Local businesses face less competition than their national counterparts, but they also have limited budgets—and obstacles in the way of them reaching their target audience. Marketing and advertising are the best ways to reach your local audience, but if you’re unfamiliar with these strategies, or you’re struggling with tight resources, you may not know the best ways to approach them.
In this guide, we’ll cover the best tips for new local businesses to succeed in the marketing world.
Marketing Tips for Local Businesses
Small, locally-centric businesses can succeed by following these important bits of advice:
- Know your specific audience. First, you need to understand your specific target demographics. Too many local business owners and new business owners make the mistake of trying to market to as many people as possible—which means creating a message that’s potentially relevant to everyone. The problem is, a message that’s relevant to everyone is going to be uninteresting. Instead, get inside your target customer’s head; what do they like? What do they hate? What drives them? Then, create a message that’s perfectly tailored to them, specifically. It will be far more relevant.
- Rely on both print and digital media. Print and digital media each have advantages and disadvantages for local businesses, so make use of both in your campaign. Digital media gives you a wide reach (which may or may not be helpful), but may overwhelm you with competition. Print media requires more of an upfront investment, but can be distributed exactly to the people most relevant to your business. Use inexpensive printing sources online to get a good deal on things like pamphlets, brochures, and postcards.
- Differentiate yourself. There are probably at least a few businesses like yours in the area, so take the time to learn how they market themselves. Do they have the same audience as you? If so, how are they reaching them? Find a way to distinguish your business so it stands out, or else you’ll just blend in as white noise.
- Work with professionals when possible. If you don’t have much marketing experience of your own, make sure you work with professionals whenever possible. Depending on your budget and access, that might mean working with a professional marketing agency, or building a network of professional contractors who specialize in different areas. Quality matters.
- Attend local events. Whenever possible, attend local events. These are perfect opportunities to get to know your local demographics better, meet other entrepreneurs, and build visibility for your brand. Participate in giveaways to engage with people.
- Get local press. Similarly, it’s a good idea to get some local press. Write and submit press releases regarding new events related to your business, and consider getting involved with platforms like Help a Reporter Out (HARO). Over time, you can build a relationship with journalists in your area and get an outlet for public communication.
- Leverage low- to no-cost channels. There are plenty of channels and advertising options online that are cheap or free, so take advantage of them. The obvious example here is social media; platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin allow you to create a page for your business for free. Advertising costs money, but you can also make organic posts for free.
- Focus on client retention as much as acquisition. Most new marketers think of marketing as only a channel for customer acquisition; it’s all about attracting new people to the business. But it’s also about retention; in other words, keeping your existing customers around. Introduce offers, specials, and other incentives to keep your customers around. After all, retention is both less expensive and more important than acquisition.
- Experiment. Over time, local businesses tend to get in a rut when it comes to marketing. Don’t let this happen to you. Make the effort to experiment. Go out of your way to discover new channels and new marketing opportunities, and give them a try. If they don’t work out, you don’t have to try them again.
- Measure and analyze your results. Perhaps most importantly, make sure you measure and analyze your results. Which messages seem to be the most effective? Which channels yield the highest return? How did your customers respond to each campaign? Use these data to craft your campaigns moving forward.
The Role of Experience
Experienced marketers are almost universally more successful. The more time you spend planning, executing, and reviewing your own marketing campaigns, the more efficient and more effective you’re going to get. Don’t be surprised if your first few marketing campaigns don’t go as expected; take a step back, learn some new lessons, and apply those lessons in your next attempt. Eventually, you’ll get where you want to be.