How did you find your favorite coffee shop, restaurant, or antique shop?
Maybe your friends showed it to you. Maybe you just saw a nice sign and came in one time. Or maybe you saw one of their amazing marketing campaigns.
One social media ad or a blog post from an influencer can do wonders for a local business.
However, there is a problem: for local businesses, it’s often harder to find budgets for marketing activities.
They often don’t have the resources of huge commercial chains and corporations to pour them into advertising, celebrity collaborations, and so on.
Nonetheless, marketing doesn’t have to be expensive.
You’ll just have to get more creative with it.
In this article, we hope to inspire you with marketing ideas that local businesses can implement on a smaller budget – or even for free!
1. Collaborate With A Local Influencer
You might not have a budget to buy a promotional post from an Instagram blogger with 1 million followers, but micro-influencers can be just as (if not more) effective.
And who is a better candidate for collaboration than a blogger or an industry expert who lives in your area?
The problem is, how do you find such an influencer?
A simple Google search won’t do – it’ll likely show you bigger accounts and popular names and not micro-bloggers.
Besides, it’s difficult to make Google focus on a specific town for this task.
What you need here is social listening software.
Such tools are able to find accounts with any given number of followers that talk about particular topics.
In addition to that, you’re able to choose your town in the settings to make sure you only get relevant results.
You can filter your search results by the minimum and maximum amounts of followers and look through the profiles.
Choose the people you think will be a good fit and reach out to them!
You can invite them to your store and give them a tour or offer a free product.
This is a mutually beneficial collaboration. You help them create content, and they raise your brand awareness by connecting you to their audience.
- Screenshot from Awario, January 2022
Pro tip: You can also create a social listening alert with your brand name and look for the influencers mentioning your company organically.
Maybe there’s a blogger that is your regular visitor and you don’t even know it.
If that’s the case, you can foster these relationships to promote your business even further.
2. Write Your Business Into A Local Narrative
People love stories!
That’s perhaps one of the most essential parts of human experience – creating and consuming stories.
You can create a story around your brand to make it more memorable.
Create a character that would always sit in your cafe in a particular seat with this specific drink, or make up a lovely anecdote about the building your business occupies.
Sometimes you don’t even have to make up everything – you can do a little research about the town’s history and find out some unexpected and exciting stories.
Talk to the local historians, go to the archives and museums, and maybe you’ll discover something that will bring you even more clients.
- Screenshot from Tripadvisor, January 2022
Once you have the narrative, incorporate it into your brand.
Add it to your description on the website, social media, and review sites.
Create social media posts and blog posts referring to the story.
Make sure it runs through all your marketing messages so that people remember it.
3. Create Search-friendly Content About Your Town
Local SEO is a great way to get more customers. First, you bring more traffic to your website, then you get more foot traffic in your store.
However, it’s something that every business should do – so I wouldn’t call it a creative marketing idea.
The thing is, businesses tend to optimize their website for the most obvious requests; for example, “buy furniture Nashville.”
The content I’m talking about is more entertaining in nature. Its goal is to tell locals and visitors about your town and simultaneously promote your business.
Both goals should be represented in your social media posts, articles, or videos.
Lists are a great type of content here.
For example, an article about the top five coffee places in your area will be a great way to mention your business organically and give value to potential customers.
Of course, you don’t want to promote your competitors, so choose a topic that will allow for representing different businesses.
For example, you could craft an article about amazing dating spots can feature cafes, museums, and sightseeing places in one list and make sure that only your restaurant is mentioned in it.
- Screenshot from milwaukeemom.com, January 2022
Think about timing, as well.
Holiday marketing is an effective way to bring more attention to your business.
Offer some holiday-related products and activities and then publish a guide titled “What to do with your family in (town name) on (holiday name).”
This will please both the search engines and potential clients alike.
4. Join And Engage On Local Facebook Groups
- Screenshot from Facebook, January 2022
Facebook Groups are THE places your audience hangs out.
By joining a Facebook Group in your district, you kill two birds with one stone: you are able to learn more about your clients and at the same time promote your business.
The ultimate rule of promotion on Facebook Groups is to not be too sales-y.
You don’t want to post about your discounts and new offers every other day.
Even if such kind of spam is tolerated in the group, it’s unlikely to make people actually interested in your business.
What you could do instead is to initiate conversations that would allow you to bring up your business organically.
You could do it in a sneaky way from your personal account or in a more genuine way, without hiding the fact that you’re a local business owner.
A great way to do it is by actually trying to give value to the people.
For example, you are a bookstore owner and you want more locals to know about your bookstore.
You can ask people in the group if they would be interested in participating in a reading club and what kind of books they would like to read.
It doesn’t even have to be book-related: You can start a conversation about anything, for example, should you allow dogs in the store or not.
Your goal is to start a discussion that will draw attention, but be wary of controversial topics.
While they can generate a lot of buzz, you will certainly alienate a lot of people.
5. Utilize Your “Localness” In Digital Marketing
As a local business, you have an inherent advantage over corporations and chains in that it’s much harder for them to target specific locations since their shops are everywhere.
You can benefit from this by creating such hyper-focused ads yourself.
Here are some tips on how to create such ads aimed at people in your local communities:
- Use Google Search Console to find new ad group options based on what’s the driver of search impressions.
- Try including your Zip Code or name of the street in the ad and make it visible.
- Talk about the distance to your location in your targeted ads.
6. Take Care Of All The Reviews
Now, asking for reviews or monitoring your business on Yelp is not the most creative idea.
But the thing most local businesses neglect is that review sites are not the only place people talk about your business.
Social media, blogs, and forums are equally important when it comes to reviews.
Nowadays, everyone with a social media profile has an audience – even if it’s just their family and friends.
And they might post an opinion about your business.
You’re lucky if they tag you and you’ll see it – but what if you miss the post, either because they don’t tag you or because you have too many notifications?
best place for tea ☕️ time.
nak breakfast, brunch, lunch, and dinner pun boleh! 😋
📍Lisette’s Café & Bakery, Subang Jaya
Open daily (8am – 10pm) pic.twitter.com/136gNbvvTy
— Luqqyyyyyy (@luqqssssss) November 11, 2021
If it’s a positive opinion, you’re missing a marketing opportunity; you could repost it, save it, and use it in your marketing materials in the future.
If it’s a negative opinion, you’re risking a reputational crisis by ignoring it.
Use a social media monitoring tool to make sure you notice every time your company gets mentioned, both on review platforms and elsewhere.
You can choose free options; for example, a combination of Google Alerts and Tweetdeck.
Or, opt for a more robust social listening tool that offers real-time notifications, covers more online sources, and provides handy filters to organize your mentions.
7. Reach Out To Local Media
Almost every town has a local newspaper or online media, and you’d be surprised how influential they are!
While you’re creating content for your own website and social media, don’t forget to establish contact with your local media.
You can participate in the topical materials about local businesses in your town or even give commentaries on the news events – from the perspective of a local business owner.
The links on their website will be good for SEO.
In addition to that, your commentary and perspective will establish you as an active member of the community that will draw more attention to your business.
8. Dive Into Event Marketing
Speaking about the community, if your business allows it, organize an event for the locals.
Given the interconnected world we live in now, it can even be an online event if you don’t set a goal of driving customers to your physical store.
The best option is to organize an event with a purpose everyone feels connected to — maybe there’s an issue in your community that needs more attention and funding to solve it, and you could organize a charity event to highlight the issue.
You can promote the event on local Facebook Groups or run social media ads.
During the event try to communicate with new people and establish connections.
That way people will feel welcome and will be enticed to come again.
You can even set up a series of events or regular meetings to get a long-running marketing effect.
9. Run A Social Media Contest
Christmas is one of the most popular holidays in the world for many reasons, but one of them is non-stop gift giving. People love gifts!
While your customers are not your friends or family, you can try handing out small presents to promote your business.
One way to boost foot traffic to your business is to launch a contest. You could promote it through social media and your website.
For example, you could suggest that the first 20 people that come to your place on a specific day will get their product or service for free.
This tactic works great for newly opened businesses that need to get the word going.
10. Form A Local Partnership
As a local businessperson, you’re a part of the community.
Try to establish relationships with other local business owners.
This will not only help you have a support network to consult and exchange experience with.
Regular communication with other businesses gives you a lot of promotional opportunities.
You may discover local brands and businesses that perfectly supplement and support your brand while targeting similar audiences. Consider offering them cross-promotional opportunities.
This tactic kills two birds with one stone: on one hand, you’re raising your brand awareness and utilizing the goodwill of your partners.
On the other hand, by establishing these relationships, you’re building a support network for local businesses, a community that can represent your interests.
You can start by connecting and engaging with local businesses on social media.
Try running offers for bundles with both of your products, promoting in each other’s stores, and organizing events together.
These 10 tips are great to use as jumping-off points for your local business.
Use your strength and the resources available. The power of community can be much more effective than money poured into advertising.
Featured Image: Sammby/Shutterstock