There’s a great deal of discussion and information on the Internet on the topic of marketing businesses and start-ups, but if you look at the majority of it, there’s a focus on businesses that are serving a broad geographical area. That could include businesses supplying nationally and even internationally, because so many companies and individuals are able to offer worldwide services by utilizing the power of the Internet. Much of the advice and information has no relevance however if you’re operating in a limited local area, so what are the key strategies that local businesses need to use?
Defining a local business
If your customer base consists mainly of people within a limited geographical area, you want to concentrate your marketing efforts on reaching them. Services such as gardening, cleaning, and tutoring; trades such as carpenters, plumbers and plasterers; and stores serving a local community that are not part of a national chain are all examples of businesses that need to focus their efforts on reaching the population that is within a commutable distance. Spending your marketing budget on ads that reach beyond your immediate locale is a waste, as there are very few people who will be interested in what you are offering beyond a certain distance.
Marketing to your target market
When planning your online presence, you need to focus on your location to get the best rankings on search engines. Local people will search for the service they want using their location as a keyword, for example “bridal stores in Chicago.” If your website and advertising doesn’t reflect your location with sufficient emphasis, your name will not be near the top of the list. This is known as local seo; ensuring you have the right geographical references in all your web pages, social media and advertisements. You could have the best store in town, but if you haven’t used your location as a key part of your marketing you’ll fail to reach the people most likely to visit you. Make sure you are listed in local online directories too, and add more detail to your entry than the basic facts. Customers are more likely to make contact with you if they can see more information about your business.
Make use of offline resources too
Local services are the ones most likely to be sought using non-digital means, so don’t focus all your efforts online. Use local publications to place ads, and build up relationships with the staff so you get invited to do features or regular promotional activities. Get involved in local events by providing sponsorship, and supplying prizes for competitions. Make contact with local radio stations – radio is a surprisingly effective platform for local business marketing, and far cheaper than television for start-ups. You can also try what sounds like a rather old-fashioned proposition these days, and organize a leaflet drop to local residents. Nationally produced flyers may still tend to end up in the recycling box, but local businesses usually get a second look.
Having a local focus has distinct advantages – most of your competition is wiped out at a stroke, because someone looking for a wedding dress in Philadelphia is not likely to be interested in stores across the rest of the country. That means you have a good chance of reaching a very high percentage of all your potential customers, which is an enviable position to be in.