Most small businesses thrive on local customers. One of the benefits of being a local business is that your target audience is easier to reach than a broader geographic area. But like everything in marketing, you need to develop a sound strategy to create more visibility in that local market. To help you put that marketing plan together, let’s discuss five online and four offline local marketing strategies that can work for your business.
What is local marketing?
Local marketing, also known as location-based marketing and neighborhood marketing, focuses on reaching your target audience in the same town or region as your business.
You target customers based on:
- Proximity – Those who live within a certain distance from your location
- Service area – The distance you will travel to your customers
Although many of these strategies are online activities to increase the visibility of your business for local search, local marketing can also include traditional offline marketing activities as well.
Local on-line marketing strategies to add to your marketing plan
Implement onsite and offsite local SEO
Local search marketing specifically refers to optimizing your web presence to ensure a business gets found in search results, location pages and online maps by potential local customers. According to Brightlocal Local Consumer Review survey, 99% of consumers have used the internet to find information about a local business in the last year. Before you do any other local marketing, make sure you have implemented all of the on-site local search engine optimization (SEO) best practices.
- Create a fast, mobile-friendly website to provide a quality mobile experience. Many who search locally are doing so on their mobile devices.
- Conduct keyword research to help define your website content strategy.
- Implement on-page SEO tactics for local visibility.
- Optimize your website to rank for local keyword phrases.
- Create localized content. This doesn’t mean stuffing city and town names into your titles and content. Add your locations where it makes sense.
- Set up local landing pages if you have multiple locations.
- Add service area pages with unique content for each area.
Off-site SEO is taking actions to build up a digital footprint outside of your actual website.
- Claim your Google Business Profile, Bing Places listings and other relevant directory listings.
- Build credible backlinks to your website.
- Create accounts on relevant social media platforms with a consistent brand and links back to your website.
- Get featured in local roundups of businesses in your area. These roundups are simply directories that list the best businesses within a particular category. Do a search and note any directories that list out your competitors. Reach out to them to see if your business can be added.
Most small local businesses need to attract their ideal customers through online searches. Being visible in local search results is critical to your success.
Encourage positive user reviews
Again from Brightlocal, 98% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2021, up 11% from 2020. Encourage your satisfied customers to leave you positive reviews online. Provide direct links on your website to review forms including Google, Facebook, Yelp, Angi or other relevant directories for your industry.
You should also spend time responding to the reviews your customers leave online. And more statistics to note, when writing a review, 20% of consumers expect to receive a response within one day. If you do respond, make them unique and sincere. Try to avoid the “thanks for the nice review” boilerplate response.
Connect with local customers through social media
There are many ways to connect with local customers using social media. Things you may want to implement will depend on the type of business you run. Create your business page and add a specific location to your profile. Then:
- Run a contest or giveaway to improve brand awareness and increase your social media following.
- Promote a sale or special offer to followers to drive more customers to your store or website.
- If you offer home services, get listed as a resource in neighborhood or community pages. Homeowners are always looking for resources.
- Tag your location and use local hashtags in your posts.
Implement localized paid ads
If you plan to do paid advertising, you can control who sees your ad by targeting specific audiences based on their location.
- Google Ads – Tighten your service area and add relevant localized keywords to your ad content. Include your location on your landing pages and target your ads to specific locations, either by city or county. You will be able to target a very specific reach of local customers.
- Facebook Ads – Run ads that target a very specific local area. Choose Reach People Near Your Business or Local Awareness. Add in your business address and you then get a map showing you the radius of your ad reach. You can customize this radius so that it reaches your exact target audience. You can further refine who the ad reaches by selecting your audience.
- Local Search Ads – As a local business, you can also run a local search ad. These are pay-per-lead ads that appear at the top of the search results, above organic results and traditional Google Ads.
Paid ads aren’t for every business. If you think you may want to invest, work with someone who knows how to run ads properly. Otherwise, your ad budget could be spent with any results.
Build a local email subscriber list
Email marketing strategies are great for local businesses. Besides your website, your email list is the only thing you own.
Build your local email list either at your store or through your website. If you are at an event, have a signup sheet there or a way they can add themselves to your email list directly.
Then send out regular newsletters, blog posts, coupons, promotions and special offers.
Don’t forget about your current customers. Create a special email list for them. Since they already bought from you, they will more than likely do so again.
Local off-line marketing strategies to add to your marketing plan
Join a BNI chapter
Referral marketing is one of the best local marketing strategies for small businesses. Each BNI chapter is made up of people from many types of businesses, but you only have one person per seat in each chapter. If there is a plumber in a chapter, another one can’t join.
However, all of the professionals in your industry can work together to refer each other to their clients. A remodeler will need a plumber and an electrician for projects. A chiropractor, physical therapist and acupuncturist can refer patients to each other. If you build good rapport with your fellow members, you can get a lot of business through word-of-mouth marketing.
Develop a customer referral program
If you join a BNI, you understand the power of word-of-mouth marketing. Referral marketing uses your existing customers to attract high quality referrals. Potential clients are more likely to use your services if they come from a referrer they know and trust.
There are two ways to create a program. These are not mutually exclusive. You can do both:
- Incent your current customers through discounts, branded items or other rewards.
- Create a process where it’s easy for you to ask your customer for referrals.
Many business owners have a hard time asking for referrals (and reviews for that matter). That’s why you need a formal process that is easy to implement. Determine what reward would incent existing customers to refer business to you. These rewards can come in many forms but work out something that works for your business.
Partner with local businesses
Joining a BNI introduces you to many other businesses who could provide you partnering opportunities. You already know they have similar values and goals and they don’t compete with your company. These alliances can multiply your total reach into your target base. Some partnering ideas include:
- Co-sponsor industry events
- Cross-link content on your websites and the websites themselves
- Host or sponsor local community events
Working together, you can increase brand visibility for both of your businesses in your local community. You might also get some local press coverage.
Work with local journalists
Local publications often need resources for articles they write. Introduce yourself to them and offer your expertise in topics related to your business. If you have a blog, direct them to it to see your expertise and offer an open invitation to help them with a story.
Getting your name out into your local community via the media is always a good way to build a solid brand reputation. If you are a resource in their content, they will most likely link back to your website. This improves your visibility and helps your business get found organically.
Plan your local marketing strategies
If your business is not focused on building visibility in your local community with these marketing strategies, you will lose customers to your competition. Choose strategies that make sense for your business based on your product, service, and industry. Even if your business can work with customers in a broader market, like coaches and consultants, you should still implement local marketing activities.
So whether you have a storefront or a service area, local marketing is a strategy you should consider adding to your marketing plan. Remember that many people need and want to hire local resources and get to know them. Make sure your business is available to them when they are ready to choose.