How the Internet Levels the Playing Field for Local Small Businesses

by Joanne Steele on January 31, 2012

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Ed and I are in southern California for several months, living in Loma Linda, a little town an hour east of Los Angeles.  This area is made up of one little town crammed against another for miles in every direction.

Small local businesses are located in the little strip malls on almost every street corner. We’re spending time everyday searching for them.El Kiosco Restaurant

They are growing and prospering in the hardest marketing environment in the world. The LA Basin is challenging for large businesses and doubly challenging for small local businesses.

Internet Marketing is changing everything for these small local businesses.

Just like you, they only need a few hundred or a few thousand loyal customers to survive. But they are competing in a huge noisy marketing environment that used to cost big advertising bucks to shout out their message.

Now, like you, they have an opportunity to reach those few hundred or few thousand customers online for the cost of their time.

The story of how internet marketing successfully works for one locally owned restaurant that we discovered.

Last weekend we took a drive over to Ontario, CA, and decided to have lunch at a Mexican restaurant on the way home.

We, like millions of people, went first to our smartphone. We were driving down the I-10 Freeway near the town of Rialto when I (the one NOT driving) searched for a Mexican restaurant using the Google search function on our IPhone.

Among the many chains that popped up on the map was El Kiosco in Rialto. I immediately clicked through to their website which looked good. I checked their Google Places page, which had 7 fantastic reviews and we got off at the next exit.

The GPS on our phone and the Google map guided us to the location.El Kiosco check in sign

When we arrived, I notice a sign on the door encouraging us to “check in” using Facebook Places and get a 10% discount.

In several places in the restaurant were signs encouraging us to like them on Facebook.

We loved the food, and did all of the above.

Facebook signWe checked in on Facebook and got the 10% discount.

We liked them on Facebook and left a recommendation.

What does El Kiosco’s simple internet marketing effort teach every other small local business?

1. Using a few of the available internet marketing tools can get you the attention necessary to attract your customers.

In El Kiosco’s case, the owner has claimed his Google Places page (important to keep Google happy), created a very simple website and maintained a Facebook business page. That’s it.

There is much more I would recommend he do, like claim his business on review sites, but these three things are working.

2. Internet marketing doesn’t have to rule your life to be successful.

This business owner, like you, spends most of his waking hours at his business. By encouraging us customers to check in and leave comments and reviews, he is effectively using internet tools to allow us, his customers, to help him do his marketing for him.

3. Internet marketing tools are necessary in order to reach your customer where he or she is looking.

Ed and I are relying on our smartphone to find everything we need, and so is everyone else in the world. Nearly 50% of all cell phone users have these little gems, and once a person learns to use the search function, it will be the first tool they use to find what they need.

Three simple, doable things that anyone can do. Even a busy small local business owner like you.

 

 

1 Frank February 5, 2012 at 2:38 am

Spot on article thanks.

I just developed a site for a small restaurant here in Australia, we did what you suggest and added cards on the tables for regular customers to sign up to a mailing list in exchange for a free coffee. Works a treat and we have improved connection.

Oh, here is the link to the site, nice and simple! http://steampocket.com.au/

Cheers!
Frank

2 Tourism Tim Warren February 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Great job Joeanne explaining in real life circumstances how small local businesses can and should be using these great free internet marketing tools. I totally agree.

Your tips, articles and experience are a real asset to the business community, especially the rural tourism business.

Keep up the good work. It’s been too long since we talked. Let’s talk soon.

To your success, Tourism Tim

3 Joanne Steele February 7, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Thanks Tim. I keep my eye on your good work for travel businesses. As you’ve seen, I have branched out and am helping all kinds of rural small businesses. For small towns, it all comes back to rural tourism these days… Let’s talk soon.

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