Local businesses face different challenges than national ones, particularly with how best to market themselves. We spoke to the experts on local marketing to get their top 37 local marketing ideas as well as tips to make sure you’re getting the most out of your campaign.
Here are the top 37 local marketing ideas and resources according to the pros.
1. Start a Referral Program
Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business
Word of mouth can go a long way in bringing you more local customers. ReferralCandy is an eCommerce store plugin that lets you offer cash, credit, discounts, or free products to customers who refer their friends using unique, sharable referral links. You can also promote your program with beautiful easy-to-use widgets and email templates—no designers or developers needed. Click here for a free 30-day trial.
2. Ensure That Your Reviews Are Credible
Chas Cooper, CEO & Founder, Rising Star Reviews
Most local businesses make critical mistakes on major customer review sites like Google, Yelp and Facebook. Most businesses fail to get enough reviews for their five-star average to be credible, and they fail to keep their reviews fresh. According to a BrightLocal consumer survey, 77 percent of consumers say that a review won’t influence their buying decision if it wasn’t written within the last three months and nearly one in five (18 percent) don’t consider the review relevant unless it was written in the last two weeks. To avoid this mistake, local businesses should make it a standard practice to encourage every customer to write a review every day. This will boost the quantity of reviews — making the average star rating more believable to consumers — and it will also make sure there are always a few reviews that are recent enough to influence consumer buying decisions.
3. Use Email Marketing To Stay Top Of Mind
Brad Plothow, VP of Marketing and Communications, Womply
Up to 80 percent of satisfied customers never return to the business, which presents a unique challenge to local businesses. It’s not enough to deliver a great product or service. You have to stay top of mind. Email marketing is a great way to give customers a gentle nudge and get them to come back. It’s subtle, inexpensive and a growing number of consumers actually want promotional emails from businesses they patronize, especially if they come with deals or discounts.
4. Optimize Your Google My Business Listing
Lincoln Rinehart, SEO Analyst, Adept Marketing
Creating or claiming a Google My Business listing is the single easiest and most effective way to establish a local business growth path from online marketing — arguably more vital than some social media efforts. At a minimum, this listing should include up-to-date photos, contact information, business categories and a website URL (if applicable). The listing may also include a business description, a list of services offered, customer reviews and more, depending on the business category.
5. Send Postcards to Advertise Your Business
Jeremy Levine, Fit Small Business
Mail is still one of the best ways to let local customers know about your business. Opportunity Knocks lets you target a list of prospects in your area by location, demographics, buying habits, and more. You can then create custom postcards designed with 10 tested postcard marketing best practices and mail them the same day. Click here to get 1,000 free postcards when you order two consecutive targeted mailings.
Local TV is a fun and often-overlooked opportunity to get the word out about your business. Before you write off TV as a media dinosaur, consider this: three in four American adults watch local television news. Read this article to find out the four-step process Brigette Lyons created to successfully cold-pitch local TV networks.
Learn more about getting local press coverage in our guide.
7. Don’t Forget to Register With Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Nolan Webster, Founder, Webster Consulting
The first actionable item is to ensure that you register with your local chamber of commerce. Most hold networking meetings, provide advertisement, perform ribbon-cutting ceremonies and much more. The return on investment on becoming a member is well worth it. It’s a good place to meet strategic partners, hear stories from local entrepreneurs on what has and hasn’t worked and, best of all, potential referrals.
8. Sponsor a Charity Event for a Local Cause
Jack Anzarouth, Founder & President, Digital Ink Marketing
When marketing locally, you absolutely must let your audience know that you are part of the local community. One good way to do this is to organize or sponsor a charitable event that helps a local cause. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Even a small gesture goes a long way, especially if it’s something you do annually so people can expect it every year. Help clean up a part of the local area, help raise funds for a local youth group or sponsor an event that helps the local community. People will respond by patronizing your business.
9. Avoid Repeating Ineffective Marketing Tactics
Alexander Lewis, Freelance Copywriter & Marketing Consultant, Lewis Commercial Writing
Avoid repeating marketing tactics that fail to generate leads or sales for your business. This sounds like common sense, but many small businesses don’t track the returns of their marketing efforts properly, which leads to needless time and energy spent on campaigns that aren’t resulting in sales. Some digital tools like Facebook Ads and Google Ads offer methods for tracking what campaigns directly contribute to sales. You can also use these tools to split test your campaigns. This lets you compare how different headlines or pictures perform when compared to a similar campaign. If one performs better than the other, use the stronger campaign moving forward.
10. Get (and Manage) More Online Reviews
Marc Prosser, Fit Small Business
Reviews can go a long way toward getting more local customers to try your business. Encourage your customers to share their experience at your business on the web. Podium is an online tool that lets you send automated review invitations and monitor messages, web chats, and reviews from over 20 review sites, all in one dashboard. Businesses that use Podium have seen up to 15 times more reviews and an increase in local traffic. Click here to watch a 3-minute demo.
11. Address Your Target Customer as a Single Person in Your Copy
Manny Torres, Brand Strategist, Rock My Image
Speak to one person in your marketing. People prefer to do business with a person, not a company. Your marketing will be more effective if you position your copy as though you are talking directly to your top client. Be specific and don’t be afraid to repel those who are not an ideal fit for your business. Your clients will feel as though they have a special connection with you and your business.
12. Develop a System for Requesting Reviews From Your Customers
Sondre Storesund, Project Manager, Odd Dog Media
Reviews are critical for businesses in 2018. Approximately 90 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. I have seen businesses be transformed solely by generating credible, helpful and positive reviews. At Odd Dog Media, we believe in the value of reviews so much that we created a free, easy-to-use app that makes it easy to send a direct link to a happy customer’s phone or email. The feedback has been amazing. Businesses are seeing great results and increasing revenue for free.
13. Develop a Business Referral Network Program
Nedelina Payaneva, Marketing Specialist, Asian Absolute
Getting customers to talk about your business can be a powerful way to grow your revenue and subscriber base. It’s formally known as referral marketing and, chances are, you’ve probably already done this yourself few times. As a customer, you’re referring the business and, because your audience trusts you, they’re likely to take you up on your recommendation. For the business, that means meeting new customers who are already encouraged to prefer your service or products. Referrals have to be simple for the customers to execute and to have the right reward. When thinking about the type of reward, a number of things may come to mind like points, store credit or even real money. I suggest closely relating your rewards to your service or product, such as a free month or discount on the next delivery, free surprise box with your products or 50 percent discount on their next order.
14. Have Your Business Listed In Multiple Online Directories
Casey Meraz, Contributing Writer, Moz
Making sure your business is accurately listed in as many online directories like Yelp and YP.com as possible is key to ranking in the local results on search engines like Google. More listings ensure your business comes up in more local searches, which translates directly into more customers finding your business. If you don’t have one, click here to get a free listing at YP.com and boost your business’s visibility in local search.
15. Use Digital Signs to Keep Customers Coming Back
Maggie Aland, Fit Small Business
Because local customers are already in your area, giving them a reason to return can ensure you a steady stream of local business. Let local customers know about upcoming sales, specials, or new products with eye-catching digital signs from Mira Screen Signage. You get free hardware and plug-and-play software that lets you turn any TV or monitor in your business into a digital sign starting at just $24/month per screen. No fancy setup or design skills required. Click here to request a demo today.
16. Make Sure Your Information is Consistent Online
Gregory Golinski, Digital Marketing Executive, YourParkingSpace
Local businesses should always use the same, consistent information when listing their company on business directories and other websites. Online citations should always display the same name, address, phone number, and so on. Even minor discrepancies like the use of two different phone numbers can penalize a business’s SEO and decrease traffic to your website.
17. Partner With a Local Business to Double Awareness of Your Brand
Dan Virgillito, Contributing Writer, TownSquared
Partner with a local business to increase awareness of your brand. Cross-promotion is a great opportunity for two local businesses to help each other out. Find a complementary business that offers different products or services but promotes to the same audience and market your services to each others’ groups.
18. Avoid Using One Phone Number for Multiple Locations
Issabel Williams, Senior Marketing Specialist, Fantastic Services
It looks normal for you to have one central phone number to capture your online leads but if you want advertisement in more than one location, this requires an additional phone. In fact, it’s against Google policy to use one phone number for two business listings. The advantage of this step is that you will be able to keep a record how many people found you by the second phone so you may reconsider investments if necessary.
19. Sponsor Strategic Local Events
David Heacock, CEO & Founder, FilterBuy
Smaller local events often only require token sponsorship fees but can be a great way to cement your name in a local community. These events are generally promoted on Facebook and shared throughout the community. You can promote on your own social pages — even boosting as promoted posts to make sure the community you are targeting sees it.
20. Avoid Generic Creative
Scott Selenow, President, Immerse Agency
When developing and implementing a targeted advertising campaign, speak directly to your customers. In this age of local media, small business owners are being extremely targeted with their advertising but not with their creative. Many of our clients are telling us that they want to reach moms with kids, for example, so we build a smart and strategic campaign to target their customers. Then, when they send us the creative, their graphic designer hasn’t included a photo of a mom with kids! The creative you deliver should not just be appealing — it should yell at your demographic. Try messaging like “Hey mom, you’re gonna want to bring your kids here,” “If you live in Queens, you’re not going to want to miss this offer,” “Recent college grad? This service is for you!” or “Sitting in traffic on I-95? Jump off at the next exit for the best Pizza in Connecticut!“
Through a smart advertising campaign, you should already know that the person receiving your ad is a mom or a recent college graduate. You should know if they are located in Queens or sitting in traffic on Interstate-95 — think billboards or, better yet, Waze — it’s time that small business owners become as targeted with their creative as they have with their advertising. So, when marketing your business, avoid generic creative and don’t just appeal to your customer — yell to them!
21. Refrain From Stuffing Your Google My Business With Keywords
Kristy Gusick, Partner, Professional Services Marketing LLC
One common mistake to avoid is stuffing your Google My Business with keywords. Back in the day, it used to be a common technique that SEO professionals would do when attempting to rank for certain keywords. This is no longer a good technique and, with the changes in artificial intelligence, it has now become easier for companies to get caught.
22. Be Very Particular When Buying a Mailing List
Joy Gendusa, Founder & CEO, PostcardMania
If the local business targets a specific demographic — for example, a dance school that is only targeting families with a certain income and kids of a certain age — direct mail is the best way to go since the targeting is much better than digital advertising. Here’s another example: Let’s say you’re a landscaper. You could buy a mailing list that saturates everyone within a 10-mile radius of your business, but then you’d be marketing to people who, say, live in apartment buildings and don’t need a landscaper because their homeowners’ association takes care of that service for their complex. In other words, you don’t need to pay to market to renters — that’s just a waste of money!
So, here’s what you do: buy a mailing list with every single-family, homeowner resident on it within a 10-mile radius of your business. That way, you’re only mailing to people who actually do need a landscaper. I think you’d be surprised at how targeted you can get your mailing list. One of my real estate investor clients used this type of mailing strategy and generated 500 prospect calls and a 3,421 percent return on investment!
23. Attract Publicity for Your Community
Melanie Marten, Founder, PR on the GO
Local businesses often overlook the potential they have in community building. Local residents often want to support their local shops. Coffee shops and stores are especially in the advantage when it comes to communicating campaigns. All you need to do is become creative. Come up with a creative topic around your local everyday life. Decide on a social media channel like Instagram, create a hashtag and start daily posts. Promote your social media link and hashtag in your window where it can be seen by pedestrians and customers. Follow and share each interaction that comes up.
24. Pay Attention to How You Position Your Brand
Tom Hartel, CEO, Valley Fire Protection & Plumbing
Some companies spend a lot of money on paid marketing without offering any real value to the customers. If you are not sure of what could work, discounts work for almost any small business. Another compelling offer can be information that makes it easier for the client, answers their questions or even helps them solve problems. Nobody is really interested in your company’s news unless it actually affects them personally.
25. Start Using Facebook to Connect With Your Target Market
Hamna Amjad, Community Manager, Ridester
One of the best ways to promote a local business is by using Facebook. If you are wondering whether you can find your target customers on Facebook, then the answer is yes. Facebook is the best platform to connect with your customers. Therefore, you should promote your content on Facebook regularly and frequently. Website click and brand awareness are two of the most popular and effective Facebook campaigns that you can use to grow your business.
26. Add Location Keywords to Your Web Page Content
Leah Richard, PR Professional, Cuckoo Forest
We cannot ignore the fact that 98 percent of the query starts with Google or other search engines. If you operate a brick-and-mortar store, it’s very important that you optimize your website content using your location keyword. That way, your website will have a better chance to show up when people are searching for the service you offer. Here is the formula: [location] + [service you offer]
27. Offer Promotional Downloads to Educate Your Audience
Robert Donnell, Partner, P5 Marketing
Small businesses are often experts in their field. Their customers want to know what you offer — in a non-threatening way. This is where a simple digital promotional download comes in handy. HubSpot offers a free customer relationship management tool and a simple way to track these downloads, for free. This whole process can be set for zero cost. When you are educating your customers they don’t feel pressured to buy. It works.
Almost any business can be a travel destination. Creating a travel guide for tourists can easily boost your brand’s popularity within the community. By promoting every other business in your area through your travel guide, you essentially become partners with them, which will mean improved reputation and almost certain increase in referrals. If you want to try your hand at creating your very own travel guide, check out this step-by-step guide from Lucidpress, which also includes templates that you can use to help you start.
Small businesses don’t have as much resource compared to its bigger competitors, so it’s important that you know how to optimize your budget when setting up your local paid search program. Whether you plan to localize your messaging or want to optimize your budget across the best performing locations, this article shows you the steps to maximize your budget for your Google-enhanced campaign.
Testimonials from satisfied local customers are equivalent to word-of-mouth marketing. Not only is it viewed as highly credible, it’s also a cost-effective alternative to influencer marketing if your intention is to be endorsed by someone local. However, the reality is that most business owners find it difficult to ask for testimonials — and rightfully so — as not all customers are willing to oblige. This article talks about the number of ways to get customers to provide feedback for your business while avoiding the awkwardness for it.
Participating in local trade shows can introduce your business to the community and let them know what your products or services are all about. It also gives you an opportunity to network with other businesses and for partnerships that can boost leads by attracting customers of complementary businesses with the right marketing strategy. However, joining trade shows can put a dent in your marketing budget, so it’s important to be prepared ahead of time. Check out this 10-question guide to ask yourself when preparing for trade shows.
32. Create a Tradition Around a Holiday to Interact With Your Clients
Randy Mitchelson, APR, VP Sales & Marketing, iPartnerMedia
We host an open house at our office and provide a full Thanksgiving spread the day before Thanksgiving. All our staff members participate in cooking and converting our office into a festive gathering place. The event has grown each year as our portfolio of clients grows. People look forward to our event, ask us about it and, frankly, now expect it and know to plan their Wednesday afternoon before Thanksgiving to stop by our office. Another component to our tradition of giving thanks is we ask our visitors to bring a nonperishable food item that we donate to a local food bank.
Instagram’s reach is far and wide, but it also means it can help you find an audience within your target locations that you wouldn’t normally reach offline or through your website. Running a contest on Instagram is a terrific way to increase engagement. However, starting one takes some time to plan. This article walks you through the steps of planning an engaging Instagram contest.
A good business should always have someone answering the phones. However, for calls that come in outside office hours, you need to consider setting up a voicemail greeting that also works for you. Spiced-up voicemail greetings can impress an otherwise disappointed caller and helps you avoid losing an opportunity to sell. Check out John Cassidy’s tips on how to make your voicemail greetings become an important marketing tool for your business.
35. Hunt Down Local Bloggers With a Good Following
Aaron Black, Co-founder, DiamondHead Strategies
Every city has local bloggers with a few thousand local followers. Without a huge national audience, these local bloggers don’t expect quite as much and, even better, they’ll speak directly to your local audience. Do a giveaway and product review with them. As these local bloggers grow, you’ll get more traffic. Better yet, blog traffic from these sites can last for years or for as long as any posts mentioning your business are archived somewhere on their website. I’ve actually seen blog promos we’ve done for clients send traffic for years and actually send increasing amounts of traffic as the blog grows and the content remains archived and available.
The most trustworthy marketing and advertising comes from people we know. According to a survey conducted by Nielsen, 83 percent of people say they trust the recommendations from friends or family. In this article, Combustible’s content marketing and SEO specialist, Aina Ramanantseheno, gives seven ways to boost your referrals.
37. Geotag Your Social Media Posts
Ana Caracaleanu, CEO, Luevo
Social media marketing is a major strategy for any business, and studies have shown that by geolocating your posts you get a higher engagement. Geotagging shows content that’s been posted on social media by users in a specific area. We wrote an article on Instagram best practices, and it was shown that geolocated Instagram posts see 50 percent more engagements. People like to connect with brands locally, so if you are at a fair or at an event, let them know by geotagging your content and images.
Over to You
Once again, a big thank you to everyone who contributed their top local marketing ideas. Now, it’s your turn. What’s your favorite tip for local marketing? We’d love to hear from you in the comments below.