The small business's guide to local marketing

Michael Gabrian

by Michael Gabrian on 07/12/2017

For local businesses, competition can be tough. Not only are you competing with other local businesses targeting the same audience as you, but you also have to worry about larger companies and chains. 

So how do you manage to come out on top?

You have to improve your marketing efforts. This includes a couple of different areas: boosting SEO, improving online presence, creating email campaigns, utilizing your social channels, and so on. 

Let's talk about some of these different ways a small business can market to local customers.

"Small business isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for the brave, the patient and the persistent. It’s for the overcomer."

- Unknown

small business practicing local marketing

Your website & online marketing

The first thing that most people will do before making a purchase is check you out online. The percentage was about 81% in 2014. If this is just for an online purchase, what do you think it would take to get them to actually visit your shop? This means that you'll want to optimize your website. 

I'm thinking of tattoo shops, cafes, and plenty of other small business types. I always look them up online. It's a way to see what they offer, see what other people have thought about their experiences, and to build some kind of impression on the company. 

Today, as a small business, your website is much more than just a business card. In fact, I can think of 3 great uses any company will see from a little site construction:

  • A better way for you to engage with your audience
  • Build a tool that will scale with your business as you grow
  • Gain a competitve edge

Your website is made with specific personas in mind, so think of who your company is targeting. If you're not sure how to actually improve your site, just go back to your personas and think of their goals, challenges, and how you can help them. This could give you a couple new ideas for features and functionality to include on the site, content ideas, or marketing ideas.

Working with a limited marketing budget

As a small business, you might be working with a low or slashed marketing budget that might not cover the cost of a custom website. However, you do have plenty of options. If your site already has a nice design and is mobile responsive, I'd shift the budget towards an inbound marketing strategy. This way you can focus on getting the right traffic, creating the right content, and converting leads into customers.

If your website's design truly is the problem, I'd go with a Growth Driven Design retainer. How this works is you either start from scratch and build a new launchpad site or start with your existing one. The purpose of the launchpad site is to collect user data and make updates and changes based on how people interact with the site. So setting yourself up with a simple monthly retainer could really take your site to the next level.

For more information on our GDD playbook, click the image below!

Get your free Growth-Driven Design playbook

Creating partnerships & attending local events

I found this vlog by Marie Forleo where she went over a couple interesting ideas for companies to partner up with other local businesses, specifically, for a cafe in Virginia. The idea was for the owner to reach out to businesses to supply for office parties, reaching out to local wedding planners, or even parent-teacher associations and supply for them. 

The video got me thinking about how many outlets there really are for all business types. I think that to some degree, the same idea could apply for a local accounting/finance team, web development team, restaurant, etc. Reaching out to local businesses and groups and working up deals. 

Participating in local events is another way to dive right in and get your brand in front of your audience. 

Back in my college days, there was a small business fair at one of the local parks. I helped run a table for the company I was interning for at the time and it really was a great way to network with other local businesses, find any opportunities in the area, and just gain exposure. Plus you get to distribute your swag to people in all areas of business in your local area.

Your social media

When jotting down ideas for a guide to local marketing, social media seemed pretty crucial because of the amount of options you have.

One example is, if you're using Pinterest, try using place pins. This is simply adding a location, address, store hours, phone number, etc. Also consider adding your location in your profile as well. This will help your pins get noticed by the right audience.

Facebook gives the option to run local ads, which is perfect since we're targeting people in the area. The cool thing is that you're targeting people based on their physical location, not what they list on their profile. From there, you can specify on more features, such as behaviors, interests, demographics, and other categories. 

You have tons of options on each channel to target ads locally, it's just important to keep your message tailored for your personas. Yes, they might all be locals, but if you're targeting other business owners, college students, or parents, you're message has to be fitted for that persona. This will help you find much more success in your messages.

Building a list & nurturing 

This kind of incorporates all of the areas. When people come to your site, make purchases or work out deals with you, or visit any of your shared content through your social channels, you want to be building a list of emails. 

The most obvious reason is that it gives you a direct way of communicating with your audience and it keeps on growing. This allows you to be helpful towards leads that haven't quite converted yet and also nurture customers and encourage them to make more purchases or refer some buddies. And yes, to make the most out of this, you'll want to segment people into separate lists. 

Here are some ways you can segment you lists:

  • By persona
  • Business vs customer
  • Product or service interests
  • Previous purchases, what they might be interested in
  • Amount spent
  • Where they are in the sales funnel
  • Amount of time since last purchase

I know, I know, it can get very complicated. To be honest, depending on your business, you might not need to do any crazy segmenting. The reason that you would want to specify and create more segments is for a more accurate, targeted email. Instead of one list with 200 people, you could have 4 lists of 50 each getting content more tailored to their own interests. This will hopefully lead to a higher click through rate.

How do you nurture your leads?

The main reason that you're building your list is to nurture your leads. So you want to send them any content that they'll find interest or use in. If you nurture leads correctly from the start, you have the potential to generate 50% more sales ready leads at a 33% lower cost.

So let's consider where exactly is this lead in their buyer journey?

Top of the funnel

The top of the funnel focuses on building SEO and providing educational content to visitors. Their value as a lead is low because the odds of them actually buying from you isn't quite clear yet. The hope is that they will continue down through the funnel.

Things you can offer here include:

  • Blogs
  • White papers
  • Ebooks
  • Tip sheets
  • How-to videos

Middle of the funnel

This would be a great time to experiment with gated content. The next step of the journey is to include a call to action where you would trade more valued content for their name and email.

So this part of the funnel focuses on building the relationship, starting to evaluate their potential as a lead, and nurturing them.

Things you can offer here are:

  • Case studies
  • Data sheets
  • Demo videos

At this point, the visitors recognizes they have a problem and are looking for solutions. You want to show how your product or service can provide that help.

Bottom of the funnel

Now the lead is ready to buy. You just have to convince them to buy from you. This part of the funnel is whatever final nudge you can provide to move them into the right direction.

Some powerful methods include:

  • Free trials
  • Live Demos
  • Consultations
  • Coupons

Consider where the lead is while deciding what kind of content you want to push. Someone who doesn't even know they need your product or service yet might not be interested in a live demo. 

To conclude:

There are tons of ideas for how your business can market to local customers, both online and in person. In fact, there are probably a lot that aren't included in this article. But the best way to see what works for your business is to test out new ideas. Some methods might work really well for some teams, but might not be so successful for others.

If you want to throw some ideas around about your inbound strategy, click the button below!

New Call-to-action