Q: What percentage of local businesses spend more than $500 per month on marketing?
A: Less than 30%
That means most local businesses (maybe even you) have an extremely limited budget set aside to grow their customer base – if they even set money aside at all.
It makes sense that most small business owners are working with scarce marketing budgets, but they still need customers to walk through their doors. So how do you attract new customers while being sensible about the bottom line? Simply put, localize and strategize.
What Kind of Strategy Do I Need?
Without careful planning, business owners can feel like they’re throwing spaghetti at the wall just to see what sticks. The strategy you use directly affects the success of any local marketing campaigns you run. Before a campaign begins, identify who it is you’re targeting and what results you consider as wins. If not, how else will you know if it was worth the money and effort?
Having a clear plan allows you to assess where you are in the process and where you want to be. By tracking and measuring your growth and tweaking future campaigns, you’ll be closer to your goal in a quicker time frame
What’s working for your competition? A helpful and fast way to understand what’s working (or what’s not) for your direct competition is to see what marketing tactics they’re employing. You may build confidence in what you’re doing, or find inspiration for your own strategy. Of course, it's not about playing copycat, but rather understanding what works and what doesn’t work for your particular area and industry. If you don’t have a direct competitor in your city, check out other communities across the nation similar to yours in size and demographic. You can learn a lot by watching what the local service providers in your field are doing there and bring it back to try it out in your own market.
Local Marketing Focus
Now that you’ve done your research on the marketing strategies employed by your competition, you can focus completely on your own customers and how best to reach them.
The sooner you create a strategy to get in front of local ideal customers, the sooner you will see a return on your efforts.
Before you say “print is dead,” we have some staggering facts to share. According to Businesswire, 90% of adults in the U.S. read print magazines. And the ads in those publications motivate 35% of readers to take action. Print ads, placed in publications where readers are engaged and invested in the material, are intentional. The ads are part of an experience – therefore they are expected and welcomed. This type of marketing can be done well, especially if the magazine is hyper-targeted to a specific audience that is generally hard to reach otherwise. The N2 Company, our parent company, has spent nearly 20 years perfecting products that engage readers in a unique way and help local businesses reach their ideal clients. Print can be a creative brand awareness strategy for local businesses who want to reach certain people in a targeted way.
Search Engine Optimization should be an important part of your online marketing plan. This is especially true for local businesses, because SEO will help you stand out online when potential clients search the web for services they need in your area. Don’t panic – this really is something everyone can learn to do! The best ways to increase your searchability online are writing blog posts, consistent posting on social media, sharing video content, and having a navigable (and mobile-friendly!) website focusing on key phrases your ideal customer will search for. Pretend you’re a potential customer and need to find a local provider. Using Google (as most people do), search for your needs and then see what comes up. If your business isn’t coming up at the top, see what search terms and phrases your competitor is using in order to rank above you on the list. This is a good place to start when adding keywords and search terms to your blog posts, landing pages, etc.
If done right, social media can be one of your biggest assets as a local business owner. Intentionality is key here: Set aside time each month to plan out your content in a posting schedule. If you’re stumped about what to post, research topics and questions your customers have. What do they ask you in your store, or what do people have questions about when they call? Address those topics first. And when you have the content ready, learn what days and times people are most active on social platforms like Facebook and Instagram. You’re only trying to reach a certain group of people, so finding what’s unique to your customers and their habits will eventually help with their engagement and interaction on your pages. The goal is to be seen as an expert in your field, not just as a service provider!
According to Hubspot, email newsletters generate $38 for every $1 spent. So get your wheels turning! Kind of like generating social content, the trick for email marketing is consistency plus authority. Help solve a problem for your audience. If you can provide valuable content and create a connection, your email subscribers will become customers.
If you’re not regularly checking for online reviews and using them in your marketing strategy, you should be. Before trying out a new company or service, most people do their research. Reviews are one of the biggest factors in deciding whether or not to do business with a company. In fact, most consumers say online reviews mean the same to them as recommendations from friends. So make sure you monitor your reviews (both good and bad) and respond to all of them. Have a follow-up strategy to keep past customers engaged and excited to leave you 5 stars on Google, Facebook, or Yelp. And don’t forget to use those glowing reviews as testimonials for your website, social media, and email newsletters.
We’ve covered a lot in this article, but don’t worry. A strategic plan for your business can always be perfected and we’re here to champion you in finding and reaching the right people to become loyal, returning clients. Between setting your expectations and strategy, deciding how to utilize print and social, and maximizing your online reach, you can start today by implementing one or two of these tips. Best of luck in business!