'How Local SEO helps small retailers and manufacturers survive and thrive in a competitive world.'
David and Goliath: the victory of small over big, the triumph of the nimble entity over the ponderous entity. In his time David did it with a well-chosen stone. Today, the Davids of the world turn to SEO.
Despite the potential generated by one of the largest and fastest growing economies in the world, small businesses in India struggle to keep up with sales and are often overwhelmed with the cost of running traditional businesses. The wonders of the Internet, the way it can boost business at breakneck speed, has barely penetrated this market. It’s not totally the fault of small business and manufacturing entities in India. There has been scant strategic support from associations or regulatory bodies to raise awareness of all things digital, and the first steps taken by by local bodies to educate small businesses have yet to bear fruit.
But there are Davids in the Indian e-commerce industry to point out, demonstrating the potential and success that’s possible by utilizing the immense power of the Internet and its all-encompassing nature. How else to explain Flipkart rising dramatically in a world dominated by the Goliath Amazon?
The small players in the world of Indian manufacturing will either have to embrace change and start harnessing the power of the Internet or remain just another player satisfied with what it has while not wanting much change.
Retail Industry in India
Unorganized Retail vs. Organized Retail Market in India
A Short and Simple Story
Lalu Dass Shoe Maker, a small shoe manufacturer located in the heart of Bangalore on Brigade Road, specializes in custom made leather shoes for men and women. While Mr. Lalu Dass has been in business for the past 60 years, very little has been known about him online until very recently. In the brick and mortar world, however, his reputation is monumental. Customers speak at length about the quality, comfort, and price of his shoes as well as the humility of this great artisan.
I have known Mr. Lalu Dass for quite some time, and for all the right reasons. Despite our relationship, I have found it very difficult to help this shoe manufacturer (generally what we refer to as a ‘cobbler’) understand the world of online business and the potential it represents to elevate the fortunes of small business enterprises. No matter how hard I tried I could not persuade him to use his brand ‘Name’ for his own merchandise online. His rigidity in thought, his desire to maintain status quo, simply would not give way.
Then I used another tactic. It’s one that works with almost everyone. I proposed that if he allowed me to use his brand ‘Name’ online, I would double his business. “Money talks and nobody walks,” as the saying goes. I can say I won at least the preliminary round.
Results within 2-3 weeks
- Google Page 1 Take Over
- Conversion Rate: More business enquiries from online, almost 10X customer enquiries (than the offline customer footfalls), out of which 3X more customers placed orders. This is a whopping 30% Conversion Rate.
- Branding & Awareness: Lalu Dass Shoes has become a brand name by itself online. Search for it and you will get all the relevant details.
Just by doing a bit of Local SEO in whatever time I had
1. Researched Conversion Keywords:
It is important that you quickly check what your online audience is looking for. How they will find you is the question needing an answer. Google AdWords helped me cut through the Keywords with moderately high search, comparatively low competition and high conversions.
2. Research on Competition and Relevant Directories:
While keywords are important, it is crucial to know where your competition is. I quickly Googled a few directories with relevant categories and included the shoe business and descriptions.
- Create email Ids, Title, Business/Product Descriptions, Phone Numbers, Address, Keywords, Product Specifications
- Make sure the directories you include your business in are Mobile Friendly. Quite a large number of your audience search through mobile devices. So do not ignore them at any cost.
3. Created Image Gallery of the shoes:
Took pictures of the shoes with my Android phone and uploaded them on directories. A few of them rank on Google image search
Screen grab of an Optimized Directory Listing
4. Created Google Business Page and verified details:
5. Initiated Facebook Page and conversation with audience:
Started conversation with 80/20 rule. 80% content of what audience needed, 20% about the products/services/promotions
6. Market Research for 2 Weekends:
- Went to the shop and mingled with customers. Quite a few of them were from the elite class and I asked them to write reviews for the Shoe Maker
- Learned about different styles/types of leather shoes – this helped me write about different shoe features
- Watched shoe making techniques/tools – It’s interesting to see how shoes are crafted. It’s a totally different art altogether.
Offline Activities, which also attributed to sales
- Got business Cards and small Hoarding done for the shop with contact details (mobile, email ids, etc.) and Google business page URL
- Land-line Connection in working condition – This was done mainly for customer follow-ups and tracking online customer requirements. Quite a few prospective customers call the business directly when they find contact details online.
There is lot more to do. There are many Local SEO white hat techniques to easily increase your sales online.
BTW, Mr. Lalu Dass is my Father-in-Law and I am happy to see the big smile on his face every time I meet him. Ironically, Mr. Lalu Dass still owes me a pair of Oxford Leather Shoes which he promised as a part of the deal. But that’s another story, the one about the cobbler’s children.