An enormous 85% of business owners depend on word-of-mouth referrals, showing just how crucial it is to reach customers in your local area. Local marketing strategies are slightly different compared with the techniques and methods you’ll use for general marketing, as you will be working hard to find, reach, engage and appeal to local people specifically.
We have 20 proven local marketing ideas and strategies for a small business. But first let’s define exactly what we mean by local marketing.
What is Local Marketing?
Local marketing is defined as marketing strategies and tactics that target potential customers locally within a certain radius of a business — typically within 50 miles. Sometimes called neighborhood marketing or location-based marketing, it can consist of traditional offline marketing or online marketing that is geographically targeted. Frequently today, local marketing includes a combination of both strategies.
A subset of local area marketing includes local search marketing, also known as local SEO. Local search marketing specifically refers to techniques to ensure a business gets found in search results, location pages and online maps by potential local customers.
Local businesses may get 100% of their customers from within a few miles. You may have heard the phrase “main street business” (or “high street business” in some countries). This refers to the fact that small businesses depend literally on foot traffic or being seen on main thoroughfares. So even though a local business can find success marketing online, it takes strict geographical focus. Otherwise, you could end up wasting time and money to attract website visitors from across the country who have zero chance of ever visiting your shop or buying anything.
20 Local Marketing Strategies
Here are 20 of the best local marketing strategies to raise awareness, get more leads, and attract and keep local customers:
1. Engage with the Community
It may sound obvious, but getting involved with the local community is crucial to local marketing. Another great thing: community engagement costs little. Examples of this strategy include participating in community festivals, contests and seasonal events. Or your business could sponsor local events like high school music and drama performances, or sponsor sports teams. Another example involves small business owners volunteering time with charity and causes locally. You’ll meet plenty of people, establish goodwill by doing something good, and build brand awareness.
For more community engagement ideas, see these 10 local marketing hacks.
2. Maximize Your Local Business Listings
More than half of small businesses still haven’t claimed their Google My Business listing according to one study. They are missing out on a valuable local marketing strategy. On your profile you can include your business name, phone number, address including zip code, directions, hours of operation, and a link to your website. Savvy small businesses also add content such as enticing photos. It’s free visibility in the world’s most powerful search engine.
The first step is to claim your Google My Business listing and then actively manage it. This also gets your location listed in Google maps. There are also other places online to get listed, including Bing Places and yellow page directories. Get started these top three:
3. Focus on Local SEO
Some of the most technically-advanced local marketing campaigns involve leveraging the web to get foot traffic to go to your store or physical location. You can also leverage the web for carryout or ecommerce orders. Potential customers are searching on the internet and on mobile devices for services and products in your local area. You want them to find your company easily.
Google My Business is a good start, but local search engine optimization (SEO) encompasses much more. Local search engine optimization also involves optimizing your website pages to appear prominently in search results. Go for search engine rankings for a keyword or keywords that consumers search on to find businesses like yours. Create good content and you may attract links and traffic to your website from local newspaper websites, blogs and even social media sites like Twitter.
If you are not sure how to improve search engine visibility or don’t have time, hire a local search professional. Local search is a specialty area. So when you screen SEO agencies and consultants, ask about their local search experience and results helping small local companies.
4. Make Local Business Contacts
Partnering with other businesses in complementary but noncompetitive industries is a great local marketing strategy to expand your network. Join the chamber of commerce or another local business association to make contacts and network with your peers. Other small businesses in your town or city may need your products or services. For example, if you run a local web design firm, you may find new clients needing website help. Or if you are starting a local bake shop, perhaps there are local cafes or restaurants interested in carrying your tasty confections.
You can also cooperate on referrals to bring in more customers than you could on your own. Perhaps you could combine marketing efforts with other small local businesses on media advertising buys. Or produce local events featuring food from local restaurants, bakeries and wineries where each participant promotes the event.
5. Create a Loyalty Program
Customers love to feel valued! A customer loyalty program rewards people who buy or take other actions. An old school method is to print loyalty cards and hand them out to customers. Then use a unique-shaped hole punch to record the number of purchases. For example, a customer who buys 10 coffees at your cafe gets the 11th coffee free. Or someone visiting your barber shop a certain number of times gets a free trim. You can also go high tech and deploy a loyalty app for mobile devices for your store marketing. Customers gain rewards for activity through the app.
For more, read up on how to start a loyalty program.
6. Increase Customer Referrals
If you need a boost in word-of-mouth marketing, why not encourage your customers to do it for you with an irresistible referral program? It’s simple to start. All you need to do is offer a tempting freebie or special discount for the original customer and the person they refer. Referral programs can prove to be a very effective local marketing idea because it’s a force multiplier. It gets others helping you.
7. Make Your Staff Your Emissaries
Make your employees the centerpiece of local marketing by involving them in your referral program. Offer a bonus to non-sales staff for referring new customers.
Encourage staff to be part of your content marketing tactics by creating a fun behind-the-scenes video of a day at work to post to the company YouTube channel or embed in blog posts. Ask employees if they would like to be featured in TV advertisements.
8. Put Marketing Collateral in Public Places
Reach people in your community with marketing messages in public areas. Here again it can help to reach out to other businesses and organizations in the city or town where you operate. Will local restaurants, cafes and supermarkets let you put flyers or business cards in the entrance or tack them onto a community bulletin board? This works best if your business complements the other company. For example, if you own a graphic design or photography studio, perhaps a local art gallery or non-profit arts organization would let you leave marketing material in their establishment. Make sure to get permission.
For more, see these small business marketing ideas and strategies.
9. Engage with a Local Audience on Social Media
Social media marketing can work well for local business visibility — if you do it right. The trick is to target your local audience. With one billion active monthly users, Instagram provides plenty of opportunities for brand awareness. Include your location in social media profiles. Make sure to tag your location in posts to get more engagement from local users. Be sure to focus on the kind of social media site that attracts your target audience. For example, LinkedIn attracts business users, and could be good if you sell to other businesses. Working with influencers on influencer marketing could help you reach more social media users, too.
10. Use Targeting Tools for Online Marketing
Social media platforms such as Facebook offer many ways to target customers locally. You can use social media advertising features to ‘boost’ posts, setting parameters to target customers within a certain number of miles. Also use Facebook’s “Create the Location” feature. Hit “Check In” when creating a new post and enter information including location. You can also post location stickers in your Instagram stories and location hashtags in Instagram posts.
Google Ads can also be targeted to your local market. Start a Google ads campaign where advertising appears in search engines and on content sites across the web. Use a targeted local marketing landing page and remarketing to remind past customers to return.
For related ideas see these 31 local digital marketing tips.
11. Tell Your Story
Tell the story of your business or your personal story as the founder. Telling a story generates human interest and makes your brand name memorable. Telling your story helps prospects relate to your business making them more likely to buy from you. An interesting story of how your business got started also cements the bond that existing customers have, making them less likely to abandon you for the shiny new chain down the street.
Tell your story in TV ads, online videos, blog posts or your About Us page. Another example: a local family restaurant might tell their business history in autographed photographs hung on the wall. For founder stories, remember:
- If you’re from the area, emphasize your ties to the community. Talk about growing up locally, what you love most about the area, and what the residents mean to you.
- Entrepreneurs new to an area can talk about why they chose to move there.
12. Hold an Event
There are at least two ways to use community events for local marketing. One is to produce the event yourself. Throw a party or a launch event for a new product and invite local community members to come have a look. Offer free food, drinks and entertainment. Another local marketing technique is to team up with other businesses and create a larger event promoting all of your products or services. For example, maybe area restaurants, bakeries and wineries could set up a community festival to market regional food and beverages. It’s great marketing for local business visibility.
13.Get Reviews and Testimonials
Local customers want to use a business they feel they can trust, which you can demonstrate with positive reviews and testimonials. Never pay for reviews — it will backfire. Also, be careful about directly soliciting reviews from customers. This is frowned on by Yelp and other communities. Instead, you might suggest people generally let others know what they think of your products or services. This encourages customers to leave a review without directly asking for one on a particular site. Become aware of the rules so you don’t step over the line.
Monitor social media and review sites to see what people are saying about your business. Reach out to customers who have had a bad customer service experience and see what you can do to make it right. Others will see and appreciate your effort. And you just may turn a poor review into a positive one if your customer knows you are making an attempt to address their concerns.
14. Send Out Targeted Email Campaigns
Email can prove one of the simplest and most cost effective local marketing steps. It reminds past shoppers to return to your store and encourages social media followers to make the trip to your door. 74% of marketers find that targeted personalization increases customer engagement. So as part of your local marketing strategies, make sure you are tailoring campaigns locally. Start a local email list by asking everyone coming to your store for their email address, and request permission to send them communications. Instead of a general email newsletter, send discounts designed to lure people into your store to buy.
15. Launch a Coupon Campaign
Choose a site like Groupon or a local coupon paper mailer like ValPak for local marketing with coupons. Coupons bring in a host of new customers and help with brand awareness. But be careful! The customers these campaigns bring in are sometimes just looking for a bargain and won’t ever become regulars. Set up offers that encourage repeat buying or bulk buys, if you can.
16. Offer a Free Consultation or Advice
This is a great way to demonstrate your expertise in your field, while getting potential new customers interested in what you do. They may come for free advice now, but they’ll likely come back to make a purchase later. A free consultation or advice such as on a blog or YouTube channel provides a glimpse of your service or product at no cost. For example, if you own an accounting service, ask the local library if you can spend one evening offer a free tax workshop.
17. Get in the Newspaper
A prime local marketing opportunity is the local newspaper. Obviously you can buy advertising and send press releases to editors. But get more creative. Call or send an email pitch offering yourself as a source to local journalists as an industry expert. For example, if you own a physical therapy practice or a local gym, you might be a good person to interview about healthy ways to exercise.
Follow important trends in your industry so that you can pitch topics to the local press. Help them localize big stories by offering a local perspective. For example, the owner of a local garden center might prove a great source for a story on a drought or invasive insect. Be sure to provide your phone number as reporters on deadline need a fast response within a few hours. Or sign up to be a source for journalists through Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Go to HARO source.
18. Win Over Local Bloggers and Online Journalists
Every community has local blogs and news websites. Reach out to the people who write for these sites. Why? Well, first of all the articles they write about your business can drive traffic to your website or foot traffic to your store. Local readers will see your business mentioned. Beyond that, appearing in local website publications and blogs also helps your local SEO. Remember search engines typically index local websites and blogs. Showing up in local websites and blogs ensures your business will show up in other searches online with a relevant local connection.
19. Get Yourself on Local TV
Local marketing through television appearances may be easier than you think. The key? Offer expertise. If you run a local accounting firm, offer to appear on a news segment where you explain the latest changes to the tax code. If you run a restaurant, offer to demonstrate a signature recipe on a local cooking segment. Pitch the idea to your local station as a way to benefit their viewers. Don’t make the pitch about promoting your business.
It’s a reality, however, that local media may be more receptive to businesses that already advertise. Depending on your marketing budget, consider buying local air time or ad space on the station’s website to get on their radar. At the very least, you’ll get advertising out of it.
20. Partner with Another Business
Try a joint venture or joint local marketing arrangement with other businesses. Beyond casual referrals, this involves developing a deeper ongoing relationship with other local businesses to drive sales. Local farmers and other food producers do this when they unite to create a local farmer’s market. If you own a hair salon, you might invite a nail technician to share your space increasing the number of people both businesses draw in. Or local healthcare providers like physical therapists, occupational therapists, dietitians or chiropractors might operate under one roof offering more opportunities for referrals (subject to professional and ethical rules, of course).
Marketing local businesses is an important subset of marketing overall. But don’t be intimidated and don’t overthink things. It’s better to experiment and try new local marketing techniques than to wait for the perfect technique. Get out there and take action.
Photo via Shutterstock