I talked to a woman yesterday who is starting a "pet sitting” business. She has very little money to invest and is only interested in targeting people within 10 miles of her house (with gas prices she would have to charge too much to go any further). 

She has done some very basic grassroots marketing efforts but has only generated four customers. Knowing that she really doesn’t have a budget we can work with, I wanted to give her an idea that would be relatively inexpensive and have a high probability of generating an immediate return on investment.

Let's see...

Direct Mail – No… very high cost per thousand people reached... out of her budget
TV/Radio - would take months to get results, target is too broad (entire city) and WAY out of her budget
Yellow Pages - I hate the yellow pages and only find it useful for companies targeting senior citizens. (Side note: If you are younger than 40 and are thinking, "But I use the yellow pages," you should really spend some time online.)

So, we need a solution that is geographically targeted, low cost and highly effective.

Behold the power of search marketing.... for small businesses.

One part of search marketing is the process of bidding on key terms that people use to find something online (i.e. pet sitter, dog walker, pet care). You can bid on those terms and your advertisement will be displayed when someone searches them. The best part is that you pay nothing when you ad is displayed. You only pay when someone clicks the ad and goes to your website.

For the pet sitter business, she needs to create a very strong landing page where she will direct traffic from her search engine advertising. The landing page should have very strong messaging, overcome objections quickly and have MANY call to action points... i.e. her phone number at least 5 times throughout the page and many "click here to contact us" buttons that are bright and shiny.

Then, she should create her Google adwords campaign. Here is the secret weapon though… Google allows you to only show your ads to people within a custom geographic area. In other words, she can tell Google to only show her ads to people who are sitting at their computer within a 10 mile radius of her home!! This way, she won’t waste money on people who are 15 miles away and not a profitable customer.

Once all of this is in place, she can start very slow with the campaign. She can set a daily budget of $10.00 for the first week and see how many people click her ad and then how many of them convert to a customer. If all signs are positive, she can continue to increase her daily budget and drive more traffic which will lead to more customers. If she is getting traffic but no customers, she will need to reevaluate the search terms she is bidding on and take another look at the landing page to make sure it is doing a good job generating an immediate response.

Geographic targeting is an extremely powerful tool for small businesses. Some other examples of how it can be used across multiple industries:

Home builders: new communities overtime start to display migration patterns. If you plot all of the resident’s previous addresses on a map, you can usually identify the specific areas people are moving from to that community. Geographically targeting those areas via Google Adwords is a great strategy for optimizing your online campaign performance.

Restaurants: most restaurant owners know how far people are willing to travel to eat at their establishment. They can set a radius around each restaurant or pick specific cities if they have multiple locations.

I often see geographically confined businesses advertising nationally through Google Adwords and wish someone would tell them how much money they are wasting! If you are a small business and have never tried search engine marketing because you didn’t think you could afford it, with this tool, you can’t afford not to.

Go to: http://www.google.com/ads/ and set-up your account.