used with permission from SBA.gov
by Anita Campbell
If you operate a local business (one that gets most of its customers from within a 75-mile radius) you can try many general marketing strategies, but you have one special consideration. You have to attract prospects who are close enough to literally walk into your shop or close enough for you to visit to provide service. That calls for special techniques called “local marketing.”
Here are 10 local marketing strategies that can help you attract customers from within your local area:
1. Manage Your Listing in Search Engines
People today search online (or on their phones) first, often using Google or Bing, then visit the business.
You can manage much of the information that appears in Google business listings, including address, hours, phone number, pictures and more, through a free Google My Business account. If you haven’t claimed your listing, do it now. Bing has a similar listing place.
2. Target Nearby Social Media Users
Social media can be targeted to your local area — if you know how to use it that way.
Facebook, for instance, has an option specifically to allow you to market (“promote”) your business to other local Facebook users. I always suggest that small businesses start with a modest $100 budget and run a test campaign.
But you don’t need to advertise. Try to get existing local customers to follow you on your social channels. Provide interesting content and in turn your updates may get exposure to local friends and family who are followers of your followers.
3. Participate With Online Professional Groups
Social media sites like LinkedIn give you access to groups where you can share expertise and network. This is especially good for local B2B businesses.
For example, a Southern California based business that provides advertising materials like t-shirts and other printed goods could potentially benefit from joining groups with other local SoCal businesses.
4. Sponsor Local Events
Sponsoring charitable events in your local community provides a golden opportunity to raise brand awareness.
Make sure the event or cause is not only something you believe in, but also something that might appeal to your target customers. For example, a toy store might not do so well sponsoring an event at a local nightclub. Sponsoring a kids’ sports team would be more relevant.
5. Follow Up With Customers
Send a thank-you email following a sale to encourage testimonials. Never offer anything in exchange for a positive review. But a thank-you email stating that you welcome feedback and would appreciate a testimonial for your website if they care to give one, is being done more and more these days.
6. Register With Local Business Directories
Often times, local customers look to directories to find businesses or professionals from a particular niche in their area. Make sure your business is listed in any relevant directories, and correct any inaccurate information.
Don’t forget your local chamber of commerce, the Better Business Bureau, yellow pages, and niche directories. For example, home professionals can list their services on sites like HomeAdvisor and Angie’s List.
7. Cross-Promote With Other Local Businesses
If you offer a special or promotion to your customers, then you’re only going to reach the people who already know about your business. But if you AND another business offer a promotion together, then customers from both businesses are likely to hear about it.
A local restaurant, for instance, could partner with a nearby movie theater for a “dinner and a movie” special.
8. Start a Referral Program
A referral program could be as simple as giving a satisfied customer a few extra business cards and asking them to refer their friends.
Or you could offer a bounty (discount or award) to the referrer and even to the customer being referred. Say you’re an interior designer. You could offer a $200 credit to past clients who refer their friends and an equal discount to the referred client.
9. Introduce Yourself to Local Media
Offer editors and journalists your expertise in topics related to your business. For example, an HVAC company might be able to provide some quotes for a local newspaper about how to lower heating costs in the winter.
You can also send out press releases to suggest article ideas, especially if tied to a current news event. Be persistent, but don’t annoy editors by being too pushy.
10. Host an “Experience” Event
Don’t just hold a sale – turn it into an “experience.” Host a Friday night sale where you offer beverages and live music. This makes it an enjoyable experience for shoppers. Invite your social media followers and reach out to local media to share information about the event..