Running a local business is simultaneously a huge advantage and a major hindrance when it comes to business development. On the one hand, you have the opportunity to specialise in a very specific geographic sphere, the ability to develop an exceptional network of contacts due to the relatively small area you’re working in, and your clients and customers are never too far away that you can pop in for a chat and vice versa. On the flipside, the number of potential customers you have is curtailed by that same geographic area, you may not have the benefit of networks found in larger cities like London, and one dissatisfied customer has the potential to do a lot of damage very quickly.
Marketing a local business is similarly a double-edged blade. You have the immense advantage of being able to narrow down your target audience to a very specific area, the chance to use local language, idioms, references and locations to your advantage, and (if you’re not in a major city) the relative ease of gaining coverage in your local media outlets. The downside, of course, being that competition in your area is likely fierce, and you’re not only marketing yourself, you’re constantly struggling to get (and stay) ahead of everyone else.
So how exactly do you go about successfully promoting your local business? Well, as with most things these days, it’s got a lot to do with the internet. Here’s everything you need to know about local online marketing…
Local SEO Is The Only Sane Way To Go…
I’ll admit, one of my guilty pleasures is Googling Acrylic and seeing where we’re currently ranking for various search terms. Hazel keeps telling me off for it and trying to get me to use the SEO portal, but I much prefer the satisfaction that comes with physically typing in search terms I never in a million years thought we’d rank for, and watching smugly as we appear on page one. The ins and outs of SEO are not my speciality (that’s why we hired Hazel), but I do know – first hand – just how powerful it is to have a website that’s well-optimised for local search terms.
There’s one thing that always, always puts me in an insanely good mood: when an email lands in my inbox telling me a business owner has booked a consultation.
They’ve been Googling for local marketing agencies, clicked the first link that appeared, were really impressed with our website, and took advantage of the convenience of being able to immediately book a face-to-face with a pro.
I love stuff like that.
Properly optimising a website for local search terms is a complicated an ongoing process, but it’s well worth the investment, precisely because it allows you to attract new business, in your local area, without the need for cold calls, invasive spam campaigns, or fruitless outbound marketing strategies.
You don’t have to do anything when you’re using local SEO – just sit back and wait for the leads to flood in. It will take some time for that to start happening, and believe me, I know, it’s really frustrating for those first few months, but if you stick at it and have a strong plan that’s consistently executed you’ll be looking at a steady stream of local leads that find you instantly, without the need for paid advertising or a lot of time spent on social media.
Answer Questions In Local Social Groups…
One way to get good results from social media without spending too much time on it is to get involved with some of the local groups. Acrylic, for example, regularly answer questions in a Facebook Group called Ask Northwich.
Don’t be spammy about it – nobody wants you sharing your links, posting your offers, or touting for business.
Instead, be helpful.
If someone asks a question and you know the answer, answer it! It doesn’t matter if it’s related to your business and what you do or not. If they want to know where they can find a local plumber, and you happen to know one, tag them in. If they’re asking for recommendations for a great restaurant, share a link to your favourite’s Facebook page.
Be helpful, and actively offer positive word of mouth to other local businesses you know to be worthy of it.
Believe me, the businesses who find new leads coming their way, or new customers walking through the door because you recommended them will take note. If they’ve not heard of you before, they have now, and they already think positively of you. They may need your products or services themselves, and even if they don’t, the next time someone asks if they can recommend someone doing what you do, they’ll return the favour.
And if someone asks if anyone knows of someone who does exactly what you do, speak up – but not in a sales way! Don’t post a pitch, or send them a price list. Simply reply and say you do what they’re asking for, tell them you’d be happy to have a chat if they like, and give them a link to your website so they can snoop at you a bit first.
Team Up With Other Local Businesses…
Take the good will you’ve started building with other local businesses and step it up a notch. How can you complement each other’s marketing efforts? Do you have similar audiences but offer different products or services? If so, would they be interested in a promo trade:
- You share their content, they share yours.
- You send out an email campaign recommending them, and they do the same for you.
- You put a banner advertising them on your website, and they return the favour.
- Might your existing customers need them for something, and vice versa?
Before Acrylic Digital was born it was Acrylic Creative, and I worked with a lot of business owners who needed website development. As it happened, Simon (now my business partner) had web development and IT support clients who needed marketing.
Eventually, we made it a permanent arrangement, but initially, we were just two local businesses teaming up to take advantage of each other’s customer base in a mutually beneficial way.
You’d be surprised how well this can work.
Put A Local Slant On Everything You Can…
Another great way to take advantage of local online marketing is to put a local slant on all your content. This can be a little tricky if you also need to appeal to a national or international audience, but even if that’s the case, staying true to your roots can help solidify your brand.
When you’re using examples and analogies, use ones they will recognise. If you need materials, go to local ones before larger companies and make it a prominent part of your marketing that you only use local suppliers. If you need images and visuals that include photography, try to work in photography of the local area. And as you develop your brand voice, don’t be afraid to use the language of your local area – what are the quirky phrases and expressions in your area, how do the people you’re targeting naturally speak and communicate?
If you’re a local yourself, born and bred, this will come naturally to you. But even if you’re not, take the time to create a brand voice that will truly resonate with the locals.
Direct Mail Is Not Dead…
One final point worth noting is that the tried and tested forms of local marketing can still work, and can easily be updated for the modern age. Direct mail marketing gets a bad rep these days, but it can still be very successful, and there’s no reason it can’t link to your online efforts. Use QR codes, augmented reality, and simple calls to action with short, easily typed URLs to drive people to online content and into your sales funnel.
And get inventive. Just because direct mail is a traditional method doesn’t mean it has to be dull!
Get Involved With The Local Community…
All that being said about the amazing benefits of digital marketing, don’t forget to branch out into the ‘real world’ as well. Are there local charities you want to support? Local sports teams or schools you can sponsor? If there are local markets or fairs, try to get involved and have a presence. Get out and about in local networking events and start shaking hands and getting to know people.
Host Your Own Events…
As an extension of that, consider hosting your own local event. Maybe you’re opening or reopening after a refurb. Maybe you have a new product or service to launch. Maybe you’re celebrating your business’ birthday or anniversary. Or maybe you just want an excuse to drum up some positive PR and raise your profile. Whatever the reason, hosting your own local event is a great way to marketing your business.
And don’t forget, just because you’re physically doing this in the real world, it doesn’t mean you can’t market it only – get an event setup on Facebook or EventBrite, promote it across all your channels, and invite all the businesses you’ve been building relationships with online to come along.
Get Help From The Local Pros…
Marketing your business locally requires a very specific mindset, local knowledge, and the time to effectively follow through on all your marketing plans. It’s a tall order, and one most business owners don’t have time for personally. If you don’t have anyone on-staff who specialises in digital marketing, or you do and they need additional support to get it all done, we’re here to help.
Acrylic was founded by two local business owners, myself and Simon, who had independently created our own successful companies and realised if we put the two together we’d create something pretty spectacular. Last year we expanded to team to our new Head of Marketing, Hazel, herself a successful business owner working locally. Our own promotional efforts are all geared around local online marketing, and there isn’t much we don’t know about promoting a business in Cheshire.
If you’d like to hear how we’d go about marketing your business, specifically, book a free consultation below – you’ll get a face-to-face chat or phone (whichever you prefer) followed by a detailed local marketing plan tailored to your business’ bespoke needs. Just use the booking form below, and I’ll see you soon…
Acrylic Digital’s co-founder and director Nick Simpson is a marketing magician and the brains behind the business development side of our team. Keeping our customers happy and making sure we deliver maximum ROI to each and every one is a bit of an obsession of his.
Get to know him...