10 Local Marketing Strategies for Your Small Business

/ 11 min read
Meaghan Lehrer

For many small business owners, figuring out a solid marketing strategy can be a challenging feat. There's no one-fits-all approach to finding the right strategy for your business, and determining the proper steps to take entails a considerable amount of research.

In this guide, we’ll go in-depth about what local marketing entails, why it is so important for small businesses, and how to implement a strategy that fits your small business’s unique needs. Let's get to it.

What is local marketing?

Local marketing, also commonly referred to as neighbourhood marketing or location-based marketing, is a marketing strategy that focuses on the specific area in which your small business is based.

A local marketing strategy uses a combination of website optimization (e.g. SEO) and various advertising methods to attract customers. The goal is to target people in the same town or region as your business.

Local marketing can work for any business, but it is most beneficial for physical locations where in-person business takes place such as restaurants, fitness studios, cafes, or for tradespeople looking to acquire a customer base in a certain geographic location.

Instead of casting a wide net in the hopes of reaching a handful of local consumers, with local marketing, you place the focus on your community.

Driving any sort of traffic looks great on paper, but there won’t be much payoff if you aren’t targeting the right people. Local marketing allows you to use your resources on the people who can actually take advantage of what you have to offer.

10 local marketing strategies for your small business

Many larger businesses rely on marketing agencies to build their marketing strategy. Maybe you don't have the money to spend on an expensive agency, or maybe you're just used to wearing multiple hats as a small business owner.

Whatever the case, don't fret. We've got the steps you need to build an effective and sustainable long-term local marketing strategy for your small business today.

1. Use competitor analysis to understand the competition

In order to set yourself apart from your competitors, you need to learn more about them. This is what competitor analysis is about. There are six main questions you should strive to answer:

  1. Who are your competitors?
  2. What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  3. How do their offerings compare to yours?
  4. What are the demographics of their customers?
  5. What can you do that's different?
  6. Where do you need to focus?

Take a thorough look through the websites and social media profiles of your competition and honestly appraise each one. Try to identify shared strategies that work for them (and may work for you), while considering how you can better address pain points they don't.  

2. Get to know your ideal customer with buyer personas

A competitor analysis also allows you to develop an idea of your ideal customer. These are the folks who'll benefit most from your product or service, and be the central drivers of sales and referrals for your business.

You should then use this information to create buyer personas. A buyer persona is a hypothetical description of this ideal customer (or customers) based on the insights you've collected, as well as some educated guesses about their needs and wants.

Creating detailed buyer personas helps you to better relate to the audience you want to market your product or service to. It turns the vague idea of 'a customer' into a realistic representation of who you'll be selling to. This makes it easier to draw customers—and retain them.

For example, let's say you run a yoga studio in an area that has a large number of older couples (60+ years old). How you market your business, both in terms of language and channel, will differ greatly compared to if you were a plumber in an area with a large population of college-aged students.

That's the power of buyer personas. They provide a north star for your small business to concentrate on, empowering you to build a marketing and sales strategy based on pain points and challenges your real-life audience actually faces.

Customer personas aren't a fix all. There's plenty more to consider. But they have a major influence on the direction of your business, by helping you make informed decisions on everything from the types of products and services to provide to what social media channels you should be most active on.

3. Bring in new customers with local SEO

If you've ever searched 'best cafe + [city]' or 'best pub + [city]' or 'best dog groomer + [city] then you'll be familiar with local search engine optimisation (SEO). It's a way to leverage search engine traffic to help potential customers find your business.

Those cafes, pubs and dog groomers you're searching for? We hate to break it to you, but they're not necessarily the best in their respective industries. They just have the best local SEO. That's why they're so easy to find.

Now, search engine optimisation is a complex topic. We won't pretend to have the magic answer here (no one does). But there are a few strategies you can use to give your business the best shot of ranking well.

  • Add your business to Google My Business: This improves your rank on Google Maps, as well as your visibility in local search results. Encourage your customers to leave reviews for faster results (and a better looking profile).
  • Register on online business directories: Add your business listing to directory websites like Yelp, YellowPages, HotFrog and MapQuest. These sites provide your website with a valuable backlink and help boost local SEO.
  • Create location-specific content: Write blog posts on activities, events or other businesses unique to your local area. Target local keywords and set up location-specific webpages for each area you serve with business details, information about your services, and testimonials from happy customers.  
Important: Say you're a carpenter that operates across the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney. You could create a hyperlocal landing page for each individual suburb within that wider area to help increase your rankings in each specific location.
  • Optimise your website for mobile: Mobile site performance is one of the most important ranking factors, with over 52.2% of all website traffic coming from mobile phones. Make sure that your site loads quickly and works intuitively on desktop and mobile devices.
  • Create individual pages for each service: Rather than listing all your products or services on a single webpage, create individual pages for each specific product or service you provide. This boosts your authority in the eyes of the Google and Bing gods and increases your chance of ranking.

Following these tips will put your business ahead of most of your competition. Check out Ahrefs' local SEO guide for a more advanced overview.

4. Invest in targeted digital advertising

Most small business owners don't have an unlimited budget for marketing campaigns. While we all know the saying "you've got to spend money to make money," but when you aren't sure it'll eventuate in new customers, advertising can be scary.

One of the best ways to ensure you reach your local audience is through targeted online marketing. Social media marketing allows you to target customers based on a variety of factors. It's as easy as adjusting parameters to a certain age and range (e.g. 20 kilometres), and setting a daily spending limit.

You can also target your local market with Google Ads. These can feature your business' location, as well as lead potential customers to your website. It helps spread brand awareness while also increasing your overall leads.

Once you start an Ads campaign, when people search for nearby businesses (for example, "plumber near me") they'll see your business name and location at the top of the search results. Think of it like paying to skip the local SEO queue.

5. Encourage customers to leave reviews

All customers want to feel like they can trust the quality of the products they buy and the companies they do business with. Particularly online, where there is thousands of similar businesses vying for the same customers, positive reviews and testimonials are worth their weight in gold.

Consider reaching out to customers after a sale with survey questions to ask what they thought about their experience with your business. This encourages people to leave a review without being too forceful. You can also send customer satisfaction or NPS surveys to see how get deeper insights into how customers feel.

Once you get the online reviews, don't just let them exist in a void. Engage with them. Monitor social media and review sites. Don't only respond to comments that say how fantastic your business is—reply to negative reviews too. Customers will take notice and appreciate that you're acknowledging their concerns.

No one wants a negative review, but ignoring negative feedback is the wrong strategy. No business is perfect. Use negative feedback as an opportunity to honestly appraise the performance of your business.

6. Engage with local customers on social media

Deft use of social media can work wonders for local businesses. The secret? Not just posting for the generic internet masses, but tailoring your communications to your local audience. You can't compete with the millions of businesses on Instagram, but you can compete with those in your local area.

Start by geo-tagging every post with your location. This is the simplest way to root your business in a single area and draw engagement from locals. People can also tag your location, which acts as a free form of referral marketing (cafes are great at this).

From there, post content that is community focused, and interact with followers. Don't make the mistake of using social media for purely one-way communication. The most successful small business accounts nourish a sense of community, interacting with their customers and cultivating a feeling of togetherness.

Form a better life now.

7. Get out and support the local community

You’ve put in so much work to create a fabulous online presence that reflects who and where you are and what your mission is. Now, it’s time to build a real-world bridge between your community and your budding small business.

For example, you can host a local community event, partner with a nonprofit campaign, or sponsor a sports team. Forming relationships with other small businesses is one of the best ways you build awareness of your own brand.

Participating in your community helps your business receive valuable digital PR, foster brand awareness in places like your local newspaper, and score some inbound links from local media. Research any local events coming up, and consider sponsoring or participating in one your target audience is likely to attend.

If you can’t attend yourself, make sure someone from your business is there to rep the brand and connect with attendees. Just having your logo on a banner isn’t enough; you’ve got to get out there, spread the word, and connect with real people.

Have some flyers or business cards handy, and if you have the time and funds to hand out some swag, go for it. Offline lead generation can be tricky, but the potential for real connection is incredible.

8. Build a referral program

Are you more likely to try a business you stumbled upon on Google, or one that your mate recommended? It's a no brainer. That's why referral marketing (a.k.a word-of-mouth) is one of the most effective ways to bring customers to your business.

It's also super simple to start a referral or rewards program. All you need is to offer an incentive or discount for the original customer and the new customer they refer. For example, you might offer 20% off their next purchase. This uses your existing customer base to expand your reach and bring new customers through the door.

referral form

Local marketing in action: Frank Body

If you’re unsure how to implement any of the above local marketing tactics, check out this small business did that knocked its campaigns out of the park.

Frank Body makes cosmetic products based on coffee and, in their marketing efforts, racked in $20 million in sales in just two years. The company started as a side hustle for some extra money, and they got started with minimum funds (~$5K) that came entirely from the founders.

So what can a business do to grow with no money? They designed a digital marketing strategy that created brand trust and decreased their reliance on paid acquisition.

Frank Body homepage, people applying lotion(Image Source: Frank Body)

Every purchase comes with a small note saying, “We’d love to know what you think. We want you to share your feedback, using the hashtag #frankeffect.” This made customers feel a part of the Frank Body family.

According to a podcast on Foundr, the company decided they would rather build a relationship with a person that fits the brand’s characteristics than find one with the most followers. They encouraged all of their customers to showcase their products and created social media buzz by doing so.

The company took it a step further with its local marketing efforts and partnered with local charities to foster its relationship with its community.

In doing their buyer persona research, Frank Body determined their customers don’t care about coffee scrub. They care about fashion, healthy skin, natural products, and coffee. So their content strategy aimed to capture a lifestyle their audience is looking to achieve.

Your content doesn’t always have to be about a specific product or service you’re pushing. If you want to grow your audience, you also need to post content that your followers can relate to.

Over to you

Ultimately, every business is different and has its own needs and goals. So, take the above information and make it your own. Some of these examples may work for your company and others may not, but you have the tools to help your small business thrive even if you’re working with a tight budget.

The only way to know if something works is to try it, and you can adjust your marketing strategy from there. But once you’ve committed to your local marketing efforts, you can rest assured you’re taking all the right steps to grow your business.

If you're looking for a tool to help you grow your local marketing strategies, Paperform has your back. From building beautiful, powerful feedback forms, audience quizzes, and payment pages, to automating processes like email marketing and connecting with your CRM tools, Paperform has you covered. You can give it a go yourself with the 14 day free trial, no CC required.

This post was written by a guest author named Meaghan Lehrer, a content writer and strategist based out of Los Angeles.

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Meaghan Lehrer

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