As an entrepreneur, you likely have dreams of taking the world by storm and trouncing even the biggest competitors in your industry. As a small business owner, your reality is that market domination on that scale is out of reach early on.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t aim high. You should. Your best bet, however, is to first focus on dominating your local market. With a solid backing from your community, you’ll gain the confidence and revenue to tackle bigger markets.
Follow these tips to localize your marketing efforts and gain a strong foothold in your community:
1. Establish Partnerships
Forming an alliance with another local small business can offer you tons of exposure to new customers. Team up with a business that is likely to interact regularly with your target customers. For example, offer specials or discounts to one another’s customers as part of a co-marketing strategy. Post fliers promoting each other’s business in your respective storefronts. Set up a referral program where partners receive a kickback every time they refer a customer to you, and vice versa. You might even consider doing a list swap in which you exchange your marketing lists.
Some businesses go as far as co-hosting a joint event or running a joint promotion. For example, a local bed and breakfast could team up with a restaurant to offer a special Valentine’s Day package.
2. Enhance Your Google Local Profile
Through the Local tab on Google+, people can search and browse for restaurants, retail stores, attractions and so on. These listings are comprised of information from third-party providers, users and business owner records. Ensure that your business not only pops up in those searches but that your profile attracts new customers. Visit Google’s Places for Business, and once you’ve verified the local listing for your company, spend some time improving your profile. Add photos, videos, coupons and real-time news and special updates to draw people in. All these steps can help improve your search engine rankings, which will definitely boost the chances of local customers finding your business online.
3. Upgrade Your Online Presence
Most people are going online to find local businesses, so monitor any sites that list—or should list—yours. Make sure that your information is correct in the online Yellow Pages. Ensure that your business is listed on any town or county business website. Spend time improving your Yelp profile. And although they’re not as popular as Google+ Local, optimizing your Bing andYahoo! local business profiles can help leverage a portion of the market that your competitors may overlook. Finally, create a way for people to connect with you via Facebook and Twitter. Social media allows you to reach out to your customers on a daily basis by sharing interesting content, photos and updates on your business. In addition, you can run regular contests and reward customers for sharing your posts with others, which will help further your brand’s market reach.
4. Spend Time in the Community
Use every opportunity to expose your brand to your local community while also doing some good. Sponsor an intramural sports team, or raise money for a school. Work at a soup kitchen, support a food pantry, or hold a toy or clothes drive. Set up a team of employees to participate in a local charity run or walk. Or visit local hospitals or nursing homes to spend time with patients. You might even offer your services for free on occasion. For example, a restaurant could offer free catering for a college’s Dean’s List banquet.
Don’t be afraid to publicize your efforts. Running an ad on a local radio station to let people know that you are collecting food or clothing, for example, is a great way to get your name out there while also increasing the number of items you will be able to donate. In addition, whenever you are out participating in community events or sponsoring charities, reinforce your brand by asking employees to wear t-shirts with your brand name and logo on them.
It’s also a good idea to join and become active with your local Chamber of Commerce. Research shows that participating in your Chamber of Commerce builds credibility and trust among consumers. It also offers networking and lead-generating opportunities as well as many other benefits. Becoming a member will tell potential customers that you support the community, local business and better business practices.
5. Share Your Knowledge With the Media
Local blogs, newspapers and TV and radio stations are often looking for good content to share with people. Be a go-to source for media outlets. Reach out and let them know that you are available for interviews and to share advice with their readers. For example, if you run a computer-repair shop, offer the local paper a free article on “10 Tips to Speed Up Your Computer.” People are likely to share that kind of valuable content with their readers, listeners or viewers, and when you provide really good content, you position yourself as a knowledgeable expert that people can trust.
6. Create a Street Team
Spread the word about your products, events and/or services by forming a street team to promote your business. The next time you host a grand opening, launch a new product or plan an event, recruit a team of brand advocates to hit the streets with signs and marketing information. They will be responsible for sharing the news with other businesses and potential customers.
7. Use Traditional Advertising Techniques
For global advertising, using online data to monitor and target customers with promotions is becoming the way of the world. However, for local marketing, spend your advertising dollars on more traditional methods. Use your vehicle to advertise your business, put an ad on a bus-stop bench, and post signs around town. Also, run ads in your local paper and on local radio and cable shows. If you can swing it, put up a billboard in your town. These traditional methods still work best for building brand recognition within your community.
Focusing on local marketing is a great way to take advantage of your town or city’s small business ecosystem. Do not underestimate the purchasing power that a community has, especially when they are engaged and willing to help out local citizens. Events such as Small Business Saturday, which started in 2010, show that there is a growing sentiment and appreciation for entrepreneurs such as yourself, so take advantage of it.