Marketing as a local small business owner has its challenges. For one thing, you want your company to get the recognition it deserves, but it's difficult to establish a reputation when you're just starting out.
However, according to a report by BrandMuscle, 48 percent of small businesses spend less than $500 per month on marketing. With such a low budget, brands often struggle to recruit and retain customers – but they don't have to.
To make the most of your time and money, here are five effective local marketing tactics that are easy and affordable for your small business. [See Related Story: 6 Clever and Offbeat Marketing Tactics Your Business Can Afford]
You want to provide your business the opportunity to reach its full potential – without breaking the bank. According to BrandMuscle's report, 86 percent of local business partners say local marketing funds are critical. Consider experimenting with a co-op or MDF.
"Without support in the forms of education, training, funds and the opportunity to make time, most local business partners hover at the edge of change but aren't equipped to step out of their comfort zones," the survey noted.
You might think that because your business is small and local, you don't need a strong online presence, but this is a harmful misconception.
"Small business must be present and accurate on Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, Apple and Amazon if they want Google Assistant, M, Cortana, Siri and/or Alexa to suggest their product to consumers," said Aaron Norris vice president of The Norris Group. "And, if you're not there, how will consumers be able to leave you ratings? Geolocation and ratings are two key components of artificial intelligence and business referral in the digital age."
According to the survey, some popular digital tactics are website, email, online directories, SEO, online display, paid search, SMS and mobile-targeted display/search.
3. Social media
Social media is another digital option for business. Many consumers look to platforms like Facebook and Instagram for products or services as well as reviews and pictures.
You can use social media as a marketing tactic by utilizing various sites and applications to help keep you organized, and encouraging customers to share their feedback on their own accounts.
"An ideal way to get users to promote you on social media is to create an in-store centerpiece," said Steve Spatucci, marketing manager at Sugarplum Studio. "Build or install a photo-worthy feature that invites visitors to take pictures of themselves that they'll post on their own social media accounts, because what your customers say about your business eclipses anything you can say about yourself."
4. Local events
Local events bring people of all backgrounds, ages and interests together for a single purpose. If you host a gathering in your town to promote your business, you'll allow others to get to know you and your brand on a more personal level.
"When marketed and organized correctly, local events can help build lasting relationships with the community, which, in turn, will increase brand awareness and retain customers for the long term," said Jayne Levy, head of Pink Tree Creative. "When planning an event, you need to think about what you're trying to achieve and build your activities around it. For example, if you're looking to increase foot traffic to your restaurant, consider hosting an intimate event for local influencers in the community – think PTA leaders, coaches, and Boy Scout or Girl Scout leaders – to teach them how to create their own version of your classic menu items at home."
Levy advised partnering with another local business, creating a hashtag for the event to promote on social media, offering a giveaway, or anything that might make the event – and your company – memorable.
According to the report, "Precision is waste not, want not." When drafting a marketing strategy, focus on market segmentation, breaking down consumers into groups of similar characteristics.
"No one wants to spend an extra dollar on marketing – most certainly not the corner store," the BrandMuscle report stated. "Working through data-strategic channels will provide context and prediction that allow you to actually change consumer behavior, propelling your brand to that relevant, personal space you and your consumers want, driving sales, not just leads."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon.