Advertiser Disclosure

Local Marketing: Why You Need to Do It and How to Get Started

Liz Forment

Liz Froment is a Boston-based freelance writer who writes primarily in the finance and marketing industries. You can find more about her at lizfroment.com or @lfroment on Twitter.
Editorial Note: Fundera exists to help you make better business decisions. That’s why we make sure our editorial integrity isn’t influenced by our own business. The opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations in this article are those of our editorial team alone.

Many small businesses overlook local marketing. They’re too busy getting caught up trying the strategies of Fortune 500 companies.

Following the marketing strategies of the big players is great in theory. But unless you can compete with those huge marketing budgets, you’re likely not going to see the same levels of success.

Chances are, you’re not one of those brands. In fact, most small businesses are working with less than $1,000 a month to devote to marketing.

In fact, according to a survey conducted by BrightLocal of over 1,000 small business owners, 70% of them spend less than $500 a month on marketing.

local marketing

Those numbers are understandable. Most small businesses can’t splurge on marketing campaigns.

But, at the same time, small business owners want to see more customers and sales, just like any other brand.

Where the small business owner can succeed is using the tools at their disposal. Today, that’s the ability to use digital marketing as part of your game plan—a tool that has helped to even the playing field.

Websites, social media ads, and email marketing are all tools small businesses can use to grow their businesses today. Search engine optimization (SEO) is another way small businesses can compete.

Where your small business can really make strides, however, is with local marketing.

In this post, you’ll learn a bit about local marketing and some strategies you can use to help showcase your brand to a local audience.

Local Marketing 101

Local marketing might be a relatively new buzzword in the world of business, but it’s one of the oldest methods around.

Remember the days before the internet and mega-retailers like Amazon? When you had to pick up a phone book to find an area business and you always shopped at the corner store?

That was all local marketing. With very few exceptions, the majority of companies in your area serviced customers within a few-mile radius.

Today, things are different, and yet still the same.

Welcome to local marketing 2.0.

Customers today want the same things customers wanted a generation ago. They’re looking for products or services to solve their problems and personalized service. These are things many small businesses excel at and that set them apart from bigger competitors.

Realizing that and taking advantage of it on a local level can be a smart strategic move for many brands.

The problem is, many small business owners aren’t capitalizing on the potential there is in the local market. This is particularly the case when it comes to digital spending.

A recent study of small business owners by Infusionsoft and Leadpages found that almost 22% of small businesses weren’t going to spend any money at all on digital marketing in 2016.

Needless to say, that was a mistake.

You don’t have to bust your budget on expensive ad campaigns. You want to spend money the smart way, on things that drive results.

There are strategies you can use right now with the digital tools at your fingertips to start creating a local buzz for your business.

5 Local Marketing Strategies to Capitalize On

Small businesses can embrace local marketing in a couple of ways to gain a competitive advantage over many larger brands. Let’s take a look at some of these local marketing strategies.

1. Search Engine Optimization

Being on top of your SEO strategy is the first place you want to start. SEO is important because it helps people find your business website online.

This is key for local businesses that want to appear on the first page of search engines like Google. A lot of people (your target customers, in fact) type in their location plus a keyword when they do a search.

It looks like this:

local marketing

The top three sites in the red box are going to get virtually all of the clicks. To give your business the best chance of being in this box, you’ll need to optimize your site for SEO.

You’d be surprised to find most brands aren’t optimizing their websites—and that leaves an opening for you.

Here are some quick SEO tips for your site:

  • Have a website design/theme that is responsive (meaning your site automatically reformats when it’s viewed on mobile devices).
  • Target a handful of keywords that your ideal customer will search for; these will likely be some combination of “your location” + “your service/product/brand.”
  • Have keyword-optimized title and meta tags on your entire site, both blog posts and individual pages.
  • Add pages to your website that are helpful, answer customers’ most common questions, and include your targeted keywords.
  • Include your business name, address, and phone number on every page of your site.

Getting your SEO in order is one of the first steps you can take to improve your local business marketing and get found online.

2. Get Found on Other Sites

This ties in with search engine optimization and is an important component of any local marketing strategy.

Beyond your website, you also want to make sure your business is being highlighted in other places online.

This does two positive things. First, it increases the chances of your small business grabbing a potential customer. Second, it helps improve your search engine rankings.

For local businesses, there are a few places to advertise your business online to jump on right away. You can see most of them in the graphic below:

local marketing

The first two places you want to start is to claim your business on Google My Business and Bing Places for Business. Both of these are vital directories and can help you get started running local ads online.

Having a presence on local business listing and review sites like Yelp and Manta are important local marketing strategies, as well.

So be sure to sign your business up for as many of those as you can. Don’t forget to also search for local directories as well; chances are there will be other sites available like your chamber of commerce.

Make sure you also include your name, address, and phone number on every directory and website, so people know how to contact your company once they find you online.

3. Email Marketing

Often, email marketing can be a forgotten tool for small businesses local marketing.

When the Infusionsoft and Leadpages we mentioned above asked what small business owners’ preferred marketing channels were, email marketing came in third, as highlighted by the following chart:

local marketing

Email marketing came in third, just behind social media.

Social media might be hot right now, but email marketing has shown a much better return on investment, higher lead generation, and more buying power than social.

A good email marketing strategy offers many benefits for a small business by:

  • Building a list of prospective customers
  • Allowing for customer connections on a regular basis through newsletters or email automation series
  • Enabling offers through special coupons, discounts, and events 
  • Providing a way to give personalized service and attention

Each of these features can keep your business top of mind with your customers, provide excellent service, and build trust. Someone who trusts a brand is far more likely to buy from them—and be a loyal customer.

You can use your local marketing emails for very simple things that will make an impact over the long run. Here are a few examples:

Birthday: Harpoon is a local brewery in the Boston area. Every year, they send out a personalized birthday card to mailing list members.

local marketing

Coupon: This Oregon-based hotel created a campaign to send out a coupon code to their mailing list.

local marketing

Special event: Three Kittens Needle Arts used Small Business Saturday as a way to drive customers to their store.

local marketing

As you can see, there’s plenty you can do with email marketing to boost your local marketing efforts and connect with people in your community.

4. Direct Mail Promotions

Local marketing is not just limited to digital strategies. The art of direct mail marketing has been around for quite some time and is still a valuable tool to get your brand in front of potential customers. 

Creating promotions, discounts, and specials for direct mail recipients can be an inexpensive way to get some local residents through your doors. Whether you offer coupons that give customers a discount, free shipping, etc., direct mail can be a great way to entice locals to try your business.

If you’re not exactly sure where to send your mail, you can use USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) tool. It allows you to enter a central location and view the mailing routes that are normally taken in that area.

local marketing

When you select a route, you are able to view how many total delivery addresses there are, as well as the total price to send mail to those addresses. 

Here are a few simple steps that can help you use EDDM to your local marketing advantage:

  1. Enter your business’s address as the central location.
  2. Choose the routes that you would like to mail your promotion/coupon to.
  3. Pay the mailing costs (make sure the total cost is within your marketing budget).
  4. Finally, bring your mail to the local USPS and you’re done!

This tool also allows you to see the details about the mailing routes such as age range, average income, and how many of the addresses are business or residential locations. Make sure you know what type of customer you want to target before you send out your mail; otherwise, you might spend your budget unnecessarily.

5. Sponsor Community Events

Sponsoring local community events and organizations is not only a simple way to earn some brand recognition, but it’s also a great way for potential customers to put a face to your business’s name. 

Find out when your local area holds community events and contact the organization that is in charge of coordinating the event. See what requirements there are to register a booth for your company. Once you register, figure out how you want to attract new customers. Here are a couple of ideas to boost your local business marketing.

Set up a Canopy Tent With Your Business Name on It

A great way for you to get attendees to notice your business is to set up a canopy tent with your brand on it. There are many websites that allow you to create a custom tent for outdoor events. Anyone who is walking by will be able to see your business, which could draw in any curious prospects. This will help you build brand visibility, and can get your business name out in front of local customers.

Local Marketing

Give out Promotional Products

Offering free products at an event is almost a surefire way to get people interested in your business. Giving out products that have your brand name on them, even if they aren’t directly related to your business, can be really impactful to getting your business known in the local area.

Products like notebooks, mugs, and shirts are just a few examples of different customizable items that you can give out. Once people have your product in their possession and begin to use it, your brand will become more familiar to them as time goes on—a gift that keeps on giving.

Plus, sponsoring a community event can allow you to meet locals and make a great first impression for your business.

Local Marketing: The Bottom Line

Being able to create a local marketing strategy, often with little expense, around attracting customers in your community is a winning formula in today’s market.

These are just a few ideas to help get you started, but feel free to continue developing a custom local marketing strategy to serve your business best.

Liz Forment

Liz Froment is a Boston-based freelance writer who writes primarily in the finance and marketing industries. You can find more about her at lizfroment.com or @lfroment on Twitter.

Our Picks