Page or Instagram profile to do our own assessment.

Most of us don’t even realize we’re making decisions because of someone’s Facebook comment or Instagram Story.

It happens so fast.

Other people talking about your brand is single-handedly the best tool you have to shorten the trust gap as a local business owner.

What exactly is a trust gap?

It’s that space between “I’ve never heard of you in my life” to “I’m your biggest fan and am here to tell the world about you.”

The “secrets” marketers share are almost always just tactics.

These tactics alone won’t work unless you understand how to build trust within the tactics or to support the tactics.

It’s like a marketer saying you must use Facebook Ads, so you create your first campaign to promote your local boutique. The ad doesn’t work because when I click your profile, I see images of your products that are really dark and I also find only three reviews, with one of them having only 3 stars. And if I see your ad on Instagram Stories and click to your profile, I notice your logo is blurry and the last time you posted was four months ago. I go to Google to see where you’re located at your hours on your business profile don’t match what I just saw on Facebook.

Your ad campaign might be solid, but everything else associated with your brand makes me skeptical.

To do marketing well, no matter what tactic it is, you have to think about how you’re generating trust at every single stop on your brand journey.

Let’s dive into that journey. First up:

1. Visual brand identity

You don’t need a perfectly curated Instagram feed or a super original logo, but recognize that people are getting a first impression of you on your Facebook Page or through a Google search or by finding your company on your LinkedIn profile.

Is your logo crisp? Centered? Are you using consistent fonts and colors? Is the text in your Instagram post cutting off on the right or left side? Is your Facebook Page banner from 2013? Is the link in your bio relevant?

When you pay attention to the details it sends a message to your prospective customer that you’ll pay attention to them. When things are updated and consistent on all of your digital platforms it shows you are relevant.

I am nothing close to a designer. I don’t think you need to spend thousands of dollars for solid branding, but I do think it’s worth investing in getting a logo, brand colors, consistent fonts and a general idea of what photos will emulate your brand.

Do your own assessment. Ask a close friend who will give honest advice about your brand. Even better: work with a professional who won’t BS you.

2. Engaging with your audience

I was recently in conversation with a local business owner that was curious about hiring my company to run their digital marketing. They ended up going with another company, so naturally I have been curious to see how that brand is doing on their behalf.

The agency absolutely nails it with images. The graphics are beautiful.

However, they don’t take time to engage with the audience. Their posts get a few likes and no comments. Their follower account probably isn’t going to grow (which means their sales likely won’t either) because all the graphics are stock images with “heard it a million times” quotes about taking care of your health.

They’ve followed 2000+ local brands and people, yet never engage with any of them with comments (and I assume DMs but I wouldn’t know for sure).

I’ve seen these proposals before from agencies with the same rinse and repeat deliverables…

“You’ll get 2–3 posts per week on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.”

These deliverables may seem promising as you’re getting almost 12 social media posts off your plate to create yourself, but are these posts going to create more visibility, build trust, and create conversions?

In 2021, it’s going to be essential that your brand is talking with your audience instead of at them.

Treating your Instagram feed like a giant billboard will add to the noise and collect dust.

What does engagement actually look like? Showing up in DMs, nurturing relationships with existing customers, and sharing other brands and people you want your followers to know more about. If you want the full scoop on how to use Instagram as a local biz, here’s a deep dive.

3. Create share-worthy stuff

This fall I created some Instagram Story templates for local businesses to use. I asked people who used them to tag @love.local on their post and it was an amazing resource for others, while also pointing Instagram users to our profile.

We create fun graphics like this and this and this because we know people will want to save it or share it which helps our brand create more visibility.

These types of graphics are far more time-consuming to create but we know users find them interesting, valuable, and worthy of sharing. This sharing brings us dozens of new followers every week, full of ideal customers eager to buy our courses or hire us to manage their digital marketing.

It’s the local mercantile shop launching new products and their followers sharing it on their Stories because they think it’s beautiful or would make a great gift… and they want their own followers to know about it.

It’s the restaurant sharing a drink special and their followers getting excited and sharing it on their Facebook profile asking who wants to grab drinks next weekend.

When it comes to creating content that is shareable, it’s essential to think about your ideal customer. What do they get excited to share to their own followers? What excites them? What do they want to know more about? What are they passionate about?

The more your followers are sharing your content, the more trust you are building with your broader community.

This is exactly why we created the hummingbirds, a local influencer marketing service in Des Moines. When we can borrow the trust others have created with their online presence, the trust gap within our own business becomes smaller.

What types of content are you creating that your followers are eager to share? Use Instagram insights to learn more.

4. Reviews + testimonials

The number one thing we do with almost all of our new clients at Love Local is create systems and automations to ensure reviews and testimonials are being collected as frequently as possible.

Would you rather go to the spa that has 180 5-star reviews, or the one with 22 5-star reviews?

The more reviews you have, the faster you build trust. Especially if the reviews are good.

Have a bad one? Address it publicly and see what you can do to make it right. Don’t ignore it!

Even if the person was a total jerk, be sure to respond meaningfully to the review. Only you know the “inside scoop” of that negative review. Remember that your community on Facebook or Google does not.

While you’re at it, get as much mileage out of those reviews as possible! We find ways to integrate them into Instagram Stories and highlights, Instagram / Facebook posts, and incorporate them on the website, without feeling tacky.

People are finding you from all over the internet. Give them a reason at every corner to trust you and your offering.

5. Offer a remarkable experience

When I was pregnant, I had the most amazing prenatal massage ever. It was a total dream. I went back, I left reviews, I shared this person on my Instagram Stories, and I continue to tell my pregnant friends about her.

The experience was such a delight, I wish it for all pregnant women.

Beautiful testimonials, social media shares, and powerful word of mouth marketing happens from remarkable experiences.

We don’t usually talk about something that was mediocre or average. It just isn’t worth our time to acknowledge.

If you haven’t thought about this in a long time, map out the very beginning moment someone interacts with your brand and the second they end the brand experience. What is happening in that process to delight your customer?

You get to shape that whole experience… make it remarkable to get referrals and happy customers!

6. Delight your best customers

If we apply the Pareto Principle to local business, it would assume that 80% of business is generated by 20% of customers.

Do you know who those 20% are?

How do you engage them between every sale? How do you thank them for endless referrals? How do you follow up after a very large purchase?

If you can put a system in place to stay connected and valuable to your top customers, you can almost guarantee repeat business and referrals.

Don’t ignore those humans who continue to show up for you. Even if they’re broke and buying from you once a year, yet telling all their friends to shop with you… they’re highly valuable. Even if they only come once a year, yet you know they’ve referred a couple of your BEST shoppers, invest in them.

The research shows us the importance of investing in current customers with stats like this:

Don’t get too caught up in what is shiny and new. Focus on what you have and deepen those relationships.

We teach this at length in our 5-day Come Back Again Method, designed for local business owners to get their own systems set up to acknowledge the 20% and invest in them.

Ok, so why is no one teaching this?

Here are a few reasons I believe:

  • These types of services are harder to sell than “we’ll post 3x a week on your Instagram profile.” Building an audience, engaging with them, and delighting them takes way more time and effort. And while it’s important, local business owners are typically more intrigued by deliverables versus engagement.
  • You can implement most of this on your own! Asking your customers for a review, creating a remarkable brand experience, and doing your own Instagram Stories to share your values with your audience are harder to outsource and potentially simple for you to do on your own.
  • It requires both parties to get into the weeds, which can take time. We do it with a handful of our clients who are willing to make changes and question the way things are, but the reality is peeling back the layers of “how things are done” isn’t nearly as sexy as launching a new promotional campaign using email marketing, even if long-term you’ll have more success deeply understanding the brand journey from A to Z.

Building trust over time will absolutely lead to business growth. Sometimes it’s really fast because dozens of people share your content on IG Stories. Sometimes it’s slow, as a couple people a week leave a Google review.

The question to consider is this:

What is the ROI of trust?

Trust is subtle and difficult to calculate.

How do you know that Susan read a review on Google from her old coworker Nancy (who she really respects) that led to her calling you?

How will you know the 15 before and after Stories on your Instagram Highlights was the “thing” that made someone book their first appointment?

How will you know that having 22 5-star reviews is what made Drew select your auto body shop over the one right down the street with zero reviews?

This is hard to measure, but if you stay the course on the trust journey you will start to feel it in the revenue you bring in. That’s the ultimate calculation, right?

If you’re building a legacy brand in your local community, put some effort into trust building this year. You don’t have to totally scrap what you’re doing now… just ask yourself how trust plays a role in all of it.

Want more like this? Tune into our Local to Legend podcast to learn more tools for building your local business.

Entrepreneur, CEO, local business enthusiast. I write about topics that impact local businesses, leaders, and communities.

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