Local Marketing For Small Businesses - 13 Options For You To Consider

Smart local marketing is an excellent way for you to grow your customer base and to ultimately help your small business succeed. With that in mind, I thought I'd compile a list of various ways in which you can market yourself effectively in your local area.

I came up with 13 options for you to consider. I hope they help and please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or suggested additions to the list.

Here goes.

local marketing for small businesses
image credit: Libby Levi

Local Business Networks

A great place to start marketing your small business locally is a local business network. You're pretty much guaranteed to find at least a handful of these groups in your local area - here are a few examples:

Just about every town and city has a business network of their own too. It's a great idea to try a few networks out before you decide which one you will join for the long term.

Benefits of such groups include:

  • Generation of referrals from trusted business partners
  • Increased awareness of your business in your target area
  • Relatively low cost compared to some other forms of marketing
  • Increased business network
  • The ability to engage people one on one
  • 'Real world' marketing that let's your personality and passion shine through

Give it a try and see how it works for you. If you are unsure about performing well in such an environment, you might find this post useful (all about how to handle networking meetings).

Local Business Directories

While using useless online directories for spammy link-building is a definite no-no, there is definitely a case for making sure that your business can be found in the major business directories for your area.

Some of the larger directories include:

  • Yell.com/Yellow Pages
  • Thomson Local
  • Hotfrog

There are probably thousands of other directories that you can list in. The key point here is to remember not to over-do it - if you keep the following in mind, you should be okay:

  • You're not adding your business to any directory for SEO purposes
  • You're only adding your business to a directory that your target market will potentially use

Although it might seem really old-school, people do still use business directories to find suppliers. The industry that you are in will dictate how useful this can be for you, although it can't hurt to make sure that your business has a presence in the largest, most reputable directories.

Local Supermarkets/Shops

Talking about old-school, here's another marketing relic. As old as it may be, advertising in local supermarkets or shops is still a viable option for some types of businesses.

Normally, there will be an advert board near the entrance or checkout area that you can hire space on. You'd usually pin a flyer up (or even a business card) so that customers can see it as the enter/leave.

Depending on the shop the arrangement process can be easy or more complex, and costs can very greatly too. Obviously, a small corner store is more likely to be more flexible and cost effective than a superstore like Tesco, although you'd have to think about the return you're likely to see also.

This form of marketing isn't for every business, although for the right industry it'd definitely worth looking at in more detail.

Outdoor Display Advertising

Outdoor display advertising is a very effective way of getting your message in front of your target audience. You'll come across this everyday as you make your way back and forward to work - everything from large billboards that line the sides of motorways to rolling posters built into bus and tube stations.

Outdoor marketing can really help to build up awareness of your business and can also work well as a direct response campaign if implemented correctly. Thousands of people could potentially see your advert each and every day - very powerful stuff as long as your advert is engaging and says the right thing.

The drawback of this type of advertising is that it's generally very expensive for a small business. Rates vary greatly, although you should expect to pay thousands rather than hundreds for this type of campaign.

Here is one company that specialises in localised outdoor advertising so you can see what can be on offer:

Newspaper/Magazine Ads

Every town and city has it's own press that is extremely relevant to the local population. Within such papers and magazines you'll always find pages dedicated to local businesses and organisations.

Such pages can take the form of the following examples:

  • Full page glossy adverts
  • Advertorials
  • Competitions run by local businesses
  • Press releases

While print advertising can still be an effective way of reaching your local target market, it's a good idea to be careful and to be very selective. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Verify circulation figures from a third party if possible
  • Check how happy previous advertisers have been with the publication
  • Ensure that you can track responses (by including a discount code in the advert for example)
  • More expensive doesn't mean better - go for the publications that reach your target market best, not the ones that just look good

Leaflet Drops

Leaflet drops can be an excellent way of engaging with your target market. This process allows you to ensure that your message and advertising is being seen by the people you want it to be seen by.

At first glance, it would seem that there is nothing more sure than physically placing your materials in either a private or business mailbox. However, there are a few things to consider with this option:

  • Some people - probably most - will see this as spam and won't read your flyer
  • Try to be different - another glossy flyer is most likely to be unread and trashed
  • As with all other printed forms of advertising, it's a good idea to include a code so you can measure performance
  • Check local by-laws to make sure it's okay for you to leaflet drop in the first place
  • One drop is unlikely to deliver the results you want - you'll probably require a few drops or more before substantial returns are delivered

If done correctly, leaflet dropping can be pretty successful. It's definitely worth a shot for small businesses who rely on local trade.

Google Places

Moving on to the digital world, the first port of call for any business should be setting up a Google Places listing. The benefits of this are substantial, although I've already written a separate post on how you can do this so it's probably best that I direct you there.

You can read more on how to set up a Google Places Listing and the benefits of doing so here

Door To Door

No way - surely not :-) Door to door marketing probably has as bad a reputation as telemarketing nowadays, although it can still be effective in certain situations. However, I think that this should only be put into practice with B2B (business-to-business) campaigns - it's really not appropriate to be knocking on private residences any more.

However, I don't see anything wrong with popping into a few local businesses and asking to talk with the owners/managers. By doing so, you'll get straight to the decision maker and you'll have a better chance of building early rapport than if you simply fired off a quick email.

The key thing here is to remember that you will essentially be making a cold visit and that the person you want to talk to has no idea that you will be dropping in (this is a slightly different thing than using the phone to set appointments) and that they are likely to be busy.

Because of this, you're only aim with this kind of marketing is to introduce your business, spark up some rapport and arrange to meet again to discuss further if possible.

You shouldn't be pushy at all, this isn't a sales meeting (although you shouldn't be pushy there either).

Event Sponsorship

If you're local area is like most others, it will likely have a plethora of events that your business could sponsor. I think this type of marketing really hits home because of a few great reasons:

  • It gets your business right in front of local customers
  • Your business will benefit from the advertising efforts of the event itself
  • Sponsoring local events can build all important goodwill for your business within the local community

Here are a few ideas as to type of events you could sponsor:

  • Local football leagues and competitions - kids and adults
  • Local sports days
  • Charity fundraisers
  • Memorials/important local calendar events

Clearly, certain combinations would work better than others. For example, a sport shop supplier would benefit from sponsoring a golf event than a local builder would (well, more than likely anyway). 

However, the combination of the right supplier and the right event could really make this a worthwhile option for your small business. 

PR Coverage

One of the best investments that a small business can make (in my opinion anyway) is to enlist the services of of an experienced PR (public relations) company. Essentially, a good PR company will keep your business in the news via relevant, interesting and well timed news articles that they deliver to local journalists and newspapers.

While you can always buy ad space in a newspaper and magazine (as above), these are sometimes ignored. Text is much more likely to be read, especially is it has a good 'angle'.

One thing to note about this kind of marketing is that it's probably going to succeed more as a brand building/public awareness exercise. Direct response would be difficult to incorporate here because journalists don't generally like to publish simple sales scripts - that's what the ad sections are for.

However, if you do it right, effective PR can ensure that your business appears consistently and professionally in front of your local town via the press.

Bluetooth Mobile Marketing/Proximity Marketing

This can be a great way for local businesses to reach passing trade, although it's pretty invasive. This option works by transmitting marketing messages to mobile phones that have bluetooth switched on.

Here's an example:

  • Restaurant X has a special lunchtime offer on today
  • Mark is walking past the restaurant and has Bluetooth enabled on his phone
  • The restaurants system beams out a message when Mark (and his phone) come within range
  • Mark then decides whether or not to take up the offer

I'm undecided as to whether this method is effective or not. Sure, it can help you reach passers by, although I wonder if the cost of doing this is that you'll put off more people than you will attract.

The choice is yours - here is some more information on this process from a business who specialise in this area. This isn't an affiliate link, the site is just useful if you want to look into this area properly.

Facebook Local Pages

Whether or not your business wants to use Facebook as an integral part of it's marketing campaign, it's probably worth having a look at setting up a page that allows Facebook users to 'check in' to your location when they are there.

Clearly, this is probably going to work better for local B2C business such as:

  • Hairdressers
  • Coffee shops
  • Restaurants
  • Nightclubs 
  • Bars

The benefit of having this set up for your business is that when users 'check in', their friends will see this on Timelines/Newsfeeds/Tickers. Therefore, it can act as quite a powerful word of mouth vehicle for you.

To find out more about this, please see this page.

Launch Party

Finally, what better way to impress your local customer base by throwing a party for them? If you're a new business, you have a perfect opportunity to raise the profile of your enterprise and to create a great amount of goodwill in the process.

Depending on whether you are B2B or B2C and on which industry you serve, the viability of this option will vary. However, if done correctly it could be an excellent way of starting off your business life with a bang.

Here are a few useful tips for throwing a winning launch party.

In Sum

I hope this post has given you a few ideas as to how you can get started with local marketing for your small business. Most of them can be very low cost or even free - you just have to have a but of creativity to get started.

All the best in getting started with this and as I mentioned at the start of this post, please let me know in the comments below if you have any questions or suggestions to help enhance the post.

Thanks for reading,

By Alan MacDougall

Revenue Builder is a small business marketing strategy advice blog, written to help small business owners and startups maximise sales revenue.
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