There are many ways for a small business to market nationally and internationally. Digital products can be downloaded from almost anywhere in the world, and digital marketing options abound to deliver products wherever shipping companies operate. However, local businesses must be able to market their products and services within their marketplace, especially when borders close and multinational companies make it difficult for small businesses to compete on the world stage.
The solution is to promote your small business by engaging in local business marketing.
What is local business marketing?
Local business marketing is the strategy of marketing your business’s products or services within your community. This type of marketing is common for restaurants, bars, grocery stores, bank branches, clothing stores and other brick-and-mortar businesses that serve local communities.
Importance of local business marketing
Local businesses have a lot of competition, both down the street and online. Most products are available for purchase online from companies that sell through their physical locations and on their websites, as well as from companies that sell only online. Local businesses depend on customers in their immediate geographic area. Small business marketing is essential for informing customers in your local market about current and new products and services, as well as for communicating sales and discounts.
Types of local business marketing
Here are some ways to use local business marketing to reach customers in your area:
1. Set up a free Google listing.
According to BrightLocal’s 2019 Local Consumer Review Survey, 90% of people search online for local businesses, and 33% do so every day. The survey found that 82% of people read online reviews of local businesses, and 97% of people who read the reviews also read the businesses’ responses to those reviews.
These are good reasons for your small business to have an online presence. Most people who look for a local small business start with Google, which is why it’s important to have a Google listing and to incorporate local search engine optimization (SEO) into your web content. Setting up a free Google listing makes it easier for consumers to find your local business using the right search terms.
A free Google listing should include the following information:
- Physical address
- Phone number and email address
- Hours of operation
- Directions to the physical store
- Website URL
- Photos of the store and your products
Customers can add photos of their visits to your local small business. Google allows customers to provide reviews of your business for others to see. People use other customers’ reviews and your overall star rating to determine whether they will frequent your local business. According to the survey, only 53% of people would use a local business with fewer than four stars.
2. Monitor your business with Google Alerts.
Google Alerts enable you to find out what people are saying about your small business online. Set up a Google Alert for the name of your local business or specific keywords to receive a report by email whenever someone publishes something with the name of your local business or those keywords.
Google Alerts inform you when any news, articles, blog posts or reviews are published about your small business online. For example, if a local news publication publishes an article about your business, you can share it on your social media feeds. Conversely, if someone writes a negative review about your local business, you can respond or act immediately, instead of finding out several weeks or months later, when it’s too late to address the issue.
3. Verify your Yelp profile.
Google is not the only place to list your local business. Your customers can review and rate your business on other review sites, such as Yelp. According to Yelp, 92% of consumers make a purchase after viewing a local business on the platform.
If your business has a Yelp profile, verify all of the information, including your business’s address, phone number, email address, website and hours of operation. Incorrect contact information could hurt your local business. Claim your business on Yelp to control your profile and make it easier to find. If your business doesn’t have a page on Yelp, this article explains how to create one.
4. Build a social media presence.
Your customers are on social media, so your local business should be as well. Set up a profile on the social media networks that matter to your local business and its customers. For example, if you engage with other businesses or want to hire locally, set up a LinkedIn page. If you sell products that are visually appealing, create an Instagram profile. And if you like to share thought leadership, tips, ideas and other content, use Twitter.
Once you have social media profiles, build a presence on your networks. Post content regularly, and engage with your followers by answering questions, sharing posts, offering useful advice and reacting to what others have to say. Share what is going on at your business, such as special offers, discounts, events, and new products or services.
Building a social media presence can be time-consuming. Make one person responsible for your social media, and use time-saving tools, such as Hootsuite, BuzzSumo, SproutSocial and PostPlanner.
5. Partner with local influencers.
If you have a social media presence or are planning to launch one, it might make sense to partner with a local social media influencer. This individual already has a strong social media following, particularly with people who live in your community and could frequent your local business. Local influencers get high engagement rates from followers, who trust their recommendations.
Pay or sponsor the local influencer to promote your small business and social media presence on their social media platform. It’s important to do some due diligence to make sure that you partner with the right type of influencer. If you sell cosmetics, for example, work with a local influencer who focuses on beauty and related topics. Check out what local businesses they have promoted recently, and reach out to those businesses to see what results they’ve achieved.
6. Start a blog or newsletter.
Content marketing with a focus on local SEO provides more opportunities to be found online. Starting a blog or newsletter is one way to create content and share your expertise with prospects and customers.
Local businesses that have blogs or newsletters bring in more website traffic, attract more leads and have more Twitter followers than local businesses that don’t, thus creating more opportunities to attract customers and grow sales.
Whenever you publish a new blog post or newsletter, your website gets updated with new content, which helps to increase your search ranking. Incorporating local SEO by adding relevant keywords to your blogs or newsletters will make it easier for customers to find your small business, especially when you include geographic keywords that indicate where you are located.
Publishing a regular blog or newsletter helps to build a base of loyal readers who will visit your website more often and possibly become customers, especially if your website is set up to convert leads into customers. Other aspects of your website – including the loading speed, the arrangement of certain elements and the content in the meta description – also affect your local search ranking.
7. Create an email list.
Email marketing is very effective and offers a great return on investment. If a customer has agreed to provide you with their email, they have already shown interest in your local business and offerings.
However, email marketing is only as effective as the strength of your email list. Encourage customers, social media followers, blog post subscribers and others who are interested in your local business to sign up for your email list. Then, create solid email marketing campaigns that provide subscribers with value. You’ll get better results when you create segmented email marketing campaigns that target different people on your email list.
8. Focus on customer service.
One way to gain an advantage over large companies and online businesses is to provide a high level of customer service. As a small business, you can offer more personal customer service to your local customers than companies that serve wide geographic areas can.
Great customer service also results in positive online reviews and referrals. Referrals are the best source of free marketing, as people trust what their friends say about local businesses. Good customer service not only attracts new customers but also encourages current customers to keep returning.
9. Run contests and special promotions.
People enjoy winning prizes, so contests encourage people to frequent your local business and tell their friends and family members about it.
Use your social media presence to promote your contests and special promotions as part of your marketing strategy. As part of the contest, ask your followers to post photos of your business or to use your products in different ways. You can award a prize to the person whose post has the most likes or shares.
Contests and other special promotions will also help to grow your social media following and customer base. People like to follow friends and family, so if they see them participating in an online contest, they might follow your social media profile and participate in the contest as well. This gives you a larger audience for your digital marketing efforts, as well as more potential customers.
10. Offer discounts and coupons.
Customers like to save money whenever they have a chance to do so. The internet has made it easy for people to compare prices and search for the best deals. As a small business, you have to be aware of that and change prices accordingly. Offering discounts to local customers is one way to encourage people to purchase from your business.
The drawback of offering discounts, of course, is that it can reduce profits and lower the value of your brand and products or services.
If your local business has an online store, offer an active discount code. Physical discount vouchers and coupons can incentivize people to visit your physical location, where you can encourage them to make additional purchases. You can also provide other discounts or incentives for signing up for your email list.
11. Create a customer loyalty program.
Every local business depends on repeat customers, and a customer loyalty program can help to encourage repeat business. One common example of a customer loyalty program is a stamp card, in which a customer gets a stamp for every purchase and, when the card is filled with stamps, receives a free item.
There are many ways to implement a customer loyalty program. For example, you can track customers’ purchases with a card (with a real or virtual stamp for each purchase) or provide rewards based on long-term spending habits (for example, for every dollar a customer spends at the business, they earn a certain amount to spend on future purchases at the business). You can even use a customer relationship management tool or a customized app to track customers’ purchases and offer rewards.
12. Start a referral program.
Customer referrals are very powerful because people trust their friends and family and value their opinions about businesses.
A customer referral program incentivizes current customers to refer your local business to others because they receive a reward for each new customer they send to your business. As those new customers are satisfied with your business and their purchase, they will be likely to refer your business to others. As such, the customer referral program becomes a profitable cycle of new and repeat customers for your local business.
13. Join a local networking group.
Joining a local networking group is one way for your local business to form relationships and stay connected with people and businesses in your area.
Many cities have a local chamber of commerce, as well as networking groups. Try several networking groups to find one that works for you, so you can attend regularly and develop relationships with other members. Attending meetings regularly also enables you to promote your local business and brand.
Joining a local networking group is not about making quick sales; it’s an opportunity to develop long-term business relationships so that you can refer business to each other. Your networking partners – or, more likely, people in their networks – might need your product or service.
There are many ways to grow your local business through networking groups. For example, you can form partnerships with members of your networking groups to hold events, engage in promotions, save on hosting events and offer discounts to a wider audience.
14. Support the community.
As a local business, you depend on customers from your community. That’s why it’s important to give back. One of the best ways to support your community is to donate to a local charity. There are many ways to support them:
- Make annual or regular financial contributions.
- Donate a percentage of sales during a promotion to the charity.
- Donate goods and services to the charity or to events that raise money for the charity.
- Volunteer at charitable events.
You can also support community initiatives and institutions. For example, you can donate goods or services to local school events, such as graduations; support neighborhood beautification efforts; or sponsor food drives.
Make sure to promote your community support initiatives, as it helps to create a more positive image of your local business and encourages other businesses and customers to support the same initiatives.
15. Create a mobile app.
Many consumers search for local businesses and make purchases using their mobile devices. They also download apps that make the shopping experience faster and more rewarding. Therefore, it might make financial sense to create a mobile app for your local business.
Many large companies have customized mobile apps, and it is becoming more affordable for smaller businesses to create their own as well. A mobile app lets you promote new offerings, track purchases and support customer loyalty programs. It also enables you to differentiate your local business and personalize the experience for your customers.