What Is Local Marketing?
Local marketing is a way to increase your brand visibility to local customers. It involves utilizing both on and offline tactics to promote your business within a specific geographic area. Doing so ensures that your local audience knows about your brand, visits your storefront(s) or website, and contact you first for service calls.
Why Is Local Marketing Important?
Even on the local level, consumers depend on the internet throughout their purchase journey. For example:
- A study by Bright Local found that 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business, with over one-third of them looking every day.
- As reported by Social Media Today, of the people who search online for local businesses, 72% end up visiting stores within five miles.
- 46% of shoppers surveyed by Google said they confirm inventory online before going to a store.
- When shopping in-store, a study by RetailMeNot found that 69% percent of respondents would look for reviews online first, and 53% would search for deals before speaking with an employee.
Simply put, you need to have an online presence to meet the needs of modern consumers. However, it needs to have a strict geographical focus. Otherwise, you could end up wasting resources attracting leads who live too far away to do any good. Instead, you want to target people within your geographic area that can actually respond to your promotions and patronize your business.
But local marketing goes beyond creating an online presence. As a small business, you have an advantage over big brands when operating on the local level. You are right there in the community and can take advantage of real-world spaces and face-to-face connections.
For example, think of a downtown cafe. Their local marketing strategy might include tactics like:
- Setting out a sidewalk sign to attract foot-traffic.
- Using digital ads to target the lunch crowd in the nearby business district.
- Sharing a fun picture of their patio on social, talking about how the beautiful weather is perfect for a happy hour.
- Texting their subscriber list a special promo-code for a local event.
- Chatting with regular customers about upcoming specials so they can spread the message via word of mouth.
The cafe knows the community and uses both online and offline channels to reach their local audience.
Building a Local Marketing Strategy
As a business owner, you fall into one of two categories when it comes to marketing. First is that you are just starting and need to build a local marketing strategy from the ground up. The second category is that you have an existing marketing strategy that needs to be improved for local audiences.
Whether you’re new to marketing or want to update your current efforts, you need to have your bases covered. Here are eight core elements that your local marketing strategy must include to be effective.
1. Confirm Your Website Is Mobile-Friendly
Before you start implementing any other local marketing tactics, confirm your website is set up for mobile use. Mobile searches are one of the top ways local customers will find and view information about your business. And 61% of searchers are more likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site.
Mobile-friendly means your website should load seamlessly when accessed across different devices. The text, form fields, menus, and buttons should all be enlarged to make navigation easier on smartphones. The site layout should adapt to fit different screen sizes.
This may sound complicated, but most modern website building platforms already have these features baked into their templates. If you’re not sure about your site’s mobile responsiveness, Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool is a good starting point.
2. Localize Your Content
Make your content marketing efforts relevant to your audience. By publishing locally-focused content across your digital network, you can increase visibility and establish your business as a trusted voice in your community.
Think about your content from the perspective of your customers. For example, what are their most common questions? What aspects of your products or services could benefit from some additional explanation? Are there local gatherings, neighborhood events, and industry developments that might be relevant to your audience? Google Trends is a useful tool for identifying popular search terms for your location and industry. This type of content helps paint your brand as being deeply involved in the community.
3. Invest in Local SEO
Potential customers are searching on the internet for services and products in your local area. You want them to find your company easily. This wouldn’t be possible without a local SEO strategy to help your website appear prominently in desired search results.
Building your local SEO ranking is a long-term process that involves a lot of different elements. At the most basic level, you want to make sure your website has a dedicated location page that contains your business name, address, phone number, and other relevant store information.
However, that’s not all. For instance, you also need to ensure that your website offers a good user experience, contains relevant keywords (in context), and is well structured to be easily crawled by search engines.
4. Claim Your Local Listings
Part of building your local digital presence is to make sure your business listing shows up where your audience is looking. For instance, on third-party websites like Yelp, Better Business Bureau (BBB), directories, and review sites that highlight local businesses.
The most important listing you’ll want to claim is Google My Business (GMB). This will allow your business information to show up accurately on Google Search and Maps when people in your area are looking for your business, industry, products, services, etc.
Setting up all of these listings and profiles legitimizes your brand’s online presence and also helps improve your search engine rankings. You’ll also be able to start responding to customer reviews and comments across these various sites.
5. Localize Your Paid Advertising
Many local business owners hold the belief that word-of-mouth itself will attract business. However, the modern customer journey is increasingly digital, even in the local sphere. As such, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is another powerful tool to leverage for your business. Here are five ways you can use paid online advertising to reach your target local audience:
- Take Advantage of Geotargeting Options – Platforms like Google Ads, Facebook, and Nextdoor offer geotargeting options that make it easy to maximize visibility in specific areas. If the person searching isn’t located within your target area, they won’t see your ad. This is a great tool for local storefronts as well as companies that operate across wider service areas, such as HVAC technicians, roofers, and home contractors.
- Use Ad Scheduling to Reflect Your Business Hours – Ad scheduling is another powerful tool that gives you control over when your ads are displayed in your community. Instead of running ads 24/7, you can select specific windows of time during which your ads can be shown (for instance, during peak demand hours). By setting your ads to run during your actual business hours, you can maximize your visibility and keep your ad budget under control. No more wasting money on late night clicks that won’t drive calls.
- Set Location-Based Bid Adjustments – Another way you can maximize your local search visibility is by using location-based bid adjustments. Doing so allows you to bid higher on searches occurring in specific areas, such as prime zip codes in your service territory that have a high conversion rate.
- Use Ad Extensions to Highlight Your Location – Google, in particular, offers several features (called ad extensions) to make your ad more relevant to local searchers. Extension options include call buttons, direct links to relevant parts of your website (such as a product page), service call outs, and more. For example, the display location extension will show your business location as part of your PPC ads. People who see the ad can click on the address to receive directions to your store. These extensions can be an excellent way to use digital advertising to drive foot traffic.
- Create Custom Landing Pages – As previously discussed, relevant content is key to the success of a locally focused campaign. The same applies to your PPC landing pages. Incorporate place names, localized images, or testimonials from verified community members/local celebrities. Generic or overly broad landing pages can cost you conversions – especially if you reuse them across multiple campaigns. Instead, you want to have a unique, highly relevant landing page for each campaign that is focused on your ideal local customer.
6. Go Local on Social Media
Most social platforms provide plenty of localization options, from setting your business location to tagging where pictures or videos were taken. You can also use geographic and demographic information to target your local audience for promoted content.
Use these social channels to answer customer questions and have conversations with your local audience. As with offline networking, you can engage with other community figures on social to increase your visibility. One trick is to use local hashtags in your captions or comments to join broader conversations happening in your community.
7. Be Active in Your Community
As you might imagine, getting involved with your local community is crucial to local marketing success.
Find and participate in local events, such as volunteering for a cause in your community. You’ll meet plenty of people, establish goodwill by doing something good, and build brand awareness.
If you can’t physically attend events, consider acting as a local sponsor. Donate prizes to competitions and contests that will engage your community, support local sports teams or school events. Help maintain public spaces by adopting-a-street, contributing to a community garden, etc.
When you support your community as a business, your community is likely to support you, too.
8. Get Reviews and Testimonials
Local marketing depends on maintaining the goodwill of your community. People want to support local businesses they feel they can trust. Positive reviews and testimonials from recognized community figures play a large role in creating this social proof.
Never pay or offer any kind of non-monetary compensation for reviews. Doing so is a guaranteed way to lose people’s trust. Also, be careful about directly soliciting reviews from clients – this is against the policies of sites like Yelp. Instead, ask your customers what they think of your products or services. You can also encourage happy customers to leave reviews without directly asking them to use a specific site.
Monitor what people are saying about your business on social media and review sites. Make sure to publicly reach out to customers who left negative reviews and see what you can do to make it right. Other potential customers will see and appreciate your attempts to address people’s concerns.
Local Marketing Success
Part of designing your local marketing strategy is to define what success means for your business. Why are you spending time and resources on these tactics? What do you want to achieve and how will you measure performance? A useful way to define and measure success for your local marketing strategy is to set SMART goals, which stands for:
- Specific — Answer the six “w” questions of who, what, when, where, which, and why.
- Measurable — Decide which key performance indicators (KPIs) you will use to measure performance and whether or not you’ve successfully met your goal.
- Achievable — Plan out the steps, tools, and skills necessary to accomplish your marketing goals.
- Relevant — Ensure that each goal supports your broader business plan.
- Time-Bound — Determine what you can realistically accomplish with a specific period and set that as a deadline.
An example SMART goal could be something like you operate in Boston, MA and want to become a well-known local expert for historic home renovation (specific). You will have met this goal when you are asked to write an article, act as a speaker, or receive an interview request on the topic at least once every three months (measurable). You will accomplish this by sharing historic home renovation projects on YouTube and social media, networking at historical building societies, and offering free consultations (attainable). Establishing yourself as an expert will reinforce your 15+ years of experience and allow you to reach more historic homeowners who need advice (relevant). You want to be viewed as a local historic home renovation expert in two years (time-bound).
Local Marketing Ideas
Once you have the eight local marketing strategy essentials in place, you can start to branch out. Here are some more ideas and tactics you can use to market your brand to local communities. Just keep in mind that not all of these ideas will necessarily work for everyone. Rather, you will have to experiment to figure out what methods are most effective for your business in your community.
Use Marketing Handouts
As previously mentioned, local marketing doesn’t only happen online. There are also numerous offline ways you can promote your business within your community. For instance, design and share high-quality business cards, postcards, yard signs, and flyers. Learn where you can distribute print materials – community boards, lamp posts, street corners, etc – to spread the word within your local community.
Another option is giveaways, such as car magnets, t-shirts, or reusable shopping bags. These items provide a physical reminder of your brand and can also equip customers with a way to promote your business on your behalf.
Sponsor Local Events
Show you support your community by sponsoring local sports teams, school events, or non-profit fundraisers. This tactic will build goodwill and allow you to showcase your brand on signage and marketing materials.
Another way to get new eyes on your business is by purchasing a booth at local events. These can be great opportunities for connecting with members of your community and getting your brand out there. You can also host your own event or team up with other businesses to create a larger experience. For instance, a mini “home show” featuring local craftspeople, woodworkers, furniture stores, etc. Offer food, drinks, and entertainment and invite local community members to come to have a look.
Utilize Your Local Media
Don’t underestimate the power of local media. Consumers still rely on local newspapers and radio stations to keep them updated about their communities and neighborhoods. As such, it can be an important channel to help bring new customers to your door.
However, you can do more than just purchase ad space or send press releases. You can also pitch topics to the local press as an industry expert offering a perspective that will benefit their viewers. For instance, how important trends or innovations in your industry will impact the community. Be sure to provide your phone number and check your voicemail, since reporters on deadline will need a fast response. You can also use sites like Help a Reporter Out (HARO) to offer yourself as a possible information source for relevant stories.
Run Special Promotions
Promotions and contests that celebrate local events (or connect with the community in other ways) can be great tools for engaging your local audience. Be creative and offer prizes that your ideal customer would want.
Channels like social media and radio can be a great way to increase participation. For example, announcing a prize drawing people can enter via social media or an in-store visit. You can further increase foot traffic by having winners collect their prize in person.
Make Local Business Contacts
Partnering with other local businesses is a great way to expand your community and increase brand awareness. Consider joining the local chamber of commerce or other small business associations to make contacts and network with your peers. A great local marketing tactic is to find complementary businesses for cross-promotion. For instance, if you’re in home construction, you can refer clients to trusted landscapers or interior decorators – and vise versa.
Beyond growing your offline community, partnering with other local businesses can also help improve your local SEO by helping build backlinks to other websites. This will help search engines see that you’re part of a trusted network of local businesses.
Offer Free Advice
Part of building your brand within your community is establishing yourself as a local authority in your field. Offering professional advice, or even a free consultation, is a great way to demonstrate your expertise. This tactic helps to get you in front of potential customers and build your local reputation.
You can also execute this tactic online by answering relevant questions on websites like Quora, business.com, and local advice forums. Another option is to create a blog or YouTube channel to provide a glimpse of your products and services in action. The point is to get potential new customers interested in what you do and earn their trust so that they come back to you when they’re ready to buy.
Create a Loyalty Program
Reward people who are repeat customers or take desired actions. A simple way to get started is to use old school loyalty cards which you can print and hand out to customers. For example, a customer who buys 10 drinks at your cafe gets the next drink free. An online variation is something like a loyalty app for mobile devices or a tracking program that’s tied to your POS system. For instance, customers earn a discount based on how much they spend. Or they can join a rewards club for special perks throughout the year.
Send Out Targeted Email Campaigns
When done correctly, email is one of the simplest and most cost-effective tactics for reaching your customer base. Start a local email list by asking everyone coming to your store for their email address and ask for permission to send them communications. One great idea is to let them decide what types of emails they want to receive. For instance, a general email newsletter? Special promotions? Service and product updates? All of the above? Make sure to include a way to change content preferences (or unsubscribe) in every message. People are trusting you with their email address so don’t bombard them with content they don’t want.
Well-placed coupons can be an excellent way to get customers in the door and browsing your store — both on and offline. For instance, a coupon that encourages bulk buys, a limited-time offer on your event flyers, or an in-store discount for each online purchase. You can share these promotions via digital ads, emails, social media, offline print media, etc. You can also use sites like Groupon to offer a special deal in your area.
Take Your Local Marketing Strategy to the Next Level
As you can see, a lot goes into creating and implementing successful local marketing. However, it shouldn’t take up all your time and energy. As with any job, you simply need to have the right tools and strategies in place.
Software like the all-in-one Surefire Local Marketing Platform can be a game-changer. It gives you control over your digital marketing efforts so you can build your local online presence more efficiently. However, we’re more than just a software company. We also provide expert local marketing services to help you craft a winning marketing plan for your business and community.
Request your free consultation and see how the Surefire Local Marketing Platform will transform your local marketing!