27 Effective Ways for Small Businesses to Promote Locally

Learning how to promote your business locally can be summarized by the cliché of “easier said than done.” Of course, this is the case for just about every business, whether you’re marketing a local business or one that’s national. Promoting a local business, however, is arguably a more intimate process. To win business in your community, you need to gain their trust on a personal level first, considering that your next door neighbor could be your customer.

Developing a local small business marketing plan is key to succeeding. Following the 7 P’s of marketing can help you identify what you want your business to be, who it serves in your community and how you should determine your pricing and go-to-market strategy. Below, we’ll break down some of the best tactics local businesses can use to increase local awareness, become part of the community and grow as a result.

What to Do Before You Promote a Local Business

Local, small business success typically means having the support of your community. As business author and speaker Mark Schaefer shares in his book, Marketing Rebellion, it’s important to be “of” a community as opposed to simply being “in” one. While small businesses may not have the same reach or budgets that major corporations have, in today’s market, that may be an advantage. Considering how important it is for your potential customers to feel like you belong, here are a few ways to introduce you and your business:

1. Introduce Yourself

This might sound very basic but the simple act of meeting your neighbors — both as a resident and as a business owner — humanizes your business and makes it more intriguing. Being available and personable also makes creating relationships so much easier; you never know when you might need your neighbor in the future or vice versa.

2. Spend Time Locally

You can’t be part of the community if you’re not invested in the success of the greater public. Take time to explore the shops around town, read the newspaper, attend a high school sporting event and dine at local restaurants. Each activity will give you a greater sense of how the residents like to spend their time and money, while also giving you a sense of what truly matters to the community at large.

3. Turn Strangers Into Neighbors

As a business owner, you will undoubtedly spend a significant amount of your time talking to people. Even if you’ve been in your community for years, the more people you interact with, the more likely it is that residents will tell their friends and neighbors about you and your business.

Establishing this groundwork will be helpful as you promote your business locally. While marketing a local business comes with a group of unique challenges, there are plenty of avenues to advance your business.  

How to Succeed at Local Business Marketing

Local business marketing success can be many different things. To cover it most effectively, we broke down tactics by aligning efforts that fit best across community connections, digital marketing and advertising.

7 Ways to Be Present in Your Community

Learning how to be “of” a community requires one essential element—time. Yes, local business marketing does ultimately require monetary investment but putting time into the community is the best way to understand it truly. Here are seven ways you can become part of the community at large.

1. Introduce Yourself to Fellow Businesses

Whether you’re the new kid in town or you’re welcoming a new addition, putting a face to a name is a great way to personalize your business.

2. Join the Local Chamber of Commerce

Chambers of Commerce exist for one reason—to help businesses grow. Belonging to a Chamber of Commerce includes the benefit of being listed in the chamber directory. Local networking and discovering potential partnership opportunities you may not otherwise find.  

3. Attend a Local Event

Being involved in events happening in your area, whether it’s business related or just for fun, demonstrates how much you care about your community. Your presence shows how much you value the efforts made by others to enhance the lives of everyone in the region.

4. Sponsor a Youth Activity

Local Little Leagues, bands and academic events are always in need of willing sponsors. While they might not be the greatest reach for your business, sponsoring activities for kids shows parents (and the public at large) how committed your business is to supporting these interests.

5. Sponsor an Event

Much like sponsoring a youth competition, sponsoring a local event puts your business into a class of local business that cares about the region as a whole—plus the increased visibility it provides is great for building brand awareness.

6. Host an Event

Putting on an event for your community is as much about your neighbors as it is about increasing brand awareness. Regardless of the type of event, the advantage for you is that your organization gets to set the agenda, while attendees benefit by learning more about your values, services and team members.

7. Volunteer

Keeping a community running smoothly is a tall order, no matter its size. From participating in a park cleanup to volunteering as a poll worker during local elections, being involved civically gives you an excellent opportunity to learn more about the general public and how you best promote your local business.

12 Digital Marketing Tactics Your Local Business Can Use Immediately

Through online marketing, your business can promote itself in numerous ways without advertising  (we’ll get to advertising in the next section). We’ve collected a dozen ways your business can improve or introduce Internet marketing to your local business.

1. List Your Business

Considering that more than 72 percent of consumers who conduct local searches eventually go to stores within a five-mile radius, registering your business online is crucial in today’s environment. You can register your business with Google for free, here.

2. Increase Your Reviews

Eighty-four percent of Americans say online customer evaluations influence their purchase decisions. While Google is most likely to provide the most immediate boost to your business, having reviews on Yelp, TripAdvisor and/or Trustpilot can help provide a “reputational shortcut” to better business results. Make the review process simple for your customers by delivering straightforward instructions, physically or through a hyperlink.

3. Learn About SEO

Being found online starts with the basics of website optimization. This includes addressing low hanging fruit opportunities like verifying that each page on your site has proper titles, meta descriptions and keywords in place. While popular site builders like Wix, Squarespace and Shopify have out-of-the box SEO solutions to get you started, you will need to do some adjusting to have the most positive impact on your business.

4. Use Email Marketing

With an average return of $38 for every $1 spent, email marketing is the reigning champion of digital marketing for most businesses. One of the best features of building and leveraging an email list is how much you’re able to decipher about your customers. You can share exclusive promotions, ask for feedback and promote your local business in a scalable, one-to-one platform that allows you to engage in a direct, private manner.

5. Start a Newsletter

In conjunction with your email program, a newsletter is a great way to market your local business. Establishing an email newsletter lets you highlight different aspects of your business, whether it’s a new product line, timely information or any other type of engaging company news. Your newsletter is a great tool to attract more customers as long as it is beneficial for your target audience.

6. Leverage Facebook

While email marketing is a tried and true digital marketing channel, Facebook is the relatively new 800-pound gorilla. With nearly 250 million daily active users on the platform (including large swaths of the coveted 25-44 age demographic), Facebook provides a way for businesses to highlight what they’re doing daily. It can be used however you like, though high-quality images and posts that generate spirited debate typically drive the most engagement for today’s users.

7. Promote on Instagram

Since September of 2015, Instagram has been one of the fastest growing applications on the market, reaching one billion users in June of 2018. For local businesses, Instagram is a simple way to reach a younger demographic that is seeking to absorb the world visually. With features like Stories and IGTV, it is a great way to showcase the different activities your business is engaged with.

8. Learn How Twitter Can Benefit You

Twitter is social media’s cardboard box. With a little imagination, it can be anything you want or need it to be. Twitter’s greatest strength is its flexibility and its power to unite people around a specific interest, topic or event. For a local business, Twitter can be a tool that allows you to participate in conversations that directly align with your industry, location and everything in between.

9. Watch YouTube Closely

As the second largest search engine next to Google, YouTube is not a tool to be forgotten. In 2015, time on YouTube increased by 74%, a staggering number that every business owner needs to be aware of. Just as other social networks can provide comprehensive and behind-the-scenes information and details with customers, YouTube is an excellent platform to house in-depth video content that educates, entertains and engages.

10. Use Live Video

“Going live” is a useful promotional tactic for a variety of reasons, not to mention one being that social networks typically send push notifications to users when your account begins a live video. Whether you’re providing step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect homemade pizza, or the best way to teach a dog how to roll over, the authenticity of a live video adds depth to the medium. Once completed, your video can then be exported to other social platforms as well as your website.

11. Participate in Private Groups

Since late 2013, social media has seen a sharp rise in the use of private messaging apps and groups. With more than half of Facebook’s user base participating in one or more Groups—a 40% increase between 2017 and 2018—the likelihood that your neighbors and customers are involved in a relevant local group is very high. Creating your exclusive group is also an attractive option for marketing local business. Much like email, this type of communication gives you the ability to have public or private conversations that can benefit your business down the line.

12. Be a Podcast Guest

Edison Research’s annual report, The Infinite Dial, has been covering the rise in podcasts for more than a decade. Each year has seen listener rates climb to include more than a quarter of the population, meaning that there is a one in four chance that your customers are listening to podcasts. Like any media, producing a show can become challenging for a host who is always on the hunt for good topics, talent and stories. When you have something special to promote, reach out to podcasters (with influence) in your community and let them know what you have on deck.

8 Ways Advertising Can Promote Your Business Locally

Leveraging advertising to improve your local business with online marketing is one of the most efficient and direct ways to reach your goals. While there is an upfront investment to some of these channels, we’ve put together a variety of advertising options to help you promote business locally.

1. Search

When consumers search for your specific product or service (or have a question about your industry), you want them to come to you first. Using tools like Google Adwords and Bing Ads, you can make sure they at least see your business first. Depending on the current level of competition in your industry and/or location, a bid on a relevant keyword or phrase can cost anywhere between a few cents per click to more than $50 in highly competitive industries.

2. Social

Total social media advertising spending still has a ways to go to catch up to its counterparts in search, but thanks to the amount of data users have shared, their ad platforms are attractive to businesses of any size. Local businesses looking to reach their target customers can build audiences focused on interests, behavior and even their on-site activity. One of the biggest advantages of social advertising is that there are no minimums or maximums to any campaigns you create.

3. TV

While YouTube continues to encroach on TV’s reign as top dog, TV still has the greatest reach when it comes to total audience. Promoting your business locally on television can be a cost-effective move, as well. Depending on the market, broadcast time, season and program, local TV ads run anywhere from $200 to $2,000 and up.  

4. Radio

Just as TV has seen a decline in reach, terrestrial radio still is one of the favorite forms of information and entertainment across the country. Whether it’s being consumed in the car, in the shop or  the home, 93 percent of American adults still listen to radio in some form or fashion. Depending on your location, local radio advertising can cost anywhere between $200 to $5,000 per week.

5. Podcasting

Some of the most popular podcasts have turned small brands into household names (take MailChimp, for example). Podcasts are typically consumed as a passive medium, meaning that your entire ad is more likely to be heard. It’s common for a podcast to command anywhere from $20 to $60 per 1000 listeners. For example, this means that if a podcast had 250,000 regular listeners and charged a $30 cost per thousand listeners, the total charge for the ad would be $7,500.

6. Newspapers

While more readers consume news digitally, roughly half of the American population still relies exclusively on print to get their news. This is significant to note, as clearly there is still an audience to be reached through print media. For smaller papers, ads begin around $500 while larger publications command more than $100,000 for some pages.

7. Billboards

Wherever you are driving throughout the country, you are bound to see a billboard. Indeed, you will see plenty of national brands promoted, but often, billboards are a great advertising vehicle for promoting local businesses. Billboards rotate every four weeks with pricing ranging from $300 to $50,000, depending on size, location and duration.

8. Restaurant Placemats

Think about it—how many times have you been to a restaurant and looked through each and every business who has paid to have their brand name stained by coffee, ketchup and other types of grease? There is, perhaps, nothing more endearing than to see the businesses and owners who are proud to live and work in a community reflected on a simple paper placemat. When it comes to learning how to market locally, this might be one of the most overlooked and fun things you could do with your marketing budget.

Executing Your Local Small Business Marketing Plan

Now that you have learned a handful of tactics for achieving your local business goals, it is time to put your ideas to the test. Once you have established who your target audience is and how you provide value to them, it is time to determine which tactics fit your community best.

Because promoting a local business can be full of trial and error, this piece focused on tactics that can easily be adjusted as necessary. Be confident with each decision you make on behalf of your business; after all, you are not only striving to grow your business but also to better your community.

The role of a local business is one that changes constantly, but with the proper community outreach efforts and the right promotional plan, your business can become a constant, as well.