There are a lot of DIY ways to help local consumers find you when they’re searching for products and services online - and many are free or very low cost! These 12 strategies can give your marketing a boost and should be included in your overall marketing plan.
1. Sign Up for Local Online Listing Services and Directories
One of the best ways to advertise your business locally is through online directories. Google research has found that four out of five people surveyed used search engines to conduct local searches so you want to be represented on as many sites as possible.
Simply visit the directories and add or claim your business. Platforms like Google My Business, Yahoo, and Manta are examples of local business directories. Even the yellow pages from phone books has evolved into an online directory. For more, visit The Ultimate List: 57 Online Local Business Directories from the HubSpot Blog.
2. Start a Blog
There are solid benefits of blogging on your company’s website. A recent study showed that businesses with blogs receive 55% more traffic than businesses without blogs. And blogging can establish you as an influencer in your industry to increase customer trust.
Before you jump in, determine your goals. Examples include:
- Driving traffic to your website or physical location
- Increasing sales
- Generating leads
- Educating your target audience
- Building your brand
SmartBiz has a comprehensive article that can help you get started: Develop a Blog Strategy for Your Small Business.
3. Join a Local Business Group
Almost every city around the U.S. has local business networking groups. The most common example is the Chamber of Commerce. They typically hold special events, host speakers, put on workshops, and organize other types get togethers to help promote local businesses.
This is a great opportunity to learn from other small business owners in your area and promote your own business. Be sure to have your “elevator pitch” ready to clearly let others know what you do and the type of consumer they can send your way. Find your local Chamber of Commerce here.
4. Support Charities
Giving money isn’t the only way to support local charities or other organizations. Finding ways to give back and do something positive for your community is important. In addition to elevating your profile, you can get your employees involved and shape a positive company culture. Here are just a few ways you can support others in your community:
- Sponsor a local youth sports team.
- Donate to a local school in exchange for a banner display or ad in the yearbook.
- Participate in a neighborhood or highway clean-up.
- Volunteer time at a food bank.
- Put a donation jar in your store.
- Sponsor an event like a local fun run or fundraising gala.
- Launch a charity drive and collect needed items like school supplies or clothing.
5. Run contests
A contest is a great way to spark word-of-mouth referrals for your business and engage your loyal customers. In this fast-paced world, one of the most important elements is simplicity. If there are complex rules to enter, you won’t meet your goals.
Here are steps to ensure a smooth process:
- Know your goals. Do you want to engage current customers or find new ones? Do you want to simply raise awareness of your brand or introduce a new product?
- Choose contest type, rules and prizes
- Build your contest
- Promote your contest through as many appropriate channels as possible
- Track results
- Follow-up by congratulating winner, awarding prizes, and thanking participants
6. Update Yelp Information
If customers have rated and reviewed your business on Yelp, you have a profile on that platform. Yelp is often the first stop for consumers looking for business information or reviews from real customers.
Once you claim your page, you can update the important details like hours, phone number, address, and website. You’ll also be able to upload high-quality photos.
Below is an example of a strong Yelp page created for Done & Done, Home, LLC., a SmartBiz customer:
7. Create a Customer Loyalty Program
A customer loyalty program provides incentives—like discounts and freebies—to your customers. In short, the more customers spend, the more they get back. Ultimately, a loyalty program helps customers feel valued. Valued customers are more likely to buy and help drive future sales.
One of the most important elements of a customer loyalty program is ease of use. Find a strategy that works for your customers whether it’s facilitated through an app or an old-fashioned punch card.
8. Offer Discounts
Customers are inherently drawn to sale items. When given the choice between two products or services, most go with the lowest cost. Discounting products can help increase sales, increase traffic, build stronger customer relationships, and move inventory you’re either phasing out or isn’t selling well. Low-cost and effective ways to promote discounts are via social media or email or traditionally with flyers and direct mail.
9. Targeted Social Media Content
WordStream defines geotargeting as “the practice of delivering different content to different consumers based on their geographic location.” It can also refer to detecting a site visitor’s location and then choosing the content to show them. If you’re looking to connect with potential customers locally, geo-targeting must be part of your social marketing plan. Ads are always more effective when relevant.
10. Social Media
It’s no secret that social media plays an important role in shaping the success or failure of a business. If you’re looking to cement your company’s online presence and enhance its growth, offer valuable content that speaks to your target audience on the platforms they are using. If you don’t have the knowledge or time required to run successful social media campaigns, consider hiring a freelancer who specializes in small businesses or your specific industry.
The SmartBiz Blog has an article to help you choose the right fit: Small Business Marketing Tip: How to Hire a Social Media Strategist.
11. Form Partnerships
As a small business, one thing you can do to rapidly grow your brand is to seek out strategic partnerships – particularly with other companies that share target markets, but which are not direct competitors. An example of this could be an athletic apparel company partnering with a local gym. The gym could display and sell the clothing, the clothing company could offer gym membership discounts. This strategy can help you boost sales, increase brand awareness, and go after new markets.
12. Add Email to Your Marketing Plan
Email marketing is simply using email to promote your business. Email marketing helps form relationships with potential customers, keeps current customers in the know, and can be an effective way to offer discounts, launch a contest and introduce a new product or service. 85% of U.S. retailers consider email marketing one of the most effective customer acquisition tactics.