How local marketing can help small businesses

Local marketing is the strategy of marketing your business's products or services within your community. It is beneficial for businesses who are small and beginning new.


Local Marketing Strategies For Small Businesses

John’s happiness knew no bounds when this young boy of 14 years whom he coached, won the inter-school lawn tennis tournament. John is a lawn tennis coach who runs a six-month-old lawn tennis academy. His academy boasts of three court surfaces that is clay, grass, and hard, and has a dedicated team for fitness and technique.

But here is a problem for John, not many people know about his academy, and for the past six months he has been trying hard to maximize awareness and get kids to his academy. He could manage to get a few kids to his training centre that will certainly not cover up his maintenance expenses. He also plans to open a few more centres in the future, but firstly his first training centre should reach the break-even point.

New businesses start with a shoestring budget. Their main focus should be to recover all the costs that they have spent in establishing the infrastructure. It is the same in John’s case as well, whose plans of expansion should take a backseat for now and focus more on attracting kids to his training centre.

For such businesses, a local marketing strategy comes to the rescue.

What is local marketing?

Local marketing is a marketing strategy that targets consumers and customers within a certain radius of the physical location of a business. Here the promotional messages or activities are focussed to attract the local population than the masses. The goal behind a local marketing strategy is to attract new customers as well as to recur business and build a significant presence in the minds of the local consumers.

Which businesses should opt for local marketing?

Local marketing is apt for those businesses who have a single outlet in a single location. Businesses like tuitions, tailors, boutiques, medicine and grocery shops, restaurants, small retail stores, stationery shops, electrical or mobile repair shops, car service shops, gyms and dance classes, etc. should opt for local marketing.

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Local marketing is a great way to gain customers in the surrounding area who may see your business as a better option.

Kinds of customers for effective local marketing

In the era of smartphones and the internet, where everything is required instantly, the patience level of consumers has considerably gone down. Customers would like to shop or avail services from such brands that offer convenience and saves time. For instance, say shopping in big retail outlets like Big Bazaar will not drop your bag of groceries  of a small ticket size at your doorstep. Here a small grocery store can capitalize on this opportunity by providing free delivery services hence offering convenience. Next time the same customer is likely to shop from the local grocery store. Local customers create their mental maps of the surrounding area with favourite restaurants, repair shops, grocery, and boutique stores quickly and make it fix in their memory. They develop shopping habits based on these maps engaging in repeat business.

Benefits of local marketing

Local marketing is a boon for the small business that can fetch unmatched benefits. Let us have a look at those:

Highly targeted

Since our strategies are for a particular geographic location, it becomes easier for the small business owners to tailor marketing strategies based on customer’s socio-economic status, purchasing abilities, and age, and offer more value-added services to the customer that big brands do not do often.

Better Interaction with customers

 In local marketing, we get the advantage of communicating with the customers in vernacular language. Communication in vernacular language forges a better and a quick connection with the customers, which is difficult in mass marketing.

Rewarding the loyal customers

Rewarding the clients who frequently order or appear in your store glues the customers to your business.

Local marketing strategies for the small businesses

The local marketing strategies can be segregated into digital and non-digital.First, let us dive into the digital strategies.

Geofencing

When you move from one city or town to another you might be surprised to receive local ads on your phone. Geofencing technology allows the local businesses to target their potential customers when they step into that geographic location. It uses GPS signals to determine if a customer has entered that geographic area. Once a potential customer steps into the boundary, the technology activates pay-per-click ads or push notifications about the business on the individuals’ mobile. Hence generating awareness about the business and attracting the potential customers within that boundary to visit your store or shop. It helps to connect with customers in real-time. To understand this better, let us take an example of a gourmet food store. A newly launched gourmet food store can send a geofence push notification to the people staying in the locality informing them about the ‘fresh Jalapenos’ or ‘Fresh turkey meat available, starting at Rs 199’. Geofencing works well with businesses like – restaurants, gyms, coffee shops, gourmet food shops, local electrical appliance shops, boutiques, etc.

WhatsApp Groups

This technique allows the new businesses to serve their customers well and maintain a loyal customer base. Businesses can form WhatsApp groups with their customers to keep them abreast about the latest offers and discounts, stock availability, new service started, etc. John for his tennis centre can form a WhatsApp group consisting of children or children’s parents. In the WhatsApp group, he can send information about any change in training timings, nutrition, and diet chart to build stamina, daily workouts needed, etc. WhatsApp groups can be effective for vegetable and meat shops, small grocery stores, beauty parlours or salons, tuition centres etc.

Short Message Service (SMS)

Big retail brands for example Westside or Croma ask for customers’ mobile numbers at the payment counter to send promotional messages. The same approach can be implemented by small businesses as well. Through SMS a new business can reap the benefits of personalized communication by giving a clear call to action for the customer to act on. Unlike emails, an SMS has a high open-rate. A person’s inbox is a personal space where a touch of personalization in messages makes customers feel that you are genuinely conversing with them. It increases engagement and positions your brand to be a caring one. For inducing a call to action among customers, the messages should contain a short code and a keyword. A short code or keyword is a five-digit number which is easier to remember for customers when contacting you. For example:

Wedding bells ringing around the corner?  Text WDAY to 87007 to get 60% off on your dream wedding cake.

Here in this message 87007 is the short code and ‘WDAY’ is the keyword. The customers to avail discounts in wedding cakes will text ‘WDAY’ on 87007 to get a discount of 60%. With the text received, the newly opened bakery shop in the town will receive the customer’s number. The same bakery shop will be able to send a more personalized message next time by sending an SMS addressing the sender’s name for example-‘ Hi Kiran, kill your Monday blues by tasting the best Choco muffins in the town.’ Hence, more personalized communication. When customers text using the short code, you receive customers’ numbers that can be created to build a database of contacts to send them promotional or marketing information in the future. If you have a website or an app you can also add the link in your messages, thus increasing the visits to your website or app downloads.

Using social media

If the business is not on social media, it probably doesn’t exist. Promoting business through social media is a must. For newly begun businesses, Facebook and Instagram are the most desirable social media platforms for region-specific marketing.

Here are some ways by which local businesses can do marketing on Facebook and Instagram.

Location-based ads: Facebook platforms allow businesses to run ads in the locations where they want to be visible. The ads can be further made visible to the below location specifications such as:

  • Single or multiple countries
  • Regions
  • States
  • Cities
  • Postal codes
  • Addresses

The business owners can choose to include or exclude certain areas while showing ads. The new businesses should always run ads in areas where they provide service. If the new business has an app and the motive is to increase app downloads, then you can run ads specific to the location to be visible to the viewers belonging to that location. For example: ‘Chalo’ an online peer ride app based out of Gujarat,  that offers transportation anywhere in Ahmedabad city. Its Facebook ads are directed to the people staying in Ahmedabad with a clear objective to download the app. Apart from ads, the official Facebook page of the business should be updated with the location, contact information, website link, and business hours.

Instagram: For Instagram, the photos or video posts should be tagged with the names of the area or landmarks around your business location. It should include local keywords in the hashtags, profiles, and caption posts. To determine the phrases for hashtags, we can easily do a search of the brand name, branded hashtags, and physical store locations, or anything else closely related to your brand on Instagram. For example:   a new handloom saree boutique can run a search like for instance – handloom saree mg road, ikkat store, jute cotton saree, local saree shop, etc.

The more the search engine sees your brand with these local terms, the visibility will be higher for the local searchers. Businesses such as food joints, salons, dance classes, handicraft shops, handloom fabric shops, etc. will be the most benefited from this platform where alluring images are needed to attract the audience.

Local content and SEO

In recent times you will find a smartphone more in hand than a TV remote. As per HubSpot’s research, over half of the worldwide internet traffic comes from mobile devices and 61% of mobile searchers are likely to contact a local business if they have a mobile-friendly site. A mobile-friendly site should load seamlessly to attract local customers. The content of the website should be relevant to the local audience and consumer base, as it helps to rank the website higher in the search list.  We should firstly add location-based terms and locally relevant keywords to the website for example – instead of ‘ Tennis academy’, the homepage should read ‘ Best tennis academy in M.G. Road. It helps to rank the website rank higher when searched. Google Trends is a helpful tool for identifying keywords relevant to the business as well as the location. Also, for creating local content, promote local gatherings, neighbourhood events, and industry listings from your area. This type of content helps localize your website and paint you as a local authority.

Search Engine Marketing

 Search engineering marketing ads are paid strategies that are another powerful way to reach your local audiences. Investing in this strategy will target the ads to specific audiences based on their location. It involves adding relevant keywords to the ad like including names of the city or neighbourhood to the listings and location data.

Google My Business

Ever wondered how the list instantly appears when we search ‘Mechanic shops near me’. Google My Business is a free local marketing tool that allows business owners to put their business to appear on Google search and Maps. Google is the most widely used search engine. When people search, for example, Tennis centres near me’ then John’s tennis academy would show up as a listing on Google that will display the name, address, contact information, website link, direction, and hours of operation. Businesses to get a Google My Business listing needs to verify their business data by creating a profile in Google My Business add their business location, contact name, operating hours, etc. To further improve the presence on Google where they can add pictures of the business for example – in the case of John, he can upload pictures of tennis courts, training sessions, videos of practice sessions and tournaments, etc.  Business owners can also add a call to action in their business listing such as – Call, Visit, Buy, Book appointment, orders, and Learn More that compels potential customers to take action. On signing up with Google My Business, the new business will get a free domain where a custom domain is payable.

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Strong customer relationships drive sales, sustainability, and growth.

-Tom Cates, Chairman and founder of The Brookeside Group

Non-digital strategies

Digital strategies indeed help in maximizing the reach of business, but customers like to shop more from such businesses that give a human touch and feel. Establishing touch and feel builds trust and eliminates any prejudices before that bridges the gap of disconnect. Here are some non-digital strategies which are a must for new businesses:

Association with local fairs/festivals/events

Festivals are a great way to connect with the local audience. Associating the businesses with festivals or local fairs gives people a chance to know more about the presence of the shop and the offerings. In Gujarat, Uttarayan (Kite flying festival) is celebrated in a pompous way, here a new sweet shop in the locality can organize a small counter in the kite flying events where people can buy or take away snacks.

Organizing competition/ contests

Organizing contests or competitions is an excellent tool for engaging your customers, building a loyal fan base, and empowering customers to do marketing for your business. John for his tennis centre can organize local tennis tournaments in the locality among the kids whom he coaches and can invite their friends and parents to witness. Parents are an excellent medium for word of mouth here, that will encourage other parents to enrol their kids in John’s tennis academy.

Creating a package or a subscription plan

Instead of paying for each product or service separately, businesses should create a package plan that consists of various products or services at a competitive price. This technique lets the customer feel that they are paying less. For example: the new bakery shop in your neighbourhood can create a birthday package that will consist of a birthday cake, chocolates, snacks, small muffins, and party decorations.

Free delivery or discount coupons

 Customers love receiving gifts, discounts, and free delivery services. Offering discount coupons, free gifts, or free delivery services to customers who shop beyond a limit is going to increase store visits that will give repeat business with positive word of mouth.

Free demo sessions

Customers would like to touch, feel, and experience before buying a product or service. John for his tennis centre can keep free demo sessions for those who want to feel , by giving a slice of experience. Offering free demo sessions works well with businesses like-dance classes, yoga centres, sports coaching centres, tuition classes, music classes, etc.

New businesses to reach break-even point must embrace strategies that should be a mix of both digital as well as non-digital.

Shalmoli Sarkar
Shalmoli Sarkar
An MBA in marketing and a BTech in chemical engineering, Shalmoli writes on marketing strategies and business technology for new and aspiring entrepreneurs.

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