Small Business MarketingAlthough many companies have an Internet presence, so that they can do business with anyone, anywhere in the world, there are still large numbers of SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) which exist primarily to serve their local community. Small business marketing to a local community is all about trust first, results second.

Marketing and advertising costs are an essential expense, but can be a big strain on the budget of a small business, so it is important to find out which methods are most effective when it comes to reaching the local area. Online advertising is always important, but for a local business there are plenty of offline methods that can prove just as effective, if not more so.

What Constitutes Your Local Area?

First of all it is important to define what you mean by your local area — whether it is your state, your city, your suburb or your immediate neighborhood. This partly depends on what type of business you have. Some types of business serve a catchment area with a much wider radius than others. For instance the radius for a small local convenience store will be smaller than that for a garden center or a restaurant. In addition, if you have a business like plumbing, that takes its service to its customers, the distance will be less important to the customers, so the catchment area can be wider.

Small business marketing and local marketing really has two aims from the business owner’s point of view. One is to ensure that the name of your business is well known in the area and familiar to local people, so that it is the name that springs to people’s minds if they are looking for your product or service. The other is to make sure that your business will be the one people find when they are searching for your product or service, whether online or offline.

Small Business Marketing For Start Ups

If you are just starting your local business, start a word-of-mouth campaign — get your neighbors, friends, family and business associates to spread the word that your business is open. If at all possible, involve yourself in a high-profile community activity, such as sponsoring a local sports team, or supporting a charitable or voluntary project, and keep your brand name in people’s minds.

You can follow this up with arranging a leaflet drop in your defined catchment area — these drops are inexpensive and can be very effective. The key is to do this regularly — say every two weeks for the first three months. You can also take advantage of newsletters which are distributed locally, by local councils, Members of Parliament, and business networks.

Tips On Local MarketingIt is important also to use the local press, both paid local papers and free community newspapers. Your advertising needs to appear frequently in the local paper, to keep your name in front of people — try to secure a regular spot in the first few general news pages. An advertorial piece — that is a paid advertisement that looks like a news feature or article — is particularly effective, though more expensive. You can track the success of your ads by making a special offer, to be redeemed by producing the ad.

Networking Builds Relationships And Trust

One extremely effective way to get your business noticed by the local community is to join a regular networking group. By attending the meetings every week, fortnight or month you start to build relationships with other members. They begin to use your services but better yet, they recommend you to their friends, family and contacts. A trusted referral will almost always get you the client or customer. The trick to these groups is you do have to go and you do have to participate. If you do this referrals are virtually guaranteed.

Online Small Business MarketingOnline Small Business Marketing

Although traditional marketing methods are very important to raise local awareness of your brand, and are mostly not too hard on the budget, you still need if possible to drag yourself into the 21st century, for a fully effective reach. Set up a website, make sure your local address is on every page, as well as a very clear Contact Us page, and ensure your keywords include your locality and business — for instance, Lilybank plumber.

Have a map on your site, showing your local presence, and purchase a link to your map through Whereis.com. It is also really important to get a listing on Google Places, which virtually guarantees a first-page ranking for your most relevant keywords and you should also get listed on sites where people carry out local searches for particular businesses, such as truelocal.com.au, aussieweb.com.au and aussielocal.com.au.

An even more important way nowadays to ensure people can find you is via their mobiles. So make sure that your website can be viewed on a mobile phone. This is often called having a “responsive” website.

A listing in White Pages and at least a line listing in yellow pages means you can be found by customers looking for you in these mediums. Although, these days, a lot of small businesses report little activity from Yellow Pages. Most of these days go straight to Google to find solutions to our problems.

Local marketing obviously has a different emphasis from that of marketing by big multinationals or e-commerce companies. You have a part to play in your community on a personal level, and there will always be personal interaction between the customer and yourself. There will always therefore be a place for more personal methods of advertising, which make you known in your local area

However, to stay ahead of the competition you need to use as wide a range of marketing methods as your budget will allow. The important thing is to keep testing and tracking them, so that your marketing will become increasingly cost-effective over time. If you have paid for advertising and it is not working, stop doing it. Stay with what brings results. You must ask every new lead how they found out about you.

A Couple Of Final Tips On Local Marketing

And a little tip, often when they say yellow pages or Google, there is another reason. So ask a second question “What made you choose us from the list in Google/Yellow Pages/Advertising”? This question gives you more insight. It might be, a friend told them about you and they remembered your name when they saw it.

Small Business marketing is a lot easier than you think

  • Determine your target market
  • Place your advertising
  • Monitor the results very carefully
  • Rinse
  • And Repeat

And one last final tip, never stop marketing, the moment you do, your business is dead.

 

Image By: Free Digital Photos (phanlop88, renjith krishnan and jscreationzs)