For many businesses, their marketing efforts need to reach a local audience. Here are some local marketing strategies for small businesses.
- Local marketing refers to strategies that target regional audiences near your business.
- Local marketing is especially effective for businesses tied to a physical location, such as restaurants, boutique retail operations and professional advisors.
- Getting your small business's local marketing strategy off the ground is quick, easy and free; these tips will help you improve your local marketing efforts immediately.
- This article is for small business owners looking to implement local marketing strategies to target audiences close to their business's location.
Local marketing is an essential element of a larger marketing strategy for small businesses, as it can get your brand in front of a broader local audience that are likely to patronize your business in the near future. But what can you do as an entrepreneur to improve your small business's reach with a local audience? This guide includes seven quick, free tips that can immediately improve your local marketing strategy.
What is local marketing?
Local marketing targets an audience based in the same town or region as your business. It is geared toward people who are within a certain radius of your physical location – generally based on a reasonable driving distance – who might realistically purchase your product or service at any time.
For example, if you run a restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey, driving website traffic from Sacramento, California, is not going to do you much good. Instead, you need to employ local marketing tactics to ensure that the majority of your audience is indeed located near enough that they could conceivably drive to your restaurant or order delivery.
"The biggest approach people should be taking is really understanding who they're trying to sell to … what benefit people can get from the product or service, and then relay that information upfront," said Travis McKnight, senior content strategist at Portent Inc.
That's true in all marketing, but especially when it comes to a local marketing strategy, he added. Part of the key information you should relay to your audience is where your business is located.
The goal behind a local marketing strategy is to spend your marketing and advertising budget more efficiently. Digital marketing is an effective tool for businesses of all sizes. However, if you are a local business and you fail to gain traction with a local audience, your marketing expense is all for naught. Not all traffic is created equal; a local marketing strategy ensures that you are targeting an audience that might patronize your business.
Key takeaway: Local marketing targets people within a certain radius of your business. It can improve conversion rates by narrowing the focus of your digital marketing efforts to potential nearby customers.
What types of businesses benefit from local marketing?
Many businesses can benefit from local marketing, but there are some types of businesses for which local marketing is absolutely required. Restaurants are a good example because they are physical locations that offer dine-in, takeout or delivery services. By nature, a restaurant is locked into its physical location.
Another good example of a business that needs local store marketing is a retail store. While even small retail operations often have e-commerce stores these days, local marketing can increase the store's foot traffic and local brand awareness. This is especially important for small, boutique retail stores competing with large chains.
Similarly, professional services like lawyers' and accountants' offices should employ a local marketing strategy. While it might be more appropriate to cast a regional net for these services, it is critical for professional advisors to connect with a largely local audience. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, such as digital marketing companies, which often operate fully digitally. However, nothing beats an in-person consultation.
While there are plenty of businesses that need a local marketing strategy, other types of businesses should consider implementing local marketing as well. Just because a local strategy isn't your priority doesn't mean you can't reap the benefits of capturing a wider audience in the town or region where your business is based.
Key takeaway: All businesses can benefit from local marketing, but some – such as restaurants or retail stores that depend on foot traffic – require a local marketing strategy.
11 local marketing strategies you can start today
Local marketing starts with some easy-to-implement steps that you can get started on today. Here are a few quick and simple ideas to improve your business's local marketing.
1. Optimize your website (and localize it).
Website optimization is key to driving traffic, but is your website optimized for local users? Not only should you follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, such as employing keyword research to inform your website content, you should also guarantee that your website offers a top-notch mobile experience, said Heather Lodge, chief marketer at Click and Mortar.
"More than half of traffic coming to websites is from mobile devices," she said. "If you have a website that's nice and streamlined, with large text to read on a small screen and large buttons to easily click, you'll have an easier time attracting local business."
In addition to these recommendations – which are key for any digital marketing strategy – your website should also be localized, Lodge said. That means determining keywords and key phrases based on local SEO – ask yourself, "What is the local market searching for on Google?" A good rule of thumb is to frequently mention your community or nearby communities. If you're targeting a regional audience, consider adding language to your website like "serving the tri-state area," for example.
You can improve your local SEO insights even further by leveraging free keyword research tools like Google Analytics, Google Trends and Google Search Console to inform precisely what local terms you should incorporate. The more you optimize your website for local search, the more local customers are likely to land on your webpages.
2. Update title tags and meta descriptions.
Another SEO consideration to keep in mind, McKnight said, is whether your website's title tags and metadata up to date.
"There are a few different parts of metadata, but the majority of people only have to worry about meta description and title tag," he said.
Title tag refers to the 60 characters that search engine users see on the search engine results page (SERP). Keeping a title tag relevant to your brand and location, but shorter than 60 characters is optimal, McKnight said.
The meta description is less likely to factor into search ranking, McKnight added, but it can improve click-through rates by signaling to users precisely what type of information they might find on the webpage.
"Data shows that a quality meta description … can help click-through rate. On the flip side, for a business like a restaurant that wants people to call, having a phone number in the meta description is huge," McKnight said. "Meta descriptions should always be 160 characters or less."
The title tag and meta description can be edited in the administrator's tools of the web hosting platform you use. For many small business owners, McKnight said, WordPress offers an easy to use SEO function.
3. Set up local landing pages for all your business locations.
If your business has multiple locations, you should create an individual page for each location on your website to further your localization efforts.
"There will often be companies with a lot of different locations, but they don't include pages with information on those different locations on their website," Lodge said. "These pages should include each location, directions on how to get there, and what store hours are."
Lodge added that these pages should include specific content about your business. For example, a real estate agent based in Nashville, Tennessee, shouldn't just list on their website that they are a "real estate agent." Instead, including the key phrase "leading real estate agent in Nashville" signals to search engines where the agent is based and helps serve results to a local audience. It also considers how people are searching for real estate agents; they don't just want anyone, they want "the best" or "leading" real estate agents.
4. Claim your Google My Business listing.
One of the easiest and most effective local marketing strategies you can employ immediately is claiming your Google My Business listing. Google My Business provides search engine users with information like your location, store hours, directions, contact information, and more directly on the SERP.
"Claim your Google My Business knowledge panel and make sure that it is updated," said McKnight. "Especially during COVID-19, make sure it reflects current store hours and accurately explains any restrictions, such as takeout or delivery only."
Lodge added you should also claim local listings on other third-party sites, such as Yelp. The more places users can find your business (along with location information) the better off your local marketing success will be.
5. Optimize social media pages.
Social media marketing is critically important when it comes to local online marketing. Much like your website, your social media pages should be optimized and localized. This means providing up-to-date information, such as your business's location, contact information, and store hours. It also means maintaining an active social media account. You can preschedule social media posts using tools like Hootsuite.
"From a small business perspective, social media revolves largely around communication about deals, reopenings or promotions," McKnight said. "A lot of it is just reputation management."
6. Encourage positive user reviews and engage online.
Encourage your satisfied customers to leave you positive reviews online, whether on Google Reviews, Facebook, Yelp, or elsewhere. You could even incentivize them to leave positive reviews with discounts or promotions, such as a raffle or giveaway.
You should also spend time responding to the reviews your customers leave online. Always be sincere and avoid copying/pasting generic responses, McKnight said.
"For the most part, respond to people with authenticity, humility and honesty – whether it's a negative review or positive one," McKnight said. "Set an hour per week just to go through, respond and make sure it's not just a generic cookie-cutter response. Users are turned off by that and feel they aren't listened to." [Read related article: How to Get More Online Reviews for Your Business]
7. Host or sponsor local community events.
Digital marketing is all well and good, but building a real-world bridge between your audience and your brand is invaluable. Consider sponsoring or hosting a local event whenever possible to increase brand visibility in your local community. This is also a great way to land local press coverage, which improves your odds of being found online by a local audience.
8. Utilize localized email marketing.
Email marketing strategies have some of the lowest costs among many of the marketing strategies available to you. The bulk of the cost is associated with obtaining valuable email addresses. Unfortunately, there is nothing in an email address that will tell you where the user is located; there are email-gathering techniques you can begin using that filter users by location. The easiest technique is to have a sign-up sheet in your store – ideally by the register – or at booths or events that you sponsor so that interested consumers see it and sign up to receive updates and promotions from you.
9. Try a direct mail campaign.
Direct mail is a much cheaper method of reaching customers than it might seem. What you pay for in stamps can be recovered by not paying for mailing lists and professional targeting. You can frequently target prime demographics by looking at neighborhoods that fit the demographics of your target audience.
10. Partner with other local businesses.
Partnering with other businesses can be a powerful tool. These alliances can multiply both companies' total outreach. This works best when you find businesses with similar values and goals (and that don't directly compete with your company).
You and your partner businesses, for example, can co-sponsor events. You can work together with your SEO content to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship. You can link to each other, too; and when these strategies are followed, every effort you put into outreach is multiplied by the efforts of your partner businesses.
11. Localize paid ads.
Advertising groups can filter ads by location and IP. Ads can be targeted for local users, and this feature is used by Google, Facebook, and other digital advertisers.
Outside of digital advertising, localized paid ads are still useful. Local newspapers, radio spots, coupon books, movie theaters and local sponsorships are some of the best ways to promote your brand to local consumers.
Key takeaway: Optimizing your website and social media presence with location information, and making sure your Google and Yelp listings are up to date are just a few ways you make it easier for locals to find your business.
Think globally, advertise locally
When it comes to optimizing your digital properties for a local audience, there is a lot you can do at little or no cost to your business.
Setting up an optimized and localized website, giving your social media pages the same treatment, and claiming your Google My Business listing are the best places to start. From there, spend some time engaging your local audience both online and in the real world. Respond to reviews and organize community-based events to increase your visibility and create a stronger bond between your brand and your audience.
Whether you run a business that absolutely relies on local engagement, or you simply want to improve your local marketing, these tactics are easy, affordable, and effective.
See what kind of splash your business can make in your community by implementing these local marketing strategies today.
Key takeaway: Many local marketing strategies are free to implement and can be easily accomplished. Get started by updating your website and online listings with your business's location.