Every day, startups and tech giants alike introduce new tools for expanding the footprint of a small business. Mental health specialists can offer virtual counseling to clients who live hours away and artists can ship their work all around the globe. While these opportunities are significant, don’t discount the opportunities that lie right outside your door.
Small businesses make up the fabric of their local communities. The national and international franchises certainly have their place, but they don’t offer the same intimacy, comfort or connection that a mom-and-pop hardware store or an independent café provide. Therefore, a local marketing campaign around how your business fits into your community (or how your community influences your business) can have incredible potential.
In this article, we’ll define local marketing, discuss its importance and offer some marketing strategies to consider when building your plan in line with the 4 p's of marketing.
Whether your marketing campaign is local, global or both, make sure to create a website where people can learn more about and buy from your business.
What is local marketing?
Local marketing is the practice of tailoring a business’s branding and advertising to target consumers who live or spend time in their operating region. This type of marketing is most popular among small businesses with a single location, such as restaurants and stores.
That said, any sort of business can use this tactic—even those without brick-and-mortar. For example, business owners who need to travel to offer their services—such as cleaners, tutors, personal trainers and makeup artists—will find it particularly helpful.
Even if your business is fully online, you can still use local marketing. Building your business’s place of origin into its brand can make it more tangible to all your customers, regardless of whether they are local or not.
Why is local marketing important?
When you use local marketing to target customers that live or spend time in your business’s surrounding area, you increase your chances of attracting loyal customers. These clients can work visits to your business into their routines and your business’s physical presence will act as a reminder of its existence if they don’t.
According to Uberall’s 2021 study of 4,000 consumers, 74% prefer to visit a brick-and-mortar location at some point in their shopping journey, whether it’s to process a return or see a product in-person. Tailoring your marketing to reach people who can easily visit your business creates that opportunity.
It’s also easier to reach customers through local marketing than through a wider marketing strategy because you know the community. You are familiar with—and likely share—the local consumer’s specific needs, interests and feelings. Plus, emphasizing your identity as a local committed to contributing to the local economy can help to build trust. This also makes it a good candidate for referral marketing.
But local businesses aren’t the only ones that can benefit from local marketing. We’ve seen over and over how brands can stay connected to their places of origin, even as they grow far beyond it. Consider Ben & Jerry’s. Despite having grown into an international brand, it has stayed true to its roots. “Vermont’s Finest” has been their tagline since the very beginning.
Finally, local marketing is important because it usually requires lower upfront costs than a campaign that casts a wider net.
9 strategies for building a local marketing campaign
A smart local marketing campaign involves both digital marketing and traditional marketing. Let’s discuss a few local marketing strategies you can incorporate into your campaign:
01. Build a review collection plan
According to a 2020 survey, 88% of consumers factor in reviews when searching for and assessing local businesses. So build a review collection plan into your local marketing strategy. This plan should outline where, how and when you'll respond to guest feedback. Pay special attention to your Google reviews because your “Google review count and review score factor into local search ranking.”
Speedy replies enhance your brand reputation and can lead to guests editing their feedback to reflect your response. "If you can respond to a 1- or 2-star review within 24 hours, you have a 33% higher probability of that person coming back and upgrading that review,” Darnell Holloway, Yelp’s director of business outreach, told Nation’s Restaurant News. “So, it's really important from a systemic perspective to consistently respond to those reviews in 24 hours."
02. Work with local influencers
Local influencers have followings specific to the region, so partnering with them ensures that you’ll get the right attention from your target audience. A data survey of 2 million influencers shows that micro-influencers (those with a following between 10,000 and 100,000 followers) get two to five times as much engagement as influencers with over 100,000 followers. Micro-influencer partnerships can cost less than those with higher follower counts, too.
For example, NYC–based Emma Ungaro uses her TikTok to show off her luxury fashion budget finds. Despite having fewer than 90,000 followers, eBay paid her to promote its new Luxury Exchange store opening in Manhattan. Her posts didn’t get thousands of likes, but the goal wasn’t to get viral attention; it was just to get New Yorkers in the know about the new venture.
03. Create and optimize your Google Business Profile
When building a local marketing strategy, look to Google’s handy business tools. Google Maps has all but replaced the yellow pages. According to Google, over a billion people use the platform every month. That means if you don’t have a Google Business Profile (formerly known as Google My Business), you could be missing out on millions of views.
Creating a Google Business Profile enables you to appear on Google Maps, optimize your business for search results and make it easy for locals to find your business and reach out. This will benefit your business because, according to the Uberall survey we mentioned earlier, 77% of consumers use Google to find local business information.
Uberall also analyzed year-over-year Google Business Profile metrics and found that most local searches are “non-specific,” meaning consumers look for options rather than a particular business location. For example, if someone wanted to grab a burger, they are more likely to search “burgers near me” over “Wendy’s near me.”
Because customers are looking for options, you have a wealth of opportunities to get your business in front of consumers eager to convert. To maximize those opportunities, get your business profile in tip-top shape with a compelling description, high-quality photography and up-to-date business information.
04. Join your local chamber of commerce
A chamber of commerce is a collective of businesses working together to further their interests and their community’s economic interests. Joining a local chamber of commerce offers the opportunity to network and make your business more visible in the community. For example, chambers of commerce usually link to their members’ business websites in their online directories.
05. Hone your advertising campaign
Tailor your digital and print advertising to attract locals with these ideas:
Google Ads: Google Ads offers the option to set up local campaigns to boost offline sales and Local Services Ads for service businesses. Because the latter only needs your business type and location to know if your business is relevant to the local search, it involves less intensive keyword optimization.
Print advertising: Because most consumers trust advertisements in magazines and newspapers more than all other types of advertising, don’t underestimate setting up strategic ads in local publications.
Review sites: Most review sites such as Yelp allow you to create location-targeting ads.
Direct mail: Snail mail advertisements surprisingly still work. According to one direct mail printer and distributor, their customers receive response rates as high as 30%. A direct mail campaign can emphasize the convenience of visiting your establishment for the recipient.
06. Partner with local businesses
Last year, Domino’s ran a campaign in which they purchased thousands of $50 gift cards from local restaurants and included them in customer deliveries. The campaign successfully demonstrated that Domino’s cares about its local communities, drew attention to how third-party delivery services negatively impact restaurants and shared the spotlight with small businesses.
Small business owners could do something similar with cross-promotion, which is the act of using one product or service to support another. Say you run an acupuncture clinic and are looking for new clients—you could reach out to a nearby spa and offer to give their coupons to your customers if they do the same for you. Because you likely share the same customer base but don’t directly compete, you both win.
07. Incorporate outdoor advertising
Although billboards are the most common outdoor advertising, you can use many other cost-effective tactics for local marketing. In addition to pinning fliers to community bulletin boards or setting up chalkboard signs on the walkway in front of your business, you might also consider branding your company vehicle with your company website or QR code so that every drive around town advertises your business.
You can also use guerilla marketing, which refers to unconventional advertisements such as murals, graffiti, stickers and projections. This type of advertising has become more popular because it is cheap, memorable and buzz-worthy. For example, the It movie marketing team simply tied the clown’s infamous red balloon to sewer grates and stenciled the copy next to them.
08. Host events
Event marketing can build brand awareness, generate new leads and incentivize visits to your business website. You can allow other local businesses to set up pop-ups that complement your business model, fundraisers that raise money for relevant causes or information sessions. As a bonus, you can use events to create great content marketing by recording and posting the highlights online. If you don’t have the time, space or capabilities to host your own event, look for local events that you can participate in.
09. Optimize every interaction for customer retention
If you have a brick-and-mortar location, you can retain in-store customers by pointing them towards your website, social media accounts or loyalty program. If you operate primarily online, try similar tactics at the end of customer interactions that emphasize your local small business status. Here are a few low-cost, low-effort and high-reward local marketing ideas:
Window displays: Draw attention with eye-catching window displays or signs displaying great deals. Post a QR code that leads to your site for interested consumers who don’t have time to browse.
Custom receipts: Customize your print receipts to include your site URL or a QR code that directs them to the homepage. If you offer digital receipts, include a link to your loyalty program sign-up page. Digital receipts are also a great way to tap into sustainable marketing practices.
Branded packaging: According to a marketing research poll, 72 percent of Americans recognize that package design influences what they choose to spend their money on. Giving your packaging a cool design (perhaps one that ignites their local pride) will cement your business in the minds of your existing customers and attract the attention of newcomers. Make sure to attach, stamp or print your website domain and social media accounts on the packaging.
Staff ambassadors: Encourage your staff to mention your online store or loyalty program to customers after completing a sale.