Mark Acierno, the owner of Frederick Sport & Spine clinics throughout Frederick County, relies primarily on word of mouth and referrals to attract new clients.
He doesn’t describe himself as particularly tech-savvy, which is why he contacted Dott Digital Marketing three years ago to help him with his website and search engine optimization (SEO).
This move, he said, saved his business during the pandemic.
âHonestly, if we hadn’t implemented this referral and everything that led to the pandemic, I imagine our business would be even more down than we already are due to the lack of incoming patients,â Acierno mentioned.
SEO is a digital marketing practice of improving and managing a company’s website to increase the visibility of the business for relevant searches. For example, one of the keywords “Sport & Spine Targets” is “Frederick Dry Needling”. This therapeutic technique is relatively unique, so it’s essential that people looking for it can quickly see that Sport & Spine offers it, according to Acierno.
âWithout SEO, I don’t think our dry needling would be as popular,â he said, âbut we have a lot of people asking about dry needling.â
Antonio Guerrero, the owner of Dott Digital, said the pandemic has been good for his business. He has taken on many new clients over the past year and has hired a few more employees as well.
âI think this year, during the pandemic, has made many small business owners realize the importance of having essentially a marketing machine,â Guerrero said. “… A lot of small business owners take it on or treat marketing as a one-time event – a one-off-and-done type of thing.”
The pandemic has increased the time people spend online every day. The data consumed by Internet subscribers increased by 40% between 2019 and 2020, according to a study by OpenVault.
The key to good marketing is getting in front of people, said Kenny Downs, owner of Frederick Advertising.
“[Customers] are online, they are on websites, they are on google, they are looking for things. So you just have to be where they are, “Downs said.” A lot of customers are reluctant to jump on Facebook or access Instagram or even touch social media because they just don’t understand it … but I try to tell them that they could potentially miss a whole new audience. “
Downs also stressed the importance of SEO, especially for local businesses. Guerrero agreed that local businesses should aim to be in what he calls the “card pack,” or the few listings below the card on the first page of search engine results.
Guerrero works primarily with service providers like plumbers and electricians. He advises them to use Google Ads to be the top of the Google search, so if someone searches for “plumber Frederick”, he appears first.
If some people do not click on advertisements on purpose, it is not enough to relate to Guerrero. Many people, he says, don’t know the difference between an ad and an organic listing.
âThe person at home whose toilet just blew up, does she know or care? She just needs a plumber – stat,â Guerrero said. “They will click on the first one.”
While it may appear that large conglomerates and corporations have an advantage over local businesses when it comes to digital marketing, Guerrero said the opposite may be true. If people are specifically looking for local results, they are more likely to search for a business that explicitly advertises itself as local with a local phone number and good reviews.
âRelevance, proximity and reputation are the things that really matter to Google,â Guerrero said. âWhen you say you’re a local plumber as opposed to the plumbing referral service, or instead of clicking on Angie’s list or a Yelp link, most people who want to support a local business also click on the Frederick-based organization. “
Prioritizing reviews and maintaining a good SEO reputation are just a few of the ways local businesses can make sure people can find them rather than relying solely on referrals. Guerrero remembers his grandfather’s painting business, which he said was successful, but often stretched slowly as references dried up.
âYou can’t predict referralsâ¦ there’s ebb and flow, there’s the roller coaster ride that so many small business owners are a part of,â Guerrero said. “The only thing you can really do to get off a roller coaster is build a system.”
Follow Erika Riley on Twitter: @ej_riley