- Local marketing refers to strategies that target regional audiences near a business.
- Local marketing is especially effective for businesses that are tied to a physical location, such as restaurants, boutique retail stores and professional advisors.
- Getting your small business’s local marketing strategy off the ground can be quick, easy and inexpensive.
- This article is for small business owners who are looking to implement local marketing strategies to target audiences close to their business’s location.
Local marketing is an essential element of a wider marketing strategy for small businesses. It can get your brand in front of a broader local audience that is 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 14 quick tips to improve your local marketing strategy.
What is local marketing?
Local marketing targets an audience in the same town or region as your business. This marketing plan element is geared toward people within a specific radius of your physical business location — generally based on a reasonable driving distance — who might realistically purchase your product or service at any time.
For example, if you start a restaurant in Red Bank, New Jersey, driving website traffic from Sacramento, California, won’t do you much good. Instead, you must employ local marketing tactics to ensure most of your audience is located close enough to your restaurant to dine there or order takeout or 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,” explained Travis McKnight, senior content strategist at Portent Inc.
Understanding your target audience and the information you should relay to them is crucial for any small business marketing strategy. However, it’s particularly relevant in a local marketing strategy that must highlight your business’s location.
A local marketing strategy aims to spend your advertising and marketing budget more efficiently. Digital marketing is an effective tool for businesses of all sizes. However, if you are a local business and fail to gain traction with a local audience, your marketing expense is all for naught.
Not all traffic generated from marketing is the same. A local marketing strategy ensures you reach target customers who are likely to patronize your business.
What types of businesses benefit from local marketing?
Many businesses can benefit from local marketing. However, specific business types require it. Here are a few examples of business types that need a local marketing strategy:
- Restaurants: Restaurants are excellent examples of businesses that need a local marketing strategy. They’re physical locations that offer dine-in, takeout, mobile ordering or delivery services. By nature, a restaurant is locked into its physical location and must reach people nearby.
- Retail stores: While even small retail operations often sell online via e-commerce, local marketing can increase a store’s foot traffic and help build its brand. Brand awareness is especially important for small boutique retail stores that compete with large chains.
- Professional services: Professional services such as lawyers and accountants should employ a local marketing strategy. There are some notable exceptions to this rule, such as marketing companies that operate remotely. However, nothing beats an in-person consultation.
While many businesses need a local marketing strategy, others can benefit from capturing a broader audience.
14 local marketing strategies you can start today
Local marketing starts with some easy-to-implement steps that any company can begin immediately. Here are a few quick-and-simple ideas to improve your business’s local marketing.
1. Optimize your website for local users.
Website optimization is the key to driving traffic and is essential for any digital marketing strategy. But is your website optimized for local users? Here are a few ways to optimize your website for nearby customers:
- Ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. Creating a mobile-friendly website is crucial. Businesses must ensure that their websites deliver a top-notch mobile experience to attract local customers, said Heather Lodge, owner and chief strategy officer at Werkflow Digital. “More than half of traffic coming to websites is from mobile devices,” Lodge noted. “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.”
- Localize your website. Every effective business website should follow search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, such as employing keyword research to inform your website content. However, localizing your website means determining keywords and key phrases based on local SEO. For example, ask yourself, “What does the local market search for on Google?” A good rule of thumb is to mention your community or nearby communities frequently. For example, if you target a regional audience, consider adding language such as “serving the tristate area.”
Improve your local SEO insights by leveraging free keyword research tools — like Google Analytics, Google Trends and Google Search Console — to find out which local terms you should incorporate.
2. Update title tags and meta descriptions on your website.
Ensure that your website’s title tags and metadata are current. “There are a few different parts of metadata, but the majority of people only have to worry about meta description and title tag,” McKnight said.
- Title tags: A title tag is the 60 characters that search engine users see on the search engine results page (SERP). Keep the title tag relevant to your brand and location but shorter than 60 characters.
- Meta description: A meta description should be 160 or fewer characters. The meta description is less likely to factor into search engine rankings but 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,” McKnight said. “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.”
The best web hosting services provide administrator tools that allow you to edit your website’s title tag and meta description. Additionally, WordPress offers an easy-to-use SEO function for small business owners.
3. Set up local landing pages for all of your business locations.
If your business has multiple locations, create an individual landing 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 the store hours are.”
These pages should include specific content about your business. For example, a real estate agent based in Nashville, Tennessee, shouldn’t say only that they are a “real estate agent.” Instead, they should include the key phrase “leading real estate agent in Nashville,” which signals to search engines where the agent is based and helps serve results to a local audience.
This phrasing also considers how people search for real estate agents: They don’t just want anyone; they want the “best” or “leading” real estate agents.
4. Claim your Google Business Profile listing.
One of the easiest and most effective local marketing strategies you can employ immediately is to set up your Google Business Profile. Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business) provides search engine users with information such as a business’s location, hours, directions, contact information and other info directly on the SERP.
“Claim your [Google Business Profile] knowledge panel, and make sure that it is updated,” McKnight said. The profile should display current business hours and accurately explain any temporary changes or restrictions, like holiday closings and takeout or delivery options.
You should also claim local listings on third-party sites such as Yelp, Lodge added. The more places users can find your business (along with location information), the more successful your local marketing will be.
5. Optimize your social media pages for local users.
Social media marketing is crucial for 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, as well as maintaining an active social media account.
“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 satisfied customers to leave positive reviews online, whether on Google Reviews, Facebook, Yelp or elsewhere. You could even incentivize them with discounts or promotions, such as a raffle or giveaway.
You should also spend time responding to online reviews your customers leave, whether they’re positive or negative reviews. Always be sincere, and avoid copying and pasting generic responses.
“For the most part, respond to people with authenticity, humility and honesty — whether it’s a negative review or positive one,” McKnight advised. “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.”
Responding to all online reviews is a crucial way to manage customer relationships by appeasing unhappy customers, showing satisfied customers you appreciate them and demonstrating to everyone that you care.
7. Host or sponsor local community events.
Digital marketing is good, but building a real-world bridge between your audience and your brand is invaluable. To do so, it’s essential to get involved in your community.
Consider sponsoring or hosting local events whenever possible to increase brand visibility in your local community. This is also a great way to land local press coverage, which improves the odds that a local audience will find your business online.
8. Utilize localized email marketing.
Email marketing strategies are effective and inexpensive. The bulk of the cost is associated with obtaining valuable email addresses. Although nothing in an email address will tell you where a user is located, you can build an email contact list to filter users by location.
The easiest way to obtain location data along with email addresses is via a sign-up sheet in your business’s physical location — ideally, by the register — or at booths or events you sponsor. The idea is to get interested consumers to sign up for your updates and promotions. Alternatively, you can create an online form on your website to gather user information and location data.
9. Try a direct-mail campaign to target local users.
Direct mail might seem outdated, but it remains a cheap and effective method for reaching customers. According to the 2021 ANA Response Rate Report, direct mail has a higher return on investment than other advertising mediums.
Direct mail lets you target prime demographics by looking at neighborhoods that fit your target audience.
Tips on using direct mail include creating an attention-grabbing mailer, offering discounts and promotions, and using QR codes to make it easy for people to learn more about your business or visit your website.
10. Partner with other local businesses.
Partnering with other businesses can be a powerful tool. These alliances multiply both companies’ total outreach. This strategy works best when you find businesses with similar values and goals (and that don’t compete directly with your company).
Here are a few ideas for how to partner with other businesses in your area:
- Co-sponsor events
- Work together with SEO content to ensure a mutually beneficial relationship
- Link to each other’s websites
When you follow these strategies, every outreach effort is multiplied.
11. Localize paid ads.
Location-based advertising allows businesses to find the best audience in the right area. Ads can target local users; Google, Facebook and other digital advertisers have localized features.
Outside of digital advertising, localized paid ads are still valuable. Local newspapers, radio spots, coupon books, movie theaters and sponsorships are some of the best ways to promote your brand to local consumers.
12. Create a customer loyalty program.
A customer loyalty program is an excellent way to ensure local customers return. Businesses can offer physical or digital loyalty cards that reward customers with free or discounted items after a specific number of purchases or points earned. Discounts and promotions also can be sent to loyalty program members by email or direct mail.
Loyalty programs help customers feel valued. Furthermore, they’re a great way to collect helpful information about customers who have opted in — data that can be utilized in other local marketing campaigns.
13. Implement a referral program.
No one knows a local community better than those who live and work there. Use your existing customers to your advantage by setting up a referral program. As with a loyalty program, you can offer discounts or rewards to customers when they bring in somebody new. People are more likely to trust word-of-mouth advertising, so it’s an effective and inexpensive way to get your message out.
Your existing customers understand your business and know which people in the local community are most likely to buy your products or services. A referral program ensures that customers return and bring interested friends and family. Be sure to offer your new customers similar incentives to build customer loyalty.
Find local individuals to act as brand ambassadors who build awareness and trust for your business in the local community.
14. Tell your brand’s story to appeal to a local audience.
Small businesses must find ways to break through the noise of larger corporate competitors and online marketplaces to get their message to consumers. One compelling way to do that is to share your company’s story. A unique personal story helps customers connect with your brand.
To reach a local audience, find a way to relate your story to the community or region where you do business. When it comes to spending money, a good story might just convince a customer to support your local business over a faceless corporation.
A successful local marketing strategy involves optimizing your digital presence while building relationships with community members. While online local marketing is valuable, reaching your target customers face-to-face is essential.
Think globally, but advertise locally
Whether you run a business that relies on local engagement or you want to improve your local marketing, you can reach your local target audience by employing easy, affordable and effective tactics. The key is to find the best strategies for ensuring your business is being seen by the local community, engaging your target audience and building strong customer relationships.
See what kind of splash your business can make in your community by implementing these local marketing strategies today.
Tom Anziano contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.