So, you get a call from a local pizza restaurant who was referred to you by a friend. He wants to use the web to increase his visibility. What do you do? That's actually a trick question. While SEO professionals would naturally lean into rank visibility, there are way more ways to increase it than simply ranking in search and sometimes, just because you rank locally, doesn't imply any return on your efforts.

In short, there is a methodical way to build a marketing hierarchy for a business in a fashion that won't bust up a budget. These are the 5 stages of marketing.

  1. Branding
  2. Advertising
  3. Marketing
  4. Social
  5. SEO

And yes. I am being general.


Branding is not just a logo design for your company. It's the shutzpah, from logo design to tagline. It's what you are about. It defines you. In some instances, it will define who you do business with.

For instance, a local pizza place in Memphis named 3 guys pizza. The tagline goes something like this- Pizza is proof that God Loves you and wants you to be happy. The servers wear shirts that say we knead your business, so we can grow. The logo design is a picture of 3 guys eating pizza, a "hippie", a "jock" and then the average dude.

Takeaway- Think about what your business is saying to your prospective customers. It doesn't have to be cute like three guys pizza but it does need to take a stand as to how your business is going to fit into the community.


The advertising stage has to do with actually getting leads for your business. A strong brand identity will cherry pick those who feel your business (in a groovy kind of way). For a local restaurant, the conventional DIY advertising would be clipper ads and direct mail inserts. But that isn't the only way.

Unconventional advertising examples would be like teaming up with a church and offering a free appetizer in exchange for a church bulletin. Stores near movie theaters have offered something for free in exchange for a movie ticket stub.

One of the more misunderstood concepts is the idea of advertising to a target market. Usually when you are talking to businesses that deal with the general public, their answer to the question, who is your target market, is everyone. And it may be. But generally, you can get a lot more mileage out of defining your market and advertising a specialty even if the market appears general.

My personal side business is branded around musicians and artists and I am advertising through the local musician's union and some non-profits. I could have branded myself as for everyone, and I may not have been able to cut through the competition quickly. The fact that I am personally speaking to a specialized group means something to them because it makes them feel I speak their language (I do). Plus, I still get corporate accounts via referrals.


Ads and offers are one thing. But they are one and done if you aren't gathering information. One of the biggest complaints heard from businesses that use companies like Groupon is that the traffic comes only as long as there is an advertisement offering something. In other words, the argument is that it doesn't foster customer loyalty.

And this may be the case. But it isn't the traffic that's the problem; it's what you do with that traffic as you get it. A business that is only looking at sales spreadsheets rather than focusing on building a customer base is destined to fail. Option? Mailing list sign-ups for future in house marketing. That's one option. Loyalty cards is another.

Ultimately, a small business will want more ways to engage their customers that goes beyond third party platforms. While the traffic is nice, if you aren't capturing details and trying to move it to a more intimate setting, you aren't doing your business any favors.


"But there is no ROI in social media." And this is true. Likes come cheap in this net economy. But if you are stuck on return when it comes to social media, you don't truly understand it's power for a local business.

Example: There's a local yogurt shop that offers a 10% discount if you will like them live and make a location based status update while you are there. The purpose is to use your Facebook profile to brand their business to all of your friends. That doesn't mean that their friends are going to blaze over there and kill the store with traffic though.

What it could mean is that the next time their friends are passing by the store, they will recognize it because they had seen it before and may stop to try it out when they are looking for something sweet because they remembered seeing it on Facebook.


And finally, SEO. If you are selling a service locally, then you may want to experiment with pay-per-click to see what phrases convert best first and then move into an organic campaign. This is by far cheaper than guessing and a local business may find keywords that are easier to rank for AND non-competitive to boot.

For instance, if you are local roofer, you can play around with different townships and suburbs in conjunction with general keywords to see what keywords get you the most action. From there, you can refine your website to reflect the best converting keywords and take the guess work out of the equation.

And there you have it...the 5 stages of a marketing campaign. You don't need to necessarily start in order but they cover the facets of building a successful business using all the available assets online and off.

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