9 Steps to Build Your Digital Marketing Foundation

Table of Contents

As a local service business, you’re in the business of offering your help, time and expertise. People want to find, connect, and learn about you online.

And, they want it to be easy.

So, what’s the best way to turn people searching in your area into sales?

You have lots of options.

With limited time, and a limited budget, you need the best way to grow your local business. 

Wondering how to begin marketing your local service business?

You might be asking yourself…

Good news! There is a process.

And, when you take the right steps, in the right order, local marketing becomes easier. When you ditch all the jargon, it even starts making sense.

Building your digital marketing foundation is a predictable, step-by-step process to grow your local business at your own pace.

We explain it simply, so everyone can understand what to do, and why you should do it.

You can follow along as a new business. Or, as an existing business that needs a marketing tune-up.

Local marketing is kind of like building a house

Just like when you build a house, you can’t do it all at once. There’s a logic behind the order you complete each step.

You lay the foundation before you put up the walls.

And, you never put the walls up before running the electrical or plumbing.

It just doesn’t make any sense.

The house doesn’t have to be big and fancy to serve it’s purpose. But, it does need a solid foundation, 4 walls, a roof, plumbing and a heat source.

You can add design updates or build additions later when the time is right.

But, the essentials are a must.

The same goes for your local marketing. 

Building your Digital Marketing Foundation puts the local marketing essentials in place.

Piece, by piece.

It sets you up for success with a clear message and strong online presence.

If you’re a qualified, reputable local business, you deserve to have your story heard.  When done right, our Digital Marketing Foundation strategy ensures any qualified local business can grow online no matter your size or budget.

What's a Digital Marketing Foundation?

9 Step overview for your digital marketing foundation

Your marketing starts with your Brand Message. Your Brand Message is a story about what you do and what makes your business special. It should be easy for your target customer to relate to.

Once your Brand Message is clear, leverage it to setup your presence on Google and create a website with all the info customers need to know. Later, you can build out your website with more content. Or, use other local marketing strategies when you’re ready.

In this blog post you’ll learn about our 9 step strategy for building a strong online presence for your local business.

Our technique ensures each step you are taking is always the most important one. And, that each step is strategic so the next steps are easier.

Step 1: Conduct Local Market Research

9 steps of building digital marketing foundation for local service business with market research highlighted

The first step to building your Digital Marketing Foundation is local market research.

Lots of local businesses skip this.

That’s a big mistake.

Your research doesn’t have to be fancy. But you have to get it done.

Learning about the people who need your services helps your story be more relatable. Local market research also helps you find ways to set your business apart from the status quo.

There may be a chance to provide new services, offer special hours, or solve new problems for your customers.

Learning about the demographics and interests of your potential customers, and speaking with people directly is the best way to understand them.

Learn information about people in your service area

Demographics is just data about people. You can learn a lot about your customer, and particular groups within your community.

  • Local income levels,

  • Household makeup,

  • Professions,

  • Age,

  • Education, and more.

Websites such as datausa.io and census.gov are valuable sources of local demographics data. Local communities often have data about the local population available on their websites as well.

Speak with your customers and potential customers

Go beyond the high level data you find when researching local demographics.

Direct feedback from people is extremely useful.

Talk to the people in your community that are your existing customers. Or, potentially can be your customers.

What are their biggest pain points when working with businesses like yours?

You can send a short written survey using services like Survey Monkey. Or, just speak with people informally.

Knowing the people and the communities where you do business helps shape your marketing to relate to them better.

Each business is a bit different, and the research you do will depend on your business and your customers.

Step 2: Learn About Your Competitors

9 Steps to Build Your Digital Marketing Foundation

The second step to building your Digital Marketing Foundation is competitor research. It’s critical that you know who your competitors are. This could be part of your market research, but we find it helpful to focus on your competitors separately.

Take the time to find your competitors and review their online marketing.

  • How many competitors do you have around your location?

  • Is the competition doing a good job serving customers?

  • Who are your top competitors?

Learning about businesses providing similar services helps you find ways to be different.

When you’re just getting started with your local marketing, it takes time to see results. If none of your competitors are doing a spectacular job with their marketing, it gets easier. 

However, businesses with good marketing that have been in business longer will have the advantage.

You can find ways to stand out by highlighting what makes your business unique.

It doesn’t take much to research your local competition. You don’t need any special skills, or a fancy report. Just follow a few simple steps.

  • Run some searches on Google and review the businesses that come up.

  • Review the Google Business Profile for each competitor.

  • Review their websites and social media profiles.

  • Read reviews left for competitors to learn what they do well, and not so well. Consider doing things a bit differently.

A good competitor analysis can also help get the creative juices flowing for your own marketing. As you browse other websites and Google profiles, take note of what you like.

And, what you don’t like.

After you learn about your market, and see the competition, it’s time to ID your target customer.

Step 3: Create Your Target Customer Profile

9 steps of building digital marketing foundation for local service business with target customer highlighted

The third step to building your Digital Marketing Foundation is creating your target customer profile. After doing your research, you’re ready to define your target customer.

Having a target customer doesn’t mean you only serve that exact customer.

So often we hear, “I don’t want to limit my business to just one customer profile”.

Don’t worry. That’s not what a target customer profile means.

Instead, a target customer profile helps you strategically create a marketing message that attracts your best customers. It can be a broad profile.

For example, homeowners living in Westchester County NY.

Or, it can be more specific.

For example, retired homeowners living in lower Westchester County with homes valued over $800,000.

Your market research and competitor review will help you figure out how general, or specific your target customer profile should be.

  • Think about what you learn during your research.

  • Consider what makes your business uniquely qualified.

  • List the opportunities to differentiate your business.

  • Create your target customer profile.

If there’s not many competitors standing out, your target customer can be more general. However, if you’re in a crowded industry, consider being more specific.

The more specific you are, the more your brand message will connect with your potential customer.

Maybe you won’t appeal to everyone. But, that’s okay.

Because, if done right, you will appeal to your target customer.

You’ll also capture attention from people that don’t fit your customer profile exactly.

Then, you can decide if each potential customer is a good fit for your business.

Here's an example to think about

For a residential realtor, your target customer can be people looking to buy or sell a home in the cities you serve. But, normally there are lots of local realtors.

So, you might want to be much more specific with your marketing.

If you want to focus on selling higher priced homes, include info about income levels in your customer profile.  

And, if you know from your market research a lot of people living in Westchester have long commutes to NYC, consider offering special hours.

If your competitors aren’t, maybe you should have a few nights a week with late hours.

By providing that additional value, you’ll set your business apart. Your research will prepare you to identify ways to distinguish your own business.

When you clearly define your target customer, it’s easier to figure out how to reach them online. The photos, language and promotions you use should all be chosen to relate to your target customer.

It’s up to each business to decide how specific your target customer profile will be.

Consider including the following details:

  • 2-3 sentence description of your target customer

  • Location(s) by County, Region, City or Zip Codes

  • List any relevant demographic data such as age, income, professions, household makeup, travel time, home value, rent vs own or others.

  • List common interests and hobbies

  • List where you are likely to reach your target customer online

Step 4: Craft Your Branding

9 Steps to Build Your Digital Marketing Foundation

The fourth step to building your Digital Marketing Foundation is creating your local branding.

Your message and how you represent your business online makeup your brand.

It’s important to establish your brand with your target customer in mind. Don’t make the mistake of tailoring your brand to what you like most. Or, making your message about how great you are.

Instead, make it all about your customer. Show people that you understand them, and that you can help.

Your Branding breaks down into two parts.

  • Brand Message: The story about what you do and how you’re unique

  • Brand Assets: Logo, favicon, brand colors and business details

Brand Message

If the story of your business was made into a movie, your Brand Message is the plot.

It creates an outline for the story you start telling now through your Google Business Profile and your website. And, later evolves as your business grows.

Consider what you know about the people likely to need your services. Then create an outline for the message you want to deliver.

  • What makes your business the best option? (Your Value Statement)

  • What results or benefits do you deliver customers?

  • What are your qualifications & experience?

  • What problems or struggles does your customer have?

  • What are your promises or guarantees?

  • What’s the first step to get started?

Crafting a clear message early on makes it easier to create the content you need to start building your online presence. Your Brand Message isn’t something you’ll directly give to customers.

Your Brand Message is the theme behind your marketing, and should help shape the content you produce.

Brand Assets

Your brand assets are how you represent your business.

  • Logo and favicon (icon)

  • Brand colors

  • Product and service descriptions

  • Business description

  • Photos and videos that represent your business

Think about how your customers feel when they’re searching for businesses like yours. And, how you want them to feel when working with your business.

By strategically choosing the right colors, imagery and language, you can help people better connect with your business.

Building a strong local brand helps get you found online, and guides potential customers along an easy journey to becoming a customer.

Step 5: Create Your Local Marketing Strategy

9 steps of building digital marketing foundation for local service business with marketing strategy highlighted

The fifth step to building your Digital Marketing Foundation is creating your local marketing strategy.

Plans are great, but they never tell you how exactly to get the job done.

That’s why you need a local marketing strategy to execute.

It needs to be brief, and easy to follow. The best strategies are easy to explain and fit on 1 page. As your business grows, your strategy can evolve.

  • What is your value statement? This should be a quick, crisp statement that says what makes your business special.

  • Where will you reach your customers online?

  • Describe the steps that a new customer takes to find you, learn about you and start working with your local service business.

  • List common keywords potential customers are searching for.

The best part about building your Digital Marketing Foundation is that most of the strategy is already done for you. We provide the framework to build a strong foundation. Then, simply customize the framework to deliver your unique Brand Message.

The strategy is kind of like Madlibs for local businesses

The idea is simple.

  1. Craft a Brand Message that relates to your Target Customer, and then document it in your Brand Guide so you can keep your message consistent. Plus, you can leverage your brand message to help with content creation.

  2. Use your Brand Guide to build and manage a strong Google Business Profile so Google learns about your business, and potential customers find you when searching for businesses like yours.

  3. Claim and complete important Online Directory Listings and social media profiles to help build a professional online presence.

  4. Build a fast, mobile-friendly website that is easy for everyone to use. Ensure you deliver your Brand Message about what you do, what makes you special and how to start working with you.

  5. Once your foundation is in place, strategize how to grow your marketing by building more in-depth content on your website, growing social media accounts or running paid ads when the time is right. 

Don’t waste time and money trying to advertise your business before your message is clear, complete and easy to find. Building your digital marketing foundation ensures you have a professional online presence and clear message.

Put the pieces in place that help you capture the free traffic when people are already searching. Even if you have an ad budget, the ads won’t be as effective if your message isn’t clear.

You’ll start ranking in local search results over time as Google learns more about your business. Plus, you’ll ensure a clear message is in place if you decide to drive more traffic to your business with advanced local marketing strategies.

Step 6: Create Your Brand Guide

9 Steps to Build Your Digital Marketing Foundation

It’s important that your branding is consistent.

That’s why the sixth step to building your Digital Marketing Foundation is creating a Brand Guide. Your Brand Guide pulls together all of the work you did in previous steps.

Create a Brand Guide to collect important details about your business, and your marketing strategy in one place.

Include your:

  • Target Customer Profile

  • Digital Profile details

  • Branding

  • Marketing Strategy

Documenting the important info about your local service business helps keep your branding consistent. Plus, it’s all the info you need to start building your online presence with your Google Business Profile, Online Listings and Website.

Here’s a recap of what each section will contain.

Digital Profile

Your Digital Profile should outline the important info about your business. These are the details you use to create your Google Business Profile and other Online Listings.

  • Contact info

  • Logo and favicon

  • Website

  • Professionally branded email address

  • Hours 

  • Business description

  • Product and service descriptions

  • Industry credentials and awards

  • Business opening date

  • Payments accepted

  • Social media handles

You’ll need these details over and over again for your marketing. And, it’s critical that they are kept consistent.

Listing on popular, reputable directories helps your business build prominence online. Some directories automatically list your local business. But, the details they have aren’t always accurate.

A survey of 350 Small Businesses by ConstantContact found that 49% of businesses never update their directory listings online. Don’t make the same mistake.

Inaccurate info confuses Google. And, confuses your potential customers.

Document these important details once, so they’re easy to keep consistent where your business appears online.

Brand Message

Your story is the most critical part of your local marketing.

Include an outline of your Brand Message in your Brand Guide so it’s easy to reference.

Remember, your Brand Message outlines answers to the following questions.

  • What makes your business the best option? (Your Value Statement)

  • What results or benefits do your customers receive?

  • What frustrations or struggles do your customers have?

  • What are your qualifications & experience?

  • What are your promises or guarantees?

  • What can your customers expect?

  • What’s the first step to get started?

Your Brand Message can be used to write the content for your website, fill in your Google Business Profile and help create new content as your business grows.

Target Customer Profile

Your Target Customer is the star of your story. They’re the ones with the problem that your business is going to solve.

Including a clear target customer profile as part of your Brand Guide keeps your marketing on point. The most successful local businesses use marketing to show potential customers the results they deliver.

The better that you understand your target customer, the more relatable your content will be.

Marketing Strategy

Finally, your Brand Guide will wrap up with your simple 1 Page Marketing Strategy. That way, it’s easy to find, refer to and update so your marketing stays on point.

Step 7: Build Your Google Business Profile

9 steps of building digital marketing foundation for local service business with Google Business Profile highlighted

Step seven of building your Digital Marketing Foundation is where you actually start building your online presence with your Google Business Profile.

According to Google, a strong Google Business Profile is the first step for a local service business to establish your online presence.

After your Brand Guide is done, you can easily build a strong Google Business Profile with complete, accurate information about your business.

Google Business Profile is the modern day yellow pages.

It’s an online directory listing that, when done properly, ensures you show up on Google search results (SERP) and Google Maps.

Building your Google listing to connect with local customers is a great way to grow sales. You’ll capture attention from people searching for businesses like yours.

Remember, Google’s customer is your customer too.

Google wants to deliver a great experience to their customers. That means, highlighting the best businesses that are relevant to what people are searching for.

The problem is, not all of the best local businesses are building their Google Business Profiles. So, Google doesn’t know what you do, or that you’re qualified and trustworthy.

Use your Google Business Profile to make sure Google knows all about you.

Deliver potential customers a preview of what your business does, what makes you special and how to get in touch with you.

Google has an easy to use tool called the Local Opportunity Finder.

It helps you make sure your Google Business Profile is claimed, verified and complete with all the important details.

  • Legal business name as your location name

  • Complete contact information

  • List of services and descriptions

  • List of products with images

  • Photos of your work

  • Reviews and review responses

  • Updates and offer posts

Leveraging Google listings for your business is the easiest way to build a reputation as an honest, qualified service business.

After you setup your Google Business Profile, it’s critical you actively manage it.

Maintaining and growing your Google Business Profile ensures that you capture more and more attention when people are searching for the services you provide.

The best leads are the ones that don’t cost you anything.

Step 8: Setup Online Listings

9 steps of building digital marketing foundation for local service business with Online Listings highlighted

Step eight of building your Digital Marketing Foundation uses your Brand Guide to complete your Online Listings. Once Google knows your business exists, they start searching for more info about you online.

Claiming and completing important Online Listings including Directory Listings, Social Media Listings and others sends Google more signals that you’re a well-established business that should show up in relevant search results.

  • Setup well-known Directory Listings such as Yelp, Nextdoor & Yellowpages

  • Setup Social Media Listings such as Facebook, Instagram & LinkedIn

  • Setup Industry Specific Listings on websites unique to your industry

Even if you don’t believe many of your customers will find you on websites like Yelp, Nextdoor and Yellowpages, it’s important you claim and complete your business profile for three reasons.

  1. Google is looking for more information about your business. When you are listed in popular, well-known business directories with accurate business details it sends a signal that you are a reputable business.

  2. Your Online Listings show up when people search your business name on Google. Claiming and creating professional profiles on reputable websites helps show your business is well-established. Plus, if there aren’t enough results to show about your business, Google will show websites or listings for other businesses in your area. The last thing you want is for a potential customer to click to a competitor’s website when they are actually looking for your business.

  3. If you don’t claim your Online Listings, someone else might. There are many examples of impostors claiming businesses they don’t own for lots of reasons. For example, they claim your listing with your business name, but they change the phone number to their own. Claiming your Online Listings ensure you control the info online about your Brand.

It’s also a good idea to consider setting up profiles on all of the popular social media sites for the same reasons. You can create a presence on social media, even if you don’t plan to post on each platform actively.

Plus, don’t forget to take advantage of any profiles or listings you can have on industry specific websites. For example, Angi.com for home service businesses.

If you’re certified by a specific vendor or brand, they may offer online profiles for you as well.

The more reputable places your business appears online with complete, quality content, the more reputable you appear. For most local service businesses, your Online Listings don’t have to be actively managed.

You should set them up early, since it takes time for Google to crawl the internet to learn about your business. 

Then, remember to update them if any of your Digital Profile or other business details change.

If you have an existing business with a physical street address, there are several free tools available to help you check the top Online Listings to see if your business is listed, and whether the info about you is accurate.

The businesses that own these tools will try to sell you a subscription service. They offer to automatically update your business details in bulk so you don’t have to. But they charge an annual fee.

We prefer to create our listings manually. It takes more time at first, but saves an annual recurring fee. Each business can decide what works best for them.

Step 9: Create Your Starter Website

9 steps of building digital marketing foundation for local service business with Website highlighted

The final step, step nine of building your Digital Marketing Foundation is creating your website.

Your website is the best place to put all the important information from your Brand Message. It’s also where most local service businesses go wrong.

Help Google, and your potential customers find what they need to know about you.

A fast, mobile-friendly website that delivers a clear message can start small, and grow as your goals and budget evolve.

Too often, local businesses are sold huge websites with fancy designs.

But, the websites have unclear messaging, aren’t easy for people to use, and do a poor job of helping Google and customers learn about your business.

When you’re starting out on a budget, you don’t need a huge website. It’s more important that you build a solid foundation with a good user experience.

Your Starter Website should:

  • Have a nice professional design that aligns with your Branding

  • Be fast, and easy for people to use on desktop and mobile

  • Clearly deliver your Brand Message with a clear call to action

  • Use descriptive language to explain what your business does

  • Be accessible for everyone

  • Deliver a fantastic customer experience

  • Include structured data markup to help search engines better understand the content on your website

  • Use Google Search Console to monitor how your website is performing in local search results

Your website can be a single page with a clear message and instructions on how to get started working with you.

You can use Google’s free website tool to score your website from 0 to 100 in four key categories. The categories include:

  1. Performance – Is your website fast and easy to use on all devices?

  2. Best Practices – Does your website follow best practices for design?

  3. SEO – Do you have proper page titles, descriptions and content structure?

  4. Accessibility – Can people using assistive technology use your website?

Review the results for both the desktop and mobile tests.

Creating your website strategically will turn it into your most valuable sales tool.

Forget SEO, optimize your customer experience

9 Steps to Build Your Digital Marketing Foundation

Search engine optimization is an outdated term. Search engines are evolving and looking for signals that your business is relevant, qualified and reputable.

Delivering an outstanding customer journey, packed with all the info people want to know will ensure your website is SEO friendly, without having to worry about all that jargon.

We call it, Customer Experience Optimization (CXO).

All the things that help improve the customer experience, such as descriptive page titles, accurate page descriptions and well-organized, easy to read, clear content help search engines to understand your business too.

You can’t trick search engines any more by jamming in lots of keywords and using other outdated strategies. Google and other search engines rank relevant businesses with quality content.

The user experience is all that matters.

Start simple, and then later you can add more content such as a website page about each service you offer, a blog, FAQs and more.

Choosing your website platform

We build all of our client websites on WordPress. WordPress websites offer a great user experience, can be fully customized and evolve with your business. However, WordPress websites do require ongoing maintenance.

Other options for building your website include Wix, Shopify, Square Space, Google and lots of other options. Many of these platforms require minimum maintenance. But, come with limitations.

The right platform for your website will depend on your business and your future goals.

What comes next?

After you do some research, and shape your Brand Message, your business is set up for success. 

Clarifying your messaging, and then delivering that message on Google and your website ensures the people already searching for services you provide can find you online.

The more Google and your potential customers know about you, the more likely they are to understand that you’re a qualified local business that gets the job done right.

Your Digital Marketing Foundation is important to maintain overtime. 

So, don’t set it and forget it.

Every few months, do some light research, check out your competitors, and see if you learn anything new about your customer. 

It’s important to actively manage your Google Business Profile and keep your website running smoothly to capture more and more traffic as you build your online brand.

Cartoon drawing of Joe Darragh and Mark Congionti in front of Tapanzee Bridge

For some local businesses, building your digital marketing foundation may be enough.

Think of your Digital Marketing Foundation as your online storefront. If you’re on a busy enough road, with a high demand product or service, you may not need to advertise.

For other local businesses, you may need to advertise to get more phone calls and drive traffic to your website. Or, find other ways to drive traffic such as social media.

What comes next depends on your unique business. But, putting these essentials in place ensures that whenever people arrive, your message is clear and you can convert your leads into sales.

However your business evolves, always remember…

Don’t ask customers to trust you, show them that they can. Show people what makes you special, and your business will thrive!

Your Digital Marketing Foundation Strategy

We hope you enjoyed reading this post!

If you want us to just handle your local marketing for you, schedule a meeting with us.

We hope you enjoy reading this post!

If you want us to just handle your local marketing for you, schedule a meeting with us.