Local Marketing For Local Businesses
What do you do when you need something new? Chances are, you reach for your smartphone, and you’re not alone. More people than ever are using their mobile devices to shop and access information. According to an article in Time:
- Almost 70% of Amazon shoppers access their site on a smartphone or tablet,
- More 50,000 billion of Google’s 100,000 monthly searches come from a mobile device
- More than 70% of Wal-Mart’s website visits are from a smartphone
- Almost half of Wal-Marts online orders over Thanksgiving weekend were made on a mobile device
It’s not news that our shopping habits have changed. As people find it easier, and often less expensive, to turn to online retailers, local retailers frequently find themselves struggling to both maintain customers and get new ones. You can read more about this in a recent Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article: After holidays, stores re-evaluate strategies.
How do you market to people who live down the street, but don’t bother to walk into your doors – or even know you exist?
Make it Personal
Local business owners have an advantage that online retailers, and even big box retailers, simply don’t have. You can make it personal. Know your customers. Recognize repeat customers. Make people feel welcome when they come into your place of business. Often, when I walk into a small local business, one of two things happens: the employee either treats me as though I am being a bother, or they are so desperate to make a sale that they are overbearing. What I’m asking you to do is make your customers feel comfortable. Be attentive, but not overly attentive.
While you can’t know the name of every customer, get to know their faces. Welcome them when they come in. Make notes of their preferences. Make your shop the one that they become loyal to. Those personal connections will not only pay off in the long run, but they will make you and your customers happier. Don’t forget the most powerful type of marketing – word of mouth. When your customers are loyal fans, they will convert their friends and family too.
Digitize Your Marketing
Some small businesses don’t see the value in digital marketing. Either they think they can’t afford it, they don’t feel comfortable with it, or they think it won’t reach their customers. I’m here to tell you that every business can benefit from digital marketing.
I’m not saying that traditional marketing has no place in today’s marketing plan, just that you need to determine your needs. In most cases, particularly for small local businesses, digital marketing is more effective, particularly considering that someone usually needs to see an ad seven times before they take action. That goal is much easier to reach on a digital platform that someone visits again and again, over a newspaper they read once.
Digital also allows you to spread your message across various platforms. Your campaign can utilize Facebook ads, Target ads, search engine marketing, redirected ads, and native advertising, for example, and they are exposed to your message repeatedly. This makes it is not only easier to reach your customers, but less expensive than traditional means.
Target Your Marketing Efforts
Digital marketing makes reaching the right group of people (your target audience) easier than ever. Since we leave a large digital footprint everywhere we go online, you can target people more precisely than ever.
Let’s say you are a wedding photographer and you are targeting brides who are getting married in the next 6-12 months, for which you are booking right now. You look at traditional advertising and digital marketing.
Traditional – The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review’s Sunday newspaper circulation is 193,528. Since you want to get your information in front of brides, you place an ad in the Lifestyle section. How many of those 193,528 people look at the Lifestyle section? Of those, how many are brides? And the most important question – how many times did they see your ad? This question we can answer – once, in most cases.
Digital – Advertising on Facebook allows you to find a specific audience: women, ages 25-35, living in your area, who are engaged. You can set your budget to anything you want (making this form of advertising more flexible as well), and only pay for views (impressions) or clicks. Facebook also gives you analytics so you can see the results of your ad, and even make changes as needed.
You can see how digital marketing can be more efficient and even more useful since you have the ability to view which ads perform the best, and which platforms work better for you.
Go Where They Are
Where does your audience spend their days? That’s where you need to be, whether it is online or in real life. While I don’t believe marketing needs to be intrusive, if you are sitting in your shop waiting to be discovered, you’re going to be sadly disappointed. That’s why I advocate for thoughtful and responsible marketing.
Some market research can help you in determine where to advertise. There are a few ways you can do this. Of course, the online survey is a popular method, and it can certainly be useful. Another great way to learn more about your customers is to ask them. I’m not talking about asking every one of your customers, “What do you do every day,” but by getting to know them, you will start to learn about their daily lives. As you chat with your customers, jot down some notes. This type of informal marketing research an be very valuable, and it helps you connect with your customers too.
Once you have a better idea of where to find your customers (or future customers, since there’s a good chance they go to the same places as your current customers), you can start focusing your marketing dollars on those places. That might be Facebook, but it might also be the local library.
One of the best things about owning a local business is serving your community. That’s where I like to start – how can I help you? – and it’s a core value at Little Birdie Communications. For example, I teach classes on social media not to market myself, but to help other people. However, I also recognize that it’s a good marketing opportunity. The marketing comes secondary and is not the purpose, but sometimes a result. And that’s not a bad thing.
How can you give back? Here’s a list of ideas:
- Teach a class (for free) at the local library, community center, church, school, etc. I bet every single company out here has knowledge that they can share for an hour.
- Sponsor a local kids’ sports team.
- Donate a much-needed item to a local organization. Libraries need new books and computers, schools need sports equipment, churches need new carpeting, children’s hospitals need toys.
- Provide treats to the teachers at a local school.
- Provide snacks at a neighborhood event such as a community day, fourth of July parade, or light up night.
- Hold a canned goods drive for the local food bank.
- Hold a toy drive during the holiday season.
- Spend one working day a year with your employees volunteering together. You can volunteer with Habitat for Humanity, clean up a park, or cheer up sick kids.
Here’s a real-world example. My son’s Cub Scout Pack needed a new Pinewood Derby track. One of the dads in the pack owns an electric company and offered to contribute to the track. In exchange the pack displays a sign with his company’s name on it at the annual derby. In addition, I will always use his services because I have a connection with him and his company.
Also keep in mind how your business can be leveraged in the list of ideas above. If you own a sporting good store, donating sporting goods to the local school is a great way to make a connection with the service, but also allows you to utilize your company’s resources. You have the ability to purchase sporting goods for less than a customer.
One more note to add here – you cannot and should not expect anything in exchange for your service. Do it out of goodwill because you are a part of the community. Don’t offer the service and ask the organization to do something in return. In most cases, they will simply because they want to thank you. That could be in the form of a mention in their newsletter or a sign with your business’ name. But they might not. And that’s OK. Simply doing things for the right reasons will actually make you and your employees happier, and who doesn’t want to be happier?
Not all marketing needs to be paid marketing. Social media is a great way to connect with your customers, and it only costs time (which can mean an employee’s paid time, of course). After you’ve determined where you audience is online, be sure you have a regular presence there. People are more often using social media to communicate with businesses, and having a presence there shows your customers that you are listening.
I do suggest having a Facebook Page, a Twitter account, and a Google+ page for your business. If you can’t be active on all three, pick one. If it’s not Twitter, you can go ahead and create an account to reserve your name. It often makes the most sense to set up a Facebook Page first, since most people are more familiar with Facebook. There’s a good chance that your audience is there, so it makes a good first step into your business’ social media presence.
Don’t Get Overwhelmed
I know I just gave you a good deal of information, but please don’t let that overwhelm you. Don’t do it all at once. Pick one, and try it out. You are better off doing one type of marketing well than doing 10 kinds of marketing poorly.
If you are feeling really overwhelmed, I’m am here to help you! You can contact me several ways, whichever way works best for you:
I would love to hear from you!
Until next time,