How to Promote Your Business LocallySherri Bohman
So, you’re looking to grow your local business by capturing new customers. The question is, how do you outperform your competition while generating attention and bringing back your existing customers?
In this guide, you’ll learn how to promote your business locally with 5 proven strategies and tactics. You’ll learn how to serve your community, bring them together and tap into the power of other people’s audiences.
1. Educate & add value to your community
As a local business, you’re going to attract two types of customers:
- Those who live within your local community
- People who are visiting and looking to fill a need/want
This section is dedicated to the former group. Customers in your local community will come back to you again and again.
So, what’s the best way to capture more customers within your local community and keep them coming back?
The answer: Keep adding value beyond what you sell them.
There are many ways to do this. The first (and most obvious) is to create a blog. Here, you can share news and information about your community. You can also create how-to articles relevant to your business.
For example, a local music venue could create a guide on the best restaurants in the area. Or a local electrician could create a checklist of electrical pitfalls and hazards to look out for when buying a house.
Colorado yoga studio CorePower Yoga does a great job of adding value through their blog. They clearly know the topics that their target market is interested in, which is proven in the content they create:
The post above, “How-To Clean Your Aura,” is an example of Top-of-Funnel content. These are topics that interest your audience, but don’t necessarily talk about your business directly. Here’s a process to follow when creating digital content for your local website:
- Know your audience: Why do your customers do business with you? What relevant challenges do they face in their lives/businesses day-to-day? Figure out ways you can add more value by talking to them.
- Plan your topics: Start brainstorming different topics based on your findings. This can include news from within your community to how-to articles like CorePower Yoga’s.
- Get writing: First, get yourself a blog. I highly recommend hosting this on your own website using WordPress. Then, create an outline of the subsections you want to cover. Then it’s just a matter of writing!
- Promote your content: Don’t make the mistake of letting your content collect dust. Share your content on your social media accounts. Reach out to other business owners in the area to get their thoughts. Send to your email list and get your content directly into your customer’s hands.
As a local business, digital content isn’t the only medium to try. You should also consider running local events and workshops that bring your customers and community together.
For example, you could run an event that brings similar (but non-competing) businesses in your area together to raise awareness around your industry.
You could even test a workshop or panel format, bringing local “thought leaders” together. For a yoga company, this could mean bringing other fitness and nutrition experts to share their advice to the local community.
Nick Trueman, founder of digital marketing agency Spec Digital, runs monthly workshops to bring his target audience together under one roof. Each session focuses on specific topics and aims to educate his audience:
Think about who you could collaborate with. Look for other local businesses, and search Instagram for local influencers in your area to work with on adding more value to your community.
2. Optimize your Google My Business listing
According to GeoMarketing, “where to buy” searches on mobile devices increased by 85% since 2015.
This means your customers are using their mobile devices to find your business. So, how do you increase your chances of being found?
For local businesses, having a strong Google My Business listing is foundational to success. On the Google results page, you’ll appear on the maps listing along with snippets (such as reviews):
If you haven’t done so already, head to the Google My Business page and click the green “Start Now” button to set up your own listing. Follow the steps and enter all the necessary information.
Need a helping hand to make your listing as effective as possible? Follow this quick checklist:
- Enter all your basic information: This includes your business name, address, delivery area (if applicable), phone number and website.
- Add additional information: This includes your business category, store code, opening hours and as many attributes as possible e.g. wheelchair accessible.
- Upload photos and imagery: Add as many relevant images as possible. This can include a photo of your storefront, the inside of your store, products, food/drink and employees.
- Video: Include any relevant videos (if you have any). These can be animated or direct-to-camera, explaining how your business helps your customers. You’ll learn more about video later in this article.
- Start generating reviews: It’s not 100% certain if reviews contribute to your search ranking, but the evidence is compelling. Ask your customers to leave a review everytime they buy something from you or visit your in-store.
Having this information in place will make for a more engaging “branded search” experience. By this, I mean the information that people see when they search for your business:
3. Identify & nurture local advocates
Word-of-mouth can be a tremendous free source of new customers. However, not all word-of-mouth marketing is equal:
- Referrals happen when people recommend your business to their friends and family
- Advocates are people who rave about your business
It’s likely you have a handful of business advocates already, you just might not know it. So, how do you find them?
The first method is to look at the data you own on your customers. A customer relationship management (CRM) platform should provide everything you need. Simply crunch the data by filtering or ordering customers by frequency or number of times they’ve purchased.
If you’re not collecting customer data, now’s the time. There are several platforms that can help you do this:
- Pipedrive: A tool for salespeople to help them manage deals and customer relationships
- Belly: A digital loyalty platform for brick-and-mortar businesses
- Shopify: An ecommerce platform with POS capabilities
Then there’s social media. You may have customers who love what you have to offer. They may also have a large following within your community.
To find them, head over to Instagram. Then, simply search for your business name and look at the top posts:
Look for those who have shared content who also have a large number of followers:
Once you’ve identified potential advocates, you need to create a referral program that rewards them. For example, offer them a monetary discount off their meals for every new customer they refer.
If you’re going down the “influencer marketing” route, you can work with advocates to create content for their audience. Remunerate advocates with free products/services or a monetary amount.
Make sure you communicate the benefits of your advocacy program with your customers. Include a page on your website, and send an email out to the top 20% of your customers, letting them know they “qualify” to be a part of your program.
Yoga brand Lululemon does a great job of this. They celebrate their community, helping them grow their own businesses and empower them to run brand-backed workshops:
4. Create a joint venture network
What’s the fastest way to grow your own customer base?
Borrow somebody else's.
Partnerships, business development, joint ventures - whatever you call them, they’re extremely valuable.
There’s likely a group of companies in your local area that share your ideal customer without being in direct competition. For example, if you’re a real estate broker, potential joint venture targets include:
- Interior designers
- Landscape gardeners
And the list goes on. Here’s a quick and easy process to get started with joint ventures:
Step 1: Identify Potential Partners
Start by brainstorming a list of industries, services and products that your customers have a need for and are relevant to your own business. Then, run a Google search for those types of businesses in your area.
Look at the paid, maps and organic listings. Here’s an example for ads when searching for “interior designers boulder:”
And here’s what it looks like on Google Maps:
Next, find the business owners or person in charge of marketing at those companies. LinkedIn can be a great tool for this purpose:
Step 2: Create an offer they can’t refuse
Great joint ventures provide a win-win-win scenario for all parties. The third “win” is for the customers.
First, figure out what you’re trying to achieve. Are you looking to get more customers, generate more brand awareness, or expand your reach on social media?
Once you’ve defined your goal, audit what you can offer your potential partners. This could include:
- Access to your database of 10,000 customers
- Content/events for your blog
- Your social media audience
- New products or services they can offer their customers
Oftentimes, you’ll work together on hitting several of these goals at once. Be clear on what these are.
The power of partnering up with several companies is in the network effect. If three, five or even ten companies are teaming up, then that expands your addressable market and creates compounding trust in your overlapping customers.
Step 3: Reach out
You now know what you want to achieve and what you can offer your potential partners. It’s time to reach out.
There are several ways you can do this:
- Write a direct mail to their business address
- Reach out via email
- Send a message on LinkedIn
- Call their headquarters
You may even wish to use several of these in a sequence, just like a salesperson would in their sales process. Once you’ve started the conversation, you’ll need to negotiate and bring to the table exactly what you can do for them. This should also be communicated in your outreach.
As you can see, the process is reasonably straightforward, but it may take some time. Business owners are busy, and negotiation can often take weeks. However, it’s still one of the best channels for new customers we know.
5. Create visual content for social media
Did you know that 64% of customers are more likely to buy from a brand after watching a video?
Indeed, visual content is the cornerstone of any good social media marketing campaign. This is especially true for local businesses.
Photography, illustrations and videos are great for showcasing your business to new and existing customers. You can use it to add value, tempt people to come in to your restaurant and show off your culture.
Let’s explore these forms of visual content, and how you can use them in your social media marketing strategy:
Visual #1: Photography
If your business is active on Instagram, high-quality photographs are one of the best types of content you can create.
For example, adventure brand Huckberry uploads high-quality photos of their products “in the field,” as well as their brick-and-mortar store in New York:
You don’t need fancy equipment to take high-quality photographs. These days, most smartphones come with great cameras built-in.
Struggling to think of what to snap? Here are a few ideas:
- New products/menu items
- Celebrate your team by showing them in action
- Your products “in the field”
- Showcase your customers by photographing them in your store or city
Try your best to make your photos as high-quality as possible. This means people/products in the perfect pose, and perhaps even a little touch-up in Adobe Lightroom. Not sure how to use photo editing software? Find someone on Fiverr to do it for you.
Visual #2: YouTube videos
According to Search Engine Journal, YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world. While it may not be the best source of new customers for local businesses, it can sure go a long way in keeping existing ones.
If a picture paints a thousand words, a video paints a million. It’s the perfect way for small businesses to educate and entertain their customers.
For example, Luxy Hair uses their channel to share hair and beauty tutorial videos:
Again, you don’t need expensive equipment to get started with video marketing. A smartphone and some decent natural light will do. If you need some inspiration, check out some of these examples:
- New product/service announcements
- Tutorial videos
- Showcase your business, team and culture
- Tell entertaining and emotion-driven stories
The last suggestion on the list is the most powerful. As humans, we resonate with stories, and connect with them on a deeper level than facts alone. Just look at this example from Land Rover, which makes us feel they’re not trying to sell us anything at all:
Visual #3: Infographics
Infographics is one of the best ways to organize data in a visually beautiful manner. For example, this infographic from WebFX illustrates the data behind “Music and Productivity:”
As you can see, it’s a fun way to visualize complex ideas and information. Other people also love sharing them, which is great for your social media and SEO efforts.
Here are some ideas for your infographic efforts:
- Illustrate data points around a specific idea
- Visualize a checklist in a creative way
- Lay out charts and graphs in an organized manner
Once you’ve created your infographic, be sure to share it with publications within your local area and industry. Journalists and webmasters love featuring this form of content.
As you can see, we’ve shared several ideas for you to capture new customers and entice existing ones back to your business.
Now it’s your turn: How are you currently serving your local community while converting them into customers? Share your experiences in the comments below.
Feature Image: Unsplash/Robert Bye
Image 1: via CorePower Yoga
Image 2: via Digital Workshop
Image 3: via Google
Image 4: via Google
Image 5: via Instagram
Image 6: via Instagram
Image 7: via Lululemon
Image 8: via Google
Image 9: via Google
Image 10: via Linkedin
Image 11: via Instagram
Image 12: via WebFX
Sherri has over 7 years of business development and marketing experience in industries ranging from financial services and healthcare to her current focus in martech. She has her MBA in marketing and entrepreneurship from the University of Texas and is the Product Marketing lead for advertising solutions at Web.com.