Marketing Tips for Local Small Businesses

Small businesses play an essential role in local communities and contribute significantly to regional and national economies. However, it’s not always easy to be a small business owner, and one of the biggest challenges you’ll face is getting your marketing strategy right. Marketing yourself is a fundamental requirement for all types of business, and if you fail to reach the right people or tell them what they want to hear, you’ll struggle to build a profitable business. Whether you’re new to business or an old hand who’s looking to improve their marketing skills, there’s always plenty to learn and new strategies to try that will help you run successful marketing campaigns.

Creating a marketing strategy

When you set up a small business, part of your planning will involve creating a marketing strategy that outlines all the steps you intend to take to reach potential customers. This initial plan will be based on your predicted activities and revenue, and have a budget set against it for marketing expenses. To be genuinely effective, you need to do more than list all the ways you plan to publicize your business, and the best place to start is with defining who your customers will be. Having a clear idea about the types of people who will want to purchase from you gives you the information you need to focus your marketing efforts on the places these people are most likely to see your advertising. For instance, if you run a model train business, you’ll want to focus on posting ads in train-related publications and on model railway websites.

The importance of finding your niche

The more niche your business is, the easier it is to find that focus, as in the example of the model train business. If your offer is more generic, say women’s clothing for example, then you can use the same principle to create a niche for yourself. Your range is likely to have a theme or primary style, so think about the women who are most likely to want to wear these clothes and what their lifestyles, interests, and desires are likely to be. You can then find out what types of websites they use regularly and the publications they read, and target your advertising accordingly. Local businesses quite often have a less specific genre, in that they cater to the local population rather than a particular demographic. That still constitutes a form of niche business; it just means your typical customer’s key attribute is their location.

Local advertising

If your business is based locally but serves a wider area, then you should still focus on finding your ideal customer, and incorporate regional or national advertising into your marketing plan. If you’re entirely centered on local trade, then your focus should be the outlets that are most frequently seen by residents. These could include:

  • Local newspapers and magazines
  • Local interest websites
  • Local social media pages
  • Local free papers and circulars
  • Notice boards
  • Local businesses
  • Schools and other community services
  • Community events

You can also utilize local delivery rounds, by arranging for your publicity materials to be delivered to every household in a given area. Sources such as papers and websites can be targeted for free or at very low cost, if you operate a system of providing community interest stories that will get published because they add value to the content of the chosen platform. You can also place ads in local papers and magazines, and it’s a good idea to advertise regularly in the most popular publications to keep your business at the forefront of local people’s minds.

Promotions and giveaways

People love to feel that they’re getting a bargain or something for nothing, so using special offers will attract attention and bring more people to your business. These kinds of incentives are termed lead magnets in online sales because they are designed to draw in customers who may otherwise have been unsure about engaging with your website. An offer of a free eBook or a discount voucher to spend with your business in return for signing up to your email newsletter will sound like a fine deal to many prospective customers, and you’ll be able to grow your mailing list and customer database significantly and make it a far more valuable resource as a result.

Marketing materials

In addition to the printed posters, flyers, and brochures you distribute around the neighborhood, custom printed items like T-shirts, buttons, stationery, key fobs, mugs, lanyards, and many other useful items make cost-effective giveaways. You and your staff can use them yourselves, or hand them out at community events and social gatherings. The range of items you can have printed with your company logo or business information is extensive, so you could choose some of the less obvious products if you want your business to stand out and do something a bit more interesting than offer yet another free disposable pen. If you click here, you can read more about using buttons successfully and the range of ways in which they can support your marketing efforts.

Your business profile

A local business thrives if it has a good reputation, but will stagnate and die if the populace doesn’t feel any loyalty to it. Maintaining a good relationship with customers will improve your profile and encourage other people to use your business. However, any rumors of less than excellent customer service or product quality could have serious consequences. When you’re promoting a local business, remember you are selling not just products but the image of your business as one that’s important and well-respected in the community. Becoming involved in charity fundraising, offering the use of your facilities for local groups and clubs, donating prizes for local raffles, sponsoring good works and community projects, and becoming known as a reliable and knowledgeable member of the community will all help positively increase your profile. If you do encounter any negativity, don’t be tempted to sweep it under the carpet. Respond to the complainant if possible, and try and resolve the issue in an amicable way, making it clear that you are a fair and reasonable business owner who puts customer satisfaction first.

Customer relations

A small local grocery business is not going to be able to compete on price with larger supermarket chains, but local businesses do have a couple of advantages. Firstly, local stores tend to serve areas where it would be more difficult or take too much time to get transport to a larger store, and secondly, there is the small business advantage of being able to forge close relationships with regular customers. Often people will choose to buy from a store they know and love, rather than go somewhere that’s cheaper, because it makes the whole process far more enjoyable. Local business owners also have more knowledge about the local area and what people want than larger chains. This is an advantage that you need to press home in your marketing campaigns.

Linking up with other local entrepreneurs

Rather than competing with other local retailers or service providers, explore the possibility of joining forces for your mutual benefit. If you run a real estate business, you could team up with a local cleaning services provider, decorating or interior design business, or landscape gardener, to offer a more complete package to people looking to sell their homes. Try to be inventive and come up with solutions to needs local people may have that aren’t being catered to. It’s also a good idea to involve other businesses in promotional events and social gatherings so that you can offer something of interest to a broader range of people. Combining forces with other businesses in marketing campaigns increases your reach and may well help save money too.

Using local producers

Emphasizing your commitment to your local community will not only help you strengthen your profile, but could give you additional revenue streams as well. Using local suppliers for your store adds more to your offer, and you may well be able to sell products that aren’t available elsewhere. Local produce, such as vegetables, honey, meat, eggs, dairy products, and flowers will make valuable additions to any grocery-related business. There are also many kinds of arts and crafts created by local artists and craftspeople that could make a complementary addition to your range. You could use wool from local sheep and employ local people to create a range of knitwear for your clothing store. If you are in the catering trade, people will expect that you’ll use local produce in your food, and the interest in buying locally sourced goods continues to rise.

Running a local business will be hard work, but it can be a satisfying and financially rewarding lifestyle. If you are in or thinking of entering the local market, your best chance of success rests on getting your marketing activities right and creating a positive, memorable image for your business among the local community. It takes a proactive mindset to be a successful small-town entrepreneur, but not only could you be running a profitable business, you could also enjoy a special place in your community.