If you own a business, you care about marketing. You have to. If you don’t, you’ll never be able to get your products and/or services into the hands of the people who need them and make a sustainable living doing what you enjoy.
But many of the marketing tactics we read about in blog posts or learn about on YouTube don’t necessarily apply to local businesses that only operate in small geographical areas. These kinds of businesses need to take a different approach.
In this article, we’ll explain what local marketing is, how to do it, and a few best practices to keep in mind when you do. Let’s dive in!
What is Local Marketing?
Local marketing, also known as neighborhood marketing, refers to any promotional campaign or strategy that targets people who live in a specific area, rather than the general population.
For example, a local restaurant might implement a direct mail campaign and send coupons to residents of a certain neighborhood. Or the little music shop on the corner could host an in-store concert and invite the community into its storefront for the show.
Contrary to popular belief, local marketing isn’t only used by local businesses. Any company, from Fortune 500 corporations to regional chains to small, mom and pop shops can employ the strategies we’ll outline in this article.
But if you do run a localized business, you’ll definitely want to pay special attention!
How to Run a Local Marketing Campaign
Now that we know what local marketing is, we can teach you how to run this kind of campaign. The easy-to-follow five-step system below will get you up and running with local marketing in no time flat. Just follow our instructions and enjoy the results!
1. Understand Your Market
To properly utilize local marketing tactics, you need to have a firm understanding of the people you’re trying to reach. Who is your ideal target market? If you don’t know the answer to that question, this is where you need to start.
Do your best to put together an accurate picture of your ideal customer that includes both demographic and psychographic information. In other words, create a buyer persona that features the gender, age, profession, income level, etc. of your target market, as well as their hopes, fears, and daily challenges.
If you own a local comic book store, your buyer persona might look like this:
- Gender: Male
- Age: 34
- Profession: IT worker
- Income Level: 58k a year
- Hopes: To be the best dad and husband he can be. Comics inspire him to be better.
- Fears: That another recession will hit and he’ll lose his job. Comics provide him with a fun escape.
- Daily Challenges: Finding time to get everything done. It often takes him a few weeks to get through a comic book because of this.
Now, take some time to research your customers and craft a buyer persona (or two or three) that represents them. Then use it in all of your local marketing efforts.
2. Set Your Budget
The next step is to set a budget for your local marketing strategies. How much can you realistically afford to spend on a promotional campaign? Don’t worry if your budget is low. There are plenty of local marketing tactics that can be done on the cheap.
By determining your budget now, you’ll help to avoid overspending. You’ll also be able to better prioritize your efforts and focus on strategies with a high chance of success.
3. Choose Your Strategies
There’s no shortage of local marketing strategies that you can employ. The tactics you use will depend on the products you sell, the customers you serve, and the area your small business is located in. You might not, for instance, want to sponsor a local event for senior citizens if you own a sporting goods store and make most of your profit selling little league equipment.
So take a look at each of the five strategies we’ve listed below and only invest in the ones that make sense for your business:
Distribute Flyers and Business Cards
This old school strategy still works. And you know what? It’s incredibly easy to use!
Design a flyer and/or business card for your business. If you’re design-challenged, talented folks on sites like Fiverr and Upwork will be more than happy to craft these materials for you. Then jump online or head over to the local office supply store and get a bunch of them printed.
All that’s left to do is distribute your flyers and business cards in the places your target market frequents. If, for example, you sell to moms, local daycares, baby clothes shops, grocery stores, and neighborhood parks might be a good bet.
Sponsor Regional Events
Another potential way to get your business in front of your customers is to support a regional event that you know they’ll be at. This could range from youth baseball games to fundraiser galas to monthly business meetups.
The kind of event doesn’t matter. As long as it jives with your company’s brand and caters to your target market, you’re golden.
If you’re really feeling industrious, you could host your own event rather than sponsoring someone else’s. To use a previous example, a local music shop could host an in-store concert.
Take Advantage of Traditional Media
Does your town have a local newspaper? Maybe there’s a regional TV station that you could run commercials on. If not, we bet your city at least has a local radio station and a few billboards, right? Each of these four traditional media outlets could do wonders for your small business.
Traditional media outlets allow businesses to quickly grow brand awareness. A professional radio or TV commercial has the potential to reach a lot of people with your company’s message.
But here’s the thing: media strategies like the ones listed above can get pricey. They’re also hard to evaluate. Other than asking each new customer how they heard about your business, there’s no conclusive way to track the effectiveness of traditional media campaigns.
So make sure you know your local marketing budget before starting down the traditional media route. And only invest in tactics that you’re confident will provide value for your business.
Localize Your Social Media Efforts
You might not live in a big city or serve customers in different countries around the globe. But the folks you do serve still use social media — we can almost guarantee it. Which means your business will benefit by meeting them on these different platforms.
The trick is to localize your social media efforts.
There’s no point in running Facebook ads aimed at New York City residents, for example, if your business only operates and sells to buyers in Atlanta, GA.
Instead, do your best to connect with folks in your area. You can do this by running targeted advertising campaigns and encouraging your current customers to follow you on Facebook, Instagram, and whatever other networks you’re a part of.
Once you’ve built a small tribe, focus on crafting great content. This will turn into another marketing channel for your business as your followers like, comment, and share your posts.
Implement a Referral Program
Finally, we suggest implementing a referral program for your customers. This process can be as simple or complex as you like.
For example, you could hand your best customers a few business cards and simply ask them to tell their friends about your business. Or you could step up your game and promise them a percentage discount for every new customer they send your way.
Word of mouth is still an incredibly powerful marketing channel. Do your best to take advantage of it! If you do, your business will start to grow faster than before.
4. Nail Your SEO
Just because you’re conducting a local marketing campaign doesn’t mean you can forget about the world wide web. Your company’s online presence is important, no matter how large or small your business happens to be.
Think about it: when your customers need a specific product, what’s the first thing they do? In all likelihood, they google something along the lines of “[product] near me” and let Google tell them where to go purchase whatever it is they need.
When potential customers type these queries in, you want your business to appear in the search results. Which means you need to nail your company’s SEO. Here’s how:
- First, claim your company’s Google My Business listing and update it with your business address, hours of operation, phone number, pictures, etc. Bing has a similar feature that you can use for the Microsoft-backed search engine as well.
- Next, optimize your company’s website. Make sure it includes all relevant information, is mobile friendly, filled (but not stuffed) with appropriate keywords, is desirable to look at and easy to navigate, and loads quickly.
- Then, create great content that your target audience will love. This could be in the form of educational blog posts, how-to videos, downloadable resources, or anything else you can think of that will be of interest to your customers.
- Finally, respond to all reviews on all platforms as quickly as possible. This will show Google that your business is active and your customers that you care about them. We’ll talk more about reviews in a later section of this article.
While the four steps above illustrate a slightly over-simplified SEO strategy, they will get you started on the right foot and allow you to improve your local marketing efforts!
5. Evaluate Your Efforts
The final piece of the local marketing puzzle is to evaluate your efforts. Are the strategies you’ve put in place working? Are more customers walking into your store? Have you increased sales and revenue? If the answer is no, you need to make a change.
If the answer is yes, you need to find out which strategies have proven the most successful so that you can double down on them for even better results.
Evaluation is an ongoing step. If you hope to win with local marketing, you need to constantly analyze your efforts and improve them. If you don’t, you’ll end up wasting money on tactics that used to work but no longer do.
3 Local Marketing Best Practices
We’ve covered how to run a local marketing campaign. Before you go, we want to share a few best practices to keep in mind as you implement it.
1. Invest in Your Community
This one’s a no-brainer. If you want your business to succeed locally, you have to invest in the local community. That means participating in your town’s events, attending local business meetings, and interacting with city residents.
If you invest and connect with your local community, they’ll be much more willing to buy from your store and support your business.
2. Prioritize Reviews
According to Yodle, 75% of customers claim to rely on reviews when evaluating local businesses. In other words, online reviews are incredibly important.
So encourage your customers to sing your company’s praises on Google, Facebook, and Yelp. Also, consider interviewing your top customers and posting their stories on your blog, social media channels, and other digital outlets.
The more “good vibes” you can get out there the better!
3. Don’t Forget About Mobile
The final tip we have for you is to prioritize mobile. Your customers are constantly on their phones. If your company’s website doesn’t look and work great on an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, or other mobile device, you’ll lose customers.
This isn’t new information. The experts have been talking about mobile friendliness for years. The concept is just as important now as it was back then — maybe even more so.
A local marketing strategy will help your small business reach its ideal customers. By taking advantage of strategies that target buyers in specific regions, you’ll be able to sell more products and/or services, while saving money on advertising.
Just follow the five-step system we outlined in this article:
- Understand Your Market
- Set Your Budget
- Choose Your Strategies
- Nail Your SEO
- Evaluate Your Efforts
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