Are you a local business that needs marketing strategies to reach new customers?
Around 85% of small business owners say they rely upon word-of-mouth to attract their customer base. Referrals are great and of course you should try to get them, but there are more expedient ways to reach a larger audience.
Online marketing is not just the domain of large or online-only businesses. Online methods can be invaluable when marketing for local business too. You might not have the budget or brand power of the big business titans, but you can use a few practical strategies to reach your local community.
Here are five to get started:
#1. Optimize for local business search
You’ve probably heard of SEO (Search Engine Optimization), but did you know that local SEO is a thing too? In a nutshell, this means optimizing your website and online presence so that customers looking for a local business can easily find you on search engines.
If you don’t yet have a website, research into local business marketing shows that you’re not alone. In fact, many local businesses still aren’t online, much to the detriment of their visibility. Of local businesses that are online, many have neglected their websites, or have not optimized them for local SEO. Why is this important? A lot of consumers are beginning their search for a local business online. The image below from Social Media Today shows just how many:
Here are a few tips for local business optimization to make the most of your website:
- Optimize your homepage and meta data. This means ensuring you have clearly stated who you are, what you do and where you are based in key places. Your page title tag, header tags and meta description should contain this information. Using local business schema on your web pages helps to make search engines understand what you do. This is additional code that can be added to your pages to speak to search engines in their own language.
- Have complete contact information on your website. You should include key information such as your phone number, business hours and address. A tip here is to ensure that this information is listed on your website exactly as it appears on your Google My Business listing.
- Claim your local business listing at different online directories. These tend to show up early in search engine results. Sites such as Yelp, Google My Business and the Yellow Pages are important to be listed on.
- Prioritize getting (good) reviews. Word-of-mouth is always going to be important for a local business, but more than that, online reviews have been shown to significantly correlate with search engine rankings. Importantly, it’s not just the number of reviews that matter, but what people are actually saying in those reviews. It has been shown that positive reviews help to enhance your ranking.
#2. Engage on social media
Do you have a presence on social media yet? Many business owners struggle with maintaining their social media accounts and making optimal use of them. As a small business, you’re probably limited on resources, but social media marketing has been proven to be invaluable for local marketing too.
If you want to reach your local community on social media, it’s important to know where they hang out. Do they use Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram? Or does your business suit a younger demographic who may be more frequently on Snapchat?
When you have limited time and resources, you need smart marketing strategies, so start by focusing on the most likely channels to reach your customer base. From there, it’s a matter of being “social.” You need to engage at a local level, rather than worrying about having thousands of “likes’ across the globe. This means being present and active on your chosen channels.Local businesses need smart marketing strategies to maximize their resources Click To Tweet
Here are a few tips for doing local social media right:
- Build a personal relationship with your audience. Include things like team selfies, behind-the-scenes photos, and content that locals will get.
- Keep your audience engaged. Post things like topics of local interest, questions of the day or even local giveaways. As an example, Lake Tahoe Television posts a “question of the day” video on Facebook and gives away a local sponsor prize to a winner.
- Provide valuable content on your social media channels. Constant promotional posts tend to turn people off, but if you can give them something to keep them interested, they’ll engage. For example, you could post demonstration videos, ideas for local activities, or helpful resources.
#3. Sponsor local events
Local events can be a great way to boost the profile of your small business, both on and offline. Depending on where you are located, there may be any number of community events needing sponsorship or providing the opportunity to set up a booth. Your Chamber of Commerce, Rotary club or other local organizations are often good sources to find these events.
As a local business, participating in events can bring you face-to-face with your target audience. Sponsorship or participation can also help with local SEO in the form of backlinks. Usually there will be some kind of website for the event with links back to sponsor websites. Depending on how well the organizers market the event, there will often be profiles of sponsors on the event social media pages as well.
Depending on who your target audience is, consider events, conferences or training opportunities that are small and local as well. For example, you might have some expertise that can be shared with locals. Picture a garden center providing tips for planting a vegetable garden, or a marketing agency taking a training session on social media for local business owners.
It’s all about generating good will by giving back to the local community, as well as boosting your business profile in the process. You can make it a “soft” marketing opportunity by giving away branded swag or even signing people up for a free consultation.
#4. Try local content marketing
Content marketing has been shown to be one of the most effective marketing strategies if it is done well. Small business owners often worry about having to compete online with larger companies that have more resources, but the answer is to think about your local market first.
This means identifying what your target audience looks like locally, and what sort of content they’d like to see. As an example, a landscaping or gardening company in a fire-prone community might put out instructional content on defensible space around houses.
If you have some budget to pay for content, using local content creators can be an extra way of boosting your profile locally. Local writers or content creators often have a profile and influence locally that you can leverage. Usually they will share content that they’ve created for you.
Another solid strategy is to get guest content from local contributors. For example, that landscaping company might get some input from the local fire department or Forest Service. They might source content from other businesses that are adjacent to theirs, but not direct competitors. In fact, partnerships with other local businesses can be a fruitful and efficient way of sharing resources and cross-promoting one another.
In a piece for Moz, Mike Ramsey talks about how your content should be both local AND useful. To get you thinking, he lists these ideas:
Ideas of things that are local:
- Sports teams
- Local celebrities or heroes
- Groups and events
- Local pride points
- Local pain points
Ideas of things that are useful:
- Favorite local sports
- Granular details only “locals” know.
#5. Try a loyalty program for local customers
What keeps you going back to your favorite coffee shop? For most people, it’s a combination of good coffee, great service and the ambience. The cherry on-the-top that often keeps people returning is the loyalty card. Often it’s the basic punch card – buy 10 cups of coffee and your next one is free.
The fact is we respond to rewards programs and local customers appreciate getting something back for their loyalty. It’s a great local marketing strategy to encourage customers to return.
As far as reward or loyalty programs go, they tend to work best if they are simple for both your small business and your customers to use and understand. The punch card is easy to implement, but the con for the customer is remembering to carry a card, while the downside for your business is that you’re not collecting their details so you can stay in contact.
Apps can be effective as most people carry their phone around everywhere. On the other hand, look at your customer base – would an app be excluding older customers from your rewards program?
Another method is to use rewards software at the point of sale, for example by having people register with a phone number or email address that they then provide at every sale. These can be more costly to implement, but they do allow you to follow-up with customers. On the other hand, not all customers will be comfortable with handing over their contact details.
What will work for you? Make an assessment of your local area and target audience to figure out what people will be most likely to want to use.
It’s important to take a “local first” approach when marketing for local business. If the majority of your customers are from your immediate local area, then you should gear your online marketing and any offline efforts toward them.
Optimize your website for local search and engage on social media. Deliver content that matters to locals and seek out opportunities for local events. Find ways to reward your customers for their loyalty and keep them coming back.
Local marketing doesn’t have to be at the scale of the big businesses online, it just has to reach its intended audience. Consistency and a genuine local approach will help to lift your business profile.