In today’s fast-paced, always-on world, creating and fostering meaningful connections is no easy task. However, the need for human connection is still a quintessential part of the human experience. For this reason, local businesses are uniquely positioned to fulfill this need by creating connections – with their customers and their communities.

The challenge is, how? It’s not always easy, and sometimes it can feel like an uphill battle for businesses that are just starting out. By putting the focus on what customers want and need, you will set yourself up for success. Here are three tips to get started.

Create A Robust Online Presence

Consumers today live online. Building relationships with them means being present where they are. More often than not, people are finding your business online before you’ve ever had a chance of welcoming them into your store. That means your business’s online presence is the first and most important tool for connecting with local consumers.

What may surprise you is that there are a number of services and directories that compile and post information about your business without you even knowing about it. Even scarier, there’s no easy way to ensure that all the information posted is correct everywhere. So, for starters, be sure the business name, location, and description are accurate and up-to-date across all sites. Then, add content to transform those listings into vibrant business profiles. Today’s consumers want to see images, videos, ratings, reviews, and other contextual content about your business. It may sound like a lot of work, but putting in the effort upfront will pay off later.

Put Mobile First

We know that consumers spend a lot of time online – on mobile, in particular. Any small business owner would be wise to pay close attention to this trend in consumer behavior, especially given the fact that searches being made via mobile devices have now started to outnumber those made on desktop computers.

Your new and existing customers are not only going online to find you and vet your business, but they are also doing so more frequently when they’re on-the-go. Having a strong mobile presence, including your business website and any listing of your business, is essential. Today’s consumers expect immediate results when they search for something. If you can’t hold their attention, they’ll go elsewhere.

Adopt a “Near Me” Strategy

A great way to connect and engage local consumers is by adopting a “near me” marketing strategy. “Near me” searches make it faster and easier for people to accomplish on-the-go tasks: grabbing coffee, finding gas, or getting a last-minute present. This is where location-based targeting comes into play.

With location-based targeting, you can ensure that whenever someone searches for your chosen business-relevant keywords alongside the words “near me” in the search box when they’re in your general area, your business will have a better chance of being at the top of the search results page. You can also set a specific perimeter near your business and serve up ads or special promotions only when people are browsing on their mobile devices nearby. Location-based targeting is an effective and personalized way to catch consumers in the moments when they’re simply trying to get things done.

As we spend time taking stock of the past year and the opportunities ahead, it’s important to remember that we are all in the business of creating connections. Although it takes a lot of work, local businesses play a vital role in creating connections as they are the heart and soul of what builds our communities. The key is to ensure your business can be found whenever and wherever someone searches for the products and services you offer. Doing so will make it a lot easier for you to create the kind of meaningful connections that could very well be critical to your business’s success in 2017 – and for many years to come.