Small businesses often feel they can’t compete against larger companies with unlimited marketing resources. They overlook the potential marketing opportunities that come from reaching out to the community in which they’re located.
A wide range of marketing strategies can help you connect with would-be customers in your local community. Here are tips to localize your marketing campaigns and boost your small-business profile in unexpected ways.
Get your online presence in order
An informative, user-friendly website is just the starting point for your marketing purposes. You should also cultivate a vibrant social media presence and make use of numerous location-based directories, mapping services and review sites that cater to users in search of local goods and services. Being represented on YellowPages.com, MerchantCircle, Google Maps, Yelp, Yahoo!, Facebook and elsewhere strengthens brand awareness and boosts your standing in search engine rankings.
At the same time, your website must be optimized for mobile customers. Otherwise, as online marketing specialist Kelly Meeneghan Peters writes, “visitors are forced to scroll, pan, and zoom extensively to see websites in their entirety.” If you’re seeking local customers, she adds, “a strong mobile presence will make it simpler for them to find your physical location while on-the-go.”
It’s also important to double-check every online listing of your business for consistency in contact information. Any discrepancies in the name, address, phone number and URL of your small business will cause confusion in a prospective customer’s mind and prompt him/her to look to a competitor for reliable information.
Start thinking “community”
It’s easy to get caught up in online marketing strategies at the expense of making your brand felt in your community. A quick look around can spark fresh ideas about how to achieve your marketing objectives through networking, collaboration and taking part in community causes.
Local marketing expert Jeff Slutsky reminds small-business owners of the benefits that come from simply meeting people in person. He recommends introducing yourself “to at least five people every week”— whether you’re at a gas station, grocery store, PTA meeting etc. Hand your new acquaintance a business card with “a special freebie offer on the back” and invite him/her to stop by your store.
“Out of the 250 people you might meet over the year, odds are 185 will use your business-card coupon, and about 50 will become new customers,” he writes.
Savvy small-business owners often cross-promote with fellow local businesses. Ideally, you want to forge a relationship with a business that has roughly the same target audience or is otherwise complementary with your products or services. Consider having local businesses offer their customers a special discount on your products or services (and do the same for them) or work out a mutually beneficial customer-referral system.
What about sponsoring or hosting a local event? Small businesses can reap great brand-building rewards by affiliating with a community charity or fundraising organization. Sponsors receive prominent billing on charity event signage and advertising, not to mention the community goodwill that comes from actively helping people in need.
Other related actions include:
• Donate an in-store gift certificate to a charity raffle.
• Collect business cards from event attendees (so you connect later on LinkedIn).
• Take pictures of the event, posting them on Facebook, Instagram, etc., tagging your friends and your business.
Getting involved in local charitable events “can take your business from being a newcomer to the community to being an active participant in making the community a better place to live for all,” writes social media consultant Dorien Morin-van Dam.
Finally, look into what your local chamber of commerce is doing. Many offer new residents a “welcome wagon service” with helpful information about area medical providers, home repair services, exercise facilities, etc. If there’s a good fit, offer to include a brief description of your business as well. Some welcome wagon services invite people to opt-in to emails and share this information with participating businesses - a valuable lead generation resource.”
By employing a robust localized marketing campaign strategy, your small business can generate consumer interest and awareness in ways no large chain or retail outlet can.
Authored by Claire Prendergast, Director of Marketing Communications, agencyEA