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17 ways to do effective local marketing

Many small businesses are heavily dependant on local trade. This applies especially to those businesses whose services/products are geared around a physical location – ie. shops, restaurants, and tradespeople. It makes sense therefore that your marketing strategy is tailored to target the local community. This article will look at some of the best ways to do local marketing. 

What is local marketing?

This type of marketing strategy targets customers within a radius around a physical location, with marketing messages tailored to the local community. Tactics include online advertising and optimising your website to help drive foot traffic and awareness in localised areas.

Why has there been a resurgence in local marketing?

Local marketing is nothing new but the tools and opportunities have changed with the advent of digital technology. Where once a business might have carried out a flyer drop or taken out a listing in the local paper, now there’s scope to run localised digital campaigns whether that’s on Google or social media. Local marketing leverages this, giving you tools, tactics and strategies to make it easier to convert that local traffic into sales, either online or in person.

Search engines in particular have been a game changer. It is estimated that Google handles around 5.7 billion searches every day and nearly half of these are people looking for local information. It’s likely you’ve found a local business this way. 

The Google algorithm uses a searcher’s location to serve up relevant local businesses, giving your business a greater opportunity to oust non-local competitors. This isn’t a given – but there are lots of ways you can improve your visibility including running paid ads and search engine optimisation (SEO). We’ll look at some of those opportunities in this article. 

Online advertising takes up a large proportion of the below list due to the advanced targeting capabilities and cost effectiveness. As always, there’s no one-size-fits-all with marketing. Adopting a ‘test-and-refine’ approach to new marketing channels is the smartest and safest way to approach local marketing on a budget.

Google Local Services Ads

Google processes over 63,000 search queries every second on average (5.7 billion searches per day). This is a great place to begin your local marketing activity. As many as 46% of all Google searches are local. You can take advantage by targeting potential customers in your local area with pay-per-click (PPC) ads.

While the standard Google Ads should be part of your test-and-refine PPC strategy, Google also offers Local Services Ads to help you connect with local people who are searching Google. Your ads will show up for customers in your area, and you only pay if a customer contacts you directly through the ad.

Here’s how Local Service Ads will appear in relevant search results:

Local Service Ads

Target Google Ads to geographic locations

Google Ads location targeting allows your paid search campaigns to appear in the geographic locations that you choose: countries, areas within a country, a radius around a location or location groups, which can include places of interest, your business locations or tiered demographics. Location targeting helps you focus your advertising to help find the right customers for your business.

Location targeting Google Ads

This specific type of targeting could help increase your return on investment (ROI) as a result. Some great tips and best practice examples around geotargeting and local PPC can be found in this article from Wordstream, for example: 

  • Include your location name in your ads. 
  • Gain regional insights into your customers via Google Trends.
  • Change an important setting in Google Ads to avoid getting ad impressions from outside your target location. (By default, Google targets your ads not only to people within your specified target location, but also to people who are searching about your target location).

Advanced Google Ad campaigns

There are a number of additional Google ad types that can target searchers by geographic location such as Shopping ads. You can work out the best advanced ad campaigns for your businesses by inputting your marketing objectives using Google’s own planner tool.

Google Ad options

This includes options to help you:

  • increase leads
  • make sales
  • increase website traffic
  • increase local brand awareness (and more)

Google will recommend a tailored set of solutions, tools and resources to get you off to the best start.

Google My Business

If you want to get found by customers in your local area, you need to make sure you’re showing up on Google Maps results as well as the local results section of Google Search. You can do this by setting up a Google My Business profile. This is a great way to showcase your business’s best features and makes it easy for consumers to discover, learn about, and contact your business.

Informi Google My Business

Make sure you’re completing your profile with as much information as possible including:

  • Address
  • Phone number
  • Website
  • Opening hours
  • Description
  • Images

Bing

As part of your online advertising test-and-refine strategy, don’t forget there are other search engines, such as Microsoft’s Bing, that local customers could be using to search for your services.

As you can see in the image below, Microsoft Ads display in Bing in much the same way as Google Ads in Google. 

Microsoft Ads

Microsoft Ads offer location targeting, and states that local searchers are most likely to take action based on these statistics: 

  • Four in five consumers conduct local searches on search engines across PC, tablet, and mobile devices.
  • Three out of four mobile, and two out of three PC/tablet searches, result in a purchase by customers coming into brick-and-mortar stores.
  • 67% of smartphone users and 72% of PC/tablet users want ads customised with a location extension, such as an address, city or postcode.

Once you’re advertising strategically based on where your best customers are, you can boost your ad conversion rate and get a better ROI. Microsoft has some useful guides as a starting point:

 

Facebook

Connect with more people in your area to increase in-store traffic and local sales. You can promote your local business with Facebook by updating your accounts, advertising to the right people and refining your campaigns.

  • Put your store on the map: Update your Facebook Page (as well as Instagram business profile and WhatsApp business profile) with your address, business hours and contact information so people can get in touch and visit your store.
  • Advertise to local customers: Connect with more people in your area with ads on Facebook. You can advertise directly from your Facebook Page to promote your business locally. Just click or tap the Promote button at the top of your Page and choose the Promote Your Business Locally goal.
  • Measure your success: Check Facebook Ad Center directly from your Facebook Page to see how your campaign is performing. Get insights about what images and messages resonated most with your audience and learn more about the people you were able to reach with your ads.

Facebook offers a range of insightful articles for small businesses, which include: attract an audience and build relationships online, add live chat to your website with Messenger and how to get more shoppers and grow your online sales. 

Here’s a short video from Facebook for Business showing how you can build ads from your Facebook business page:

Instagram

Instagram has over 1 billion monthly active users who tend to be younger than Facebook users. Facebook owns Instagram so there’s crossover with how advertising is handled e.g. Instagram ad campaign creation and management are handled through the Facebook Ads platform. If you have a young target audience and a brand that fits the beautiful world of Instagram, then it’s worth considering an Instagram ads test targeting local users.

Instagram ad example

Encourage Whatsapp messages from targeted social media ads

Another platform owned by Facebook, you can’t actually advertise within WhatsApp directly. Facebook wanted to launch ads directly into the interface of user conversations, but users weren’t too excited about it and the project was disbanded before it was scheduled to launch in 2020. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t carry out ad campaigns within the personal messaging app at all. Using Facebook and Instagram, you can run click-to-message ads that direct people that click on the “Send Message” call to action from Facebook or Instagram to WhatsApp. A great way to begin direct communication with potential local customers. 

Click to WhatsApp ad

Add LocalBusiness schema markup to your website

LocalBusiness schema is a type of Organization structured data markup that allows any local business to provide search engines with useful information. According to schema.org there are between 500,000 to 1,000,000 domains currently using LocalBusiness schema in the world. If you consider the fact that there are over 5.6 million small businesses in the UK alone, you can begin to understand how under-utilised this markup is.

LocalBusiness schema can be used for:

  • Restaurants
  • Medical practices
  • Clubs
  • Branches of larger business such as banks and retail chains
  • And plenty more local businesses

Add your business to local directories

Listings on local directories not only contribute to your website’s SEO via relevant backlinks, but you’re increasing the visibility of your website on platforms where your local community is searching for services/solutions. Ensure your listings reflect what’s on your website and Google My Business page﹣all content and outreach must remain consistent.

Encourage Google reviews

Reviews on Google provide you and your customers valuable information about your business. Business reviews appear next to your Business Profile in Maps and Search, and this helps your business stand out on Google. Not only are reviews incredibly powerful marketing tools, but a 2017 study found that Google My Business reviews were the second most influential ranking factor for local businesses. To get reviews on Google, encourage your customers to spread the word about your business. Google provides some best practice techniques for this.

Google Review

Identify local search terms and create local content

Conduct local keyword research and ensure your website and any content you’re creating (blog posts, articles, videos, etc) are optimised for them. SEO is a long-term investment﹣you won’t see immediate results at first but keep local keywords in mind and over time you should see your natural rankings in local search begin to improve.

For example, if you’re a car dealership in London you could create content with information on local driving regulations such as the Low Emission Zones – and the types of car that are compliant. If you’re in a rural area, you could create content about the best cars for driving on country roads. 

While there are other SEO tactics you can use to improve search results, having your content optimised for local search terms is a great foundation to build from.

Distribute business cards, brochures, and flyers

Offline marketing tactics such as the distribution of printed material can still be impactful when it comes to local marketing. Display them in your physical location e.g. shop counter, hand them out in bustling local areas (ensure you have the right licence in place first) and ask if you can leave material in non-competitive businesses where your target audience might frequent e.g. coffee shops, gift shops (offering the same exposure in exchange).

Offer referral incentives

Offer discounts and benefits to those who champion your brand. Many customers will have local friends and family members, who again will know local people. Maximising referral opportunities is a smart tactic to increase your reach.

 

Become a local sponsor

Improve brand awareness by sponsoring a local team, organisation, or event.

Advertise in your local newspaper

Even though social media and news sites are extremely popular, there is still a place in the world for print publications. Is there a popular local newspaper that you could run an ad in? Run a specific offer in your ad so you can connect the ROI dots. If you specialise in an area, could you become a columnist, or a resource that the editorial team can go to for quotes on your specialist subject, as they come up?

Attend local business networking events

A great way to increase your profile and connect with local businesses and the community (even if they’re virtual at the moment).

As you can see, there are many different avenues to establishing an effective local marketing strategy for your small business, (this list is non-exhaustive but provides an efficient starting point. There are many more ideas and techniques you can put to the test!). Some might work better for others, but it’s important to keep testing and refining to work out the most cost effective combination for your business. Ensure your local marketing strategy remains agile, even when you find the right mix. Keep an eye on new techniques and platforms as we all know, nothing stays still for long in the digital world.

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