If your customers come mostly from your local community, do you have strong marketing initiatives in place to reach those shoppers?
A report by Brandmuscle, a local marketing software company, found that nearly half of the 860 small businesses surveyed spend $5,000 or less on marketing each year, and one-third spend less than 10 percent of their time on marketing activities. Don't avoid marketing because it seems too expensive or time consuming. Here are a few low-cost local marketing ideas that are easy for the busy small business owner to implement.
Join forces with another business in your area that compliments your products or services. Co-sponsoring a sports team, school activity or community event can be a cost effective way to reach new customers. Hit up other small businesses in your area and propose creative ideas to elevate the local profile of both companies. For more information, read our post that has lots of ideas about how to successfully cross-promote your small business.
You might think that advertising on television, radio or in publications is far outside of your budget. However, there are good deals out there for local small businesses. Ask your current customers where they get local news, coupons and information about sales and events. Target those publications and build advertising into your marketing plan. Including a coupon or special offer can be a great way to get new faces in the door.
Explore high-profile opportunities to give away a product or service. Churches, temples, schools and other organizations often have silent auction nights or similar events to raise money. Make sure you dress up your offering with a creative gift basket or other display that shows your business in the best light. Is there a fun run or other type of athletic event in your town? Donate water bottles branded with your logo. If there’s a local street fair, hand out balloons to the kids and coupons to the adults. (Who doesn’t love a helium balloon and a coupon?)
Capitalize on Online Reviews
BrightLocal’s latest consumer survey shows that 92% of consumers now read online reviews (vs. 88% in 2014). Claim your company page on Yelp to expand your online reach. You can post pictures and business information and you’ll have the opportunity to respond to favorable or unfavorable reviews. Yelp is often the first stop for a consumer before they pull out their wallet. Pro tip: Check in on your Yelp page frequently so you can address any unhappy customers and thank the happy ones.
Embrace Google’s Local Offerings
By creating a Google My Business account, you can take control of the information about your business, such as hours of operation, address, phone number and website. Now, with the new local search ads, your business can appear on the Google Maps app.
It sounds counterintuitive, why would you give away a product or service? The answer is simple – people love free stuff. One simple idea is to go old school and put a fishbowl for entries next to the check out area. Facebook also has inexpensive ways to run a giveaway. Read this great article about increasing profits with this strategy: How Free Giveaways Can Boost Your Small Business Revenues
From the Chamber of Commerce to Meetup groups, there are a lot of opportunities for small business owners to network locally. Shopify has a comprehensive article about how to do it right: Local Business Networks.
Local marketing can give companies the competitive advantage, but according to experts, a lot of small businesses owners think it’s beyond their grasp. If you need help fitting local marketing into your budget, consider working with an expert. The SCORE non-profit organization pairs entrepreneurs with successful professionals. In addition to mentoring services, there are many resources available to help you plan and execute a strong marketing budget. If your business is 2+ years old, consider an SBA loan. Additional working capital can help you implement strategies to grow and strengthen your business. Create an account on the SmartBiz website and you’ll know in about 5 minutes if you qualify for a low-cost, 10-year term SBA loan.