It's getting harder for small, local businesses to rank well in Google search. Bigger enterprise brands are developing scalable strategies for their multi-location businesses and have the budget to invest in management platforms, review strategies, linkbuilding, content writing & marketing and paid ads. This makes it difficult for a SMB to find affordable, competitive, lucrative marketing space where a limited budget and time investment can compete.
I've shared before how Facebook Groups can be a difference maker for small local operators. Groups provide local service & retail businesses like plumbers, carpet cleaning, locksmiths, gift or floral shops and mechanics huge opportunities that are basically untapped by the big franchises that are harder to compete against in Google Search results. This helps those small businesses diversify their referral channels as well. All good things when creating a holistic marketing footprint.
Small businesses can really shine here because participation is not scalable There's no way to automate involvement and moderators of Groups are local residents who tend to police who can join and who cannot fairly closely. For big agencies or large in-house marketing departments to even get accepted to these groups is pretty difficult, if not impossible. This levels the playing field for SMBs, and maybe even tips the scales in their favor.
Agencies, there's still a piece of the pie for you here. Helping your SMB clients identify the groups they should be involved in, giving them scripts to follow to answer "In Search Of..." queries, and helping them set up alerts can give you the kudos when sales from these groups start coming in. You won't be able to manage it for them - unless you also live in the market and can join the group and monitor it - but you will be able to guide them down the right path when it comes to finding and responding to inquiries.
I created a set of 7 tactics SMBs can use to find success in Facebook Groups. This list can also work as a task list for agencies to set up & educate your clients towards success.
- Find the right Groups
In Facebook Groups, click on the "Discover" tab and search for your local city name. Try neighborhoods and regional colloquialisms, too. Consider looking for groups in under-served locations where the competition for business may be sparse; or in affluent areas where clients who can afford your services live. Don't game the system to join, but if you live in/near that city/neighborhood, you should be eligible to become a member unless they limit it to a specific group like those in a homeowner's association.
Look at the membership size of each relevant group. Don't assume groups that say "Yard Sale," "Swap," or "For Sale" aren't for you. As an example, our most popular local group is the "Roaring Fork Swap" - it has +/- 26,000 members, and there are about 10 In Search Of (ISO) posts each day. The board isn't just people buying and selling used items - it's a community forum or hub for trading information as well as items.
Some boards are more active than others. Don't be afraid to join them, you can leave the group if it doesn't match your needs and you're not interested.
- Follow the rules
Not all Facebook groups allow advertising. Each writes their own rules so be sure to read them when you join. If your group(s) doesn't - you can still find business here. Respond to ISO queries in your category with a simple "I can help you out, give me a call at (xxx) xxx-xxxx and we can take care of that for you." Even better - cultivate brand ambassadors (Step 4) to respond to these queries for you. A recommendation from a 3rd party is pretty powerful in these groups. Your brand ambassadors (or "Raving Fans") could do something as simple as tagging you or your business page, or post their recommendation for your work. Facebook Groups are all about the recommendation. Old fashioned word-of-mouth advertising works here - only we're online, not hanging over the back fence anymore.
- Set up Alerts
If you're not one to be on Facebook a lot - and lets face it, SMB owners are busy - setting up alerts within the group is a great way to be notified if a post goes up that contains keywords related to your products & services. I also encourage my clients to set up alerts for their brand name just in case there's a review or question posted in there about your business.
To set up an alert, first do a query within the group.hen you're given in the option to "set up an alert" for that query. I recommend putting those queries in quotation marks - I'm not sure why, but it returns more results. (It doesn't seem to be related to our traditional sense of "match type" in the marketing world. I figured it out by accident.)
You'll see an option to "Get Notifications". Click on it and you're set. When someone uses the word "plumber" in a post - you'll get a Facebook notification!
- Appreciate & Enlist your Brand Ambassadors
A happy customer who will tell others they were happy is the best advertising you can have. If a past customer recommends you in a Facebook group post, be sure to thank them - EVERY TIME. Saying "Thank You" is an easy way to keep them mentioning your name when they see ISO posts that are relevant.
If you have long-time recurring customers that you see are also members of your group, reach out to them and see if they'd be willing to recommend you. You can email them or just send them a quick facebook message if you're connected that way. People look for recommendations in these groups because they want that personalized peer review. With the rise in awareness around fake reviews on Google, Facebook, etc - those peer reviews can really help push a fence-sitter over the edge into contacting you.
The example below shows a bunch of peer recommendations that aren't necessarily self promotion - or aren't blatant self promotion. I know that the recommendation for Best Plumbing & Heating is actually made by the owner, Keith - because Keith is the mayor of my town. Lots in the group probably don't know he owns the company.
- Highlight your USP
One thing that happens a lot in these groups is people responding to an ISO that aren't actually "plumbers" but might be looking to make a quick buck. Subtly mentioning your USP can help sway a searcher in your direction. Something like, "Hi we can help today.Give the office a call. We're fully licensed & insured!" or "All our techs have current background checks, give us a call if you still need some help!" It can even be something as simple as "Free Estimate!" By giving that little bit of information, it sets you above the "hacks" or generalists that might not be as trained & professional as you are.
Sometimes in our local group my husband, who is a painter, makes more long-winded posts and gets away with it. I think because he offers advice wrapped around his "elevator pitch." I've been preaching to him the benefit of these groups for awhile - you can tell by the dates here. His competitor companies are not active in the groups - which gives him an edge for sure.
- Earn the recommendation - Don't Suck
This sort of goes without saying, and could fall under the "Mobilize your Brand Ambassadors" section, but it deserves its own emphasis. Great companies have happy clients and happy clients refer their friends and acquaintances.
One reason I recommend setting up alerts for your name and brand name along with your category keywords is to monitor for any reviews. In our local group - any time someone posts an ISO for a mechanic, a very disgruntled ex-customer posts the name/photo of a mechanic that ripped him off. So along with earning the review - don't suck - because the whole community will find out.
- Create Some Karma
If you can't do a job, offer to refer that lead to someone you trust. Sometimes your funnel is full, and you just don't have the staff to take on one more job. That's a great problem to have and it's also an opportunity in Facebook Groups. Respond and state that you're busy, but offer to refer them to someone you trust with a great reputation. If the job is too small, or too large for you, the same tactic applies. That community karma can come back to you someday when the company you referred them to recommends you when they're too busy.
We're hearing more and more about how plumbers, painters, handymen, carpenters, auto mechanics and detailers and more are filling up their bookings with referrals from Facebook Groups. The beauty of the alert feature is it doesn't entail hours spent scrolling through posts. You can rely on the alerts to ping you - and you'll be able to respond when you get the notification. This cuts down on time investment and lets you keep doing the work that is your expertise.
And if you're really lucky - you answer 1 question, and get 2 leads!