Small Business Marketing Guide

10. The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Marketing

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Running A Business

The Small Business Owner’s Guide to Local Marketing

Jul 10, 2023 • 10+ min read
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Table of Contents

      Local is the new global. The businesses that prioritize their own backyards are uniquely positioned to claim big wins and loyal customers. Small businesses might not have the scale of massive chains to conquer globally, but they do have the speed, flexibility, and intimate presence to dominate local markets—and that has the potential to be even more advantageous.

      Shopping local is what most customers prefer—67% of Americans favor shopping at small businesses instead of large chains. Why? Because local businesses provide a unique gift selection, more personalized shopping experience, higher quality items, and better service. Plus, money spent locally stays in the community.

      Small businesses can provide the convenience and improved customer support that local consumers want and need in a way big chains just can’t.

      But winning locally isn’t as simple as opening a shop downtown and expecting the localites to flock. Just building it does not mean they will come. 

      This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to grow your small business and conquer the local market.  

      Local digital marketing strategies.

      Local digital marketing might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s not. To win locally, your business will need to have a digital presence:

      Pretty amazing, right? In-store shopping and the online experience aren’t separate worlds—they’re one and the same. You can’t capitalize on these consumer preferences if you don’t make digital marketing a priority.

      Local SEO

      SEO (search engine optimization) is the practice of optimizing your website so that it’ll rank higher (hopefully, on the 1st page) of your customers’ Google searches. Local SEO is the process of making your business more visible to local search results. 

      If you’ve optimized your site correctly, your pages will appear when users search for terms like “restaurants near me” and “best furniture store in XYZ.” Close to 80% of location-based mobile searches result in offline purchases, meaning your site needs to be both searchable and mobile-friendly.

      Here are a few ways to make your business rank higher on local search results:

      • Create and verify your Google My Business page: Google My Business pages allow you to display and edit searchable information about your business, like business hours, contact information, locations, website, and more.
      • Add location pages to your website: Location pages let Google know exactly where your brick-and-mortar store locations are.
      • Create local content: Think about the kinds of queries your customers might be Googling. If you own a wedding venue, that might include searches like: “best wedding venues in XYZ county,” “top places to get married in XYZ,” or even “summer wedding flowers near me.” Use a keyword research tool like Google’s Keyword Planner or Ubersuggest to discover the exact terms your customers are searching for online—then create relevant local content for them to find.
      • Mobile, mobile, mobile: More Google searches happen on smartphones than computers. If your website is mobile-friendly, Google is more likely to rank your page higher.

      Grow your online reviews.

      92% of consumers trust recommendations from people (even if they’re complete strangers), and 67% of consumers admit that online reviews influence their purchasing decisions. With that kind of power, you need to make your online reviews a priority.

      First, you’ll need to start generating reviews. Create and claim your business accounts on Google, Bing, Yelp, Facebook, and any other review sites that are relevant to your industry. Next, use both digital and physical calls to action to request customers leave a review. Digitally, this could mean putting a “Leave a Review” button on your email newsletters or website. Physically, it could be having your waiter or waitress ask customers to please leave a review or giving out stickers requesting a review at the cash register.

      Now that you have reviews rolling in, it’s time to moderate them. Thank customers who leave you 5-star reviews, and if someone leaves you a less-than-pleasant review, follow-up with their concerns and let them know they’ve been heard (then, preferably correct the issue).

      Create targeted local ads.

      You can use Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising to target your local customers. Google Adwords lets you get hyper-granular with your ads: you can target users based on a geographic location or when they use specific geographic keywords in their searches. Local ads are more cost-effective because you’re only advertising to buyers with the most potential.

      You can execute the same targeted local ads strategy on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn to connect with your customers in the most relevant online spaces.

      Experiment with local influencer marketing.

      You don’t need to sponsor a celebrity or famous athlete to win your customers’ business—you’d be surprised how much clout your local influencers have. Look for individuals in your community who your target audience trusts and follows:

      • Local politicians like the mayor
      • Semi-pro athletes or well-known coaches
      • Headmasters and principals
      • Artists and writers
      • Other respected business leaders

      If the community respects the individual and they align well with your brand, a local influencer could have a significant influence on your neighborhood market.

      Localize your social media.

      Specify your location throughout your social media profiles through the following:

      Add your business location to your profile:  Locate the section where you can edit your business details. Typically, you’ll find options to update your business name, address, contact information, and other relevant details. Add your business location: Enter your business address accurately in the provided fields. 

      Geotag your posts: On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, you can geotag your posts to indicate the location of your business. This helps users discover your content when they search for posts from a specific location.

      Enable check-ins (if applicable): On platforms like Facebook, you can enable the check-in feature that allows users to tag your business location when they visit. This feature can boost visibility and engagement.

      Tailor your hashtags and keywords: Research and incorporate relevant local hashtags and keywords that are popular among your target audience. This will help your content reach a wider local audience and improve discoverability.

      Offline local marketing strategies.

      While the world and its consumer preferences are shifting to a digital experience, you still have to win in real life (IRL). You’ll need to go above and beyond with your offline marketing and business operations to succeed. Fortunately, many of the local marketing tactics that worked decades ago are still effective today.

      Partner with local businesses.

      Identify other local companies (that sell complementary goods and services) that’d be a good fit to work with. For example, if you own a gym, your business would naturally be able to work with massage therapists, nutritionists, coaches, and even sports stores.

      Consider ways you can work together for mutual benefit. Perhaps you could invite a nutritionist to set up a booth at your gym in exchange for them recommending your business as their preferred gym.

      Distribute print marketing materials.

      Flyers, posters and business cards may sound old school, but when catering to a local audience, they can still be very effective. Find common local gathering places such as libraries and coffee shops that have areas for local businesses to put up advertising materials. Hand out flyers at events or other venues where your target audience goes.

      Use signage

      Whether it’s an A-frame on the sidewalk to draw in foot traffic or a billboard by the freeway to drive brand awareness, quality signage is important for a local business owner. 

      Here are some best practices to consider:

      Keep it simple and concise: Signage and billboards should convey your message quickly and clearly. Use concise and impactful text that can be easily read from a distance. Avoid cluttering your signage with excessive information or graphics that can make it difficult to understand.

      Focus on key information: Highlight the most important information such as your business name, logo, contact details, and a compelling call to action. Prioritize the information that will drive potential customers to take action or visit your business.

      Use eye-catching visuals: Incorporate eye-catching graphics, images, or your logo to grab attention and create visual appeal. Choose colors, fonts, and images that align with your brand and are easily recognizable.

      Ensure readability: Consider the distance from which your signage or billboard will be viewed. Use fonts and text sizes that are easily readable from a distance. Opt for high contrast between the text and the background to enhance legibility, especially in outdoor settings.

      Use location-specific messaging: If your business serves a specific local area or community, consider incorporating location-specific messaging in your signage or billboard. This can help create a sense of relevance and connection with the local audience.

      Develop a referrals campaign.

      Word-of-mouth marketing can be a powerful channel for growing your business. Encourage customers to spread the word about your business to their friends and family by developing a referral program. Typically, customers are rewarded for successful referrals, either with discounts, credits, freebies, or other incentives. The referred individuals may also receive special offers as an added incentive to become new customers.

      Pitch to local news outlets.

      It’s a lot easier to score free press with your local media sources than with the bigger news giants. While large news outlets receive thousands of pitches, your local news is likely desperate for the latest and greatest stories—and they don’t always have the resources to go out and find them on their own. That’s where you come in.

      Whether you have an upcoming event or are launching an innovative new product, look for ways you can tie your news to local stories or hot topics.

      Revamp your store.

      First impressions mean everything. Users often leave web pages in as little as 10 seconds if they don’t immediately like what they see. The same is true for your visiting in-store customers and passerby foot traffic.

      Let’s face it—practically everyone judges a book by its cover, and if your cover (storefront) isn’t impressive, many won’t give it a chance and come inside. Ensure your outside storefront and inside branding are clean, consistent, and intentional.

      To really deliver a holistic brand experience, get your brick-and-mortar location’s branding to match your digital branding as closely as possible. Use the same colors, fonts, taglines, and images to make the transition from online to in-store seamless and vice versa. 

      Give back to the community.

      This strategy is both a local marketing tactic and a genuine philanthropic effort—a win-win on all accounts. Think of ways you can get involved in the community to make your local area a better place and to build awareness and respect for your business. Here are a few ideas to consider:

      • Sponsor your local Little League baseball team
      • Fund a park bench, shelter, pergola, or playground
      • Volunteer employee business hours to community services
      • Enter a float in the town parade
      • Support or host a local event, concert, conference, workshop, or festival
      • Donate to a local food bank
      • Give a portion of your sales to a local charity

      Remember  — consumers are trained to detect baloney. Be genuine with your contributions and do it for the right reasons. Your local consumers will know the difference.

      About the author
      Jesse Sumrak

      Jesse Sumrak is a Social Media Manager for SendGrid, a leading digital communication platform. He's created and managed content for startups, growth-stage companies, and publicly-traded businesses. Jesse has spent almost a decade writing about small business and entrepreneurship topics, having built and sold his own post-apocalyptic fitness bootstrapped startup. When he's not dabbling in digital marketing, you'll find him ultrarunning in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Jesse studied Public Relations at Brigham Young University.

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