Small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economy. They drive economic growth and are the foundation of the American dream. Unfortunately, small businesses are on an uneven playing field with large corporations. One of the main reasons they are disadvantaged is that small businesses lack access to substantial financial resources for marketing. That is why entrepreneurs need to be very selective in how they invest their limited marketing dollars when choosing affordable strategies that prove to be successful. A focus on local marketing activities in local communities is one such strategy. Let’s take a look at the best tactics that help small businesses get the most out of local marketing. Why Is Local Marketing Important? Google’s algorithm uses a searcher’s location to serve up relevant local businesses. In other words, it shows businesses that are in closest proximity to the searcher. This means that your local business has more of an opportunity to outrank nonlocal competitors in local search results. Question #1. How Do I Rank Higher in Google Local Search? First and foremost, create a Google My Business listing. Second, optimize your Google My Business listing. It is one of the most important SEO activities a small business owner can do, according to BrightLocal studies. The best part is there is no cost to create a Google My Business listing, and the benefits are enormous. It boosts local search visibility, attracts more customers and ramps up sales. All you need to do to get started is to diligently complete all of the sections of the Google My Business profile, add pictures and encourage customers to post reviews. However, it is not a one-time task. To be successful, you need to treat your Google My Business profile as your website and not as just another directory listing. This means you need to constantly update it with fresh information. Question #2. Are Web Directories Still Relevant? Submission of your business name, address and phone number (NAP) info to local directories is another high-value activity that helps with local SEO. If your information is not correct or not consistent across the web, it actually can hurt your visibility in search. Google is unsure as to how much trust can be placed in business with incorrect directory data. To make sure your business information is correct, Google relies on dozens of sites to cross-reference and reconfirm NAP data. There are hundreds of directories out there, including industry-specific and local niche directories. For example, you can list your business for free in the Greater Indianapolis business directory. You will get up to four pages for your free listing profile with an option to collect reviews from customers. Here is an example of a free business listing. It usually takes quite a bit of time to submit your info in each one of these directories manually. Luckily, there are services that submit information to most online directories in an automatic manner: Build Local Citations & Boost Your Local Rankings with BrightLocal From Only $2 Per Site! If you want to know the quality of your Google My Business profile, search rankings, links and authority and reviews and ranking, click on the button below to get Free Local SEO Audit Free Local SEO Audit Question #3. Is Print Advertising Still Effective? In short, yes. One of the factors that Google ranks is prominence. Prominence refers to how well-known a business is. It is based on information that Google has about a business from across the web (such as links, published articles and directories listings). Local magazines usually have an established presence and loyal following in local communities. Publishing your story on a magazine website will create a positive signal to Google as an endorsement from a trusted local media outlet. It will also allow you to leverage the already-established organic visibility of the magazine’s website in local search. Look for publications that provide digital SEO publishing services in addition to print. Our Carmel Monthly and Zionsville Monthly magazines are great examples of print/digital integration. We produce two versions of the stories for our clients: the longer online version, optimized with relevant keywords for search engine, and the shorter for print magazines with QR codes bringing readers to the full story online. Question #4. Do Giveaways Really Work? A lot of things may change, but one remains the same: People love free stuff! Run a giveaway at your business location, and you can be assured that you will get a good turnout. By giving free samples, you break the “barrier to purchase” and introduce your products or services to potential customers. You can advertise your giveaway event in social media by targeting your ideal customers. You can also run contests on social media. Have participants enter the contest online but collect the prize at your business’s brick-and-mortar location. Check out “How to Run a Social Media Contest That Gets Tons of Engagement (11 Contest Ideas).” Also, here is “40 Giveaway Ideas for Generating Leads, Engaging Your Audience & Driving Growth.” Question #5. Do Customer Referral Programs Work? Referral incentives, including discounts and other niceties, will turn your customers into your outside sales reps. Each referral expands your business’s reach that much more. This is, without a doubt, one of the most effective local marketing tactics you could use! Here is a great guide on “How to Build a Customer Referral Program.” Here is “23 Client Gifts That Keep Your Company Top of Mind All Year.” Question #6. Do Sponsorships Work? From sponsoring local events to donating to a silent auction, local sponsorships generate goodwill with target local customers. Helping local charities is worth the effort even if you are short on time. Lend a helping hand at a local charity event, and locals will put your business in high regard. One nonmonetary way of supporting a charity is to donate your services to a silent auction. By doing that, you are not only doing good but you are also inviting quality prospects to experience your services. People who buy at silent auctions have a high chance of becoming your patrons for years to come. Here are the top businesses that make good candidates for silent auction donations: Restaurant gift certificatesSpa days gift certificatesLocal brewery toursGolf outings gift certificatesYoga classes gift certificatesSpin classes gift certificatesOutdoor activities (hiking, kayaking, bungee jumping) Here is a list of our favorite annual events to sponsor in the Carmel and Zionsville communities that will give you exposure to thousands of residents: Carmel Farmers Market Artomobilia Concert for a Cause Boone County Humane Society Fur Ball Zionsville Chamber of Commerce Street Dance Here is a complete list of events in Hamilton County. Look for nonprofits that produce regular communications to their supporters—email newsletters, social media posts, print publications—and that recognize their donors. Question #7. Why Is Cross-Promotion Important? Cross-promotion should be a part of the arsenal of every small business owner. If you sell commercial insurance, for example, partner up with another business that provides business services, such as a merchant processing service, a CPA, a property manager, or a banker. These businesses target the same prospects, and that is why making such alliances becomes a natural extension of your marketing efforts. Plus, their “endorsement” will give consumers a level of comfort to trust and do business with you. Here is “18 Examples of Successful Co-Branding Partnerships (And Why They're So Great).” Question #8. Is It Worth It to Join a Chamber of Commerce? Yes! Local chambers of commerce help to advance the interests of local businesses. You do not even have to be a member of the chamber to visit monthly networking events and luncheons. Most chambers have member directories where you can list your business and receive a high authority link to your company’s website, ultimately boosting your SEO. Here is a list of some of the largest chambers of commerce in the Indy area: OneZone: Carmel and Fishers Chamber of CommerceZionsville Chamber of CommerceNoblesville Chamber of CommerceWestfield Chamber of CommerceIndy Chamber Question #9. Is Word of Mouth the Best Advertising? We all know that no marketing can help to sell low-quality products or services. Delivering high-quality products and services becomes especially important if you rely on word-of-mouth advertising. It is the best way to inspire your customers to spread the word about your business. Ask satisfied customers to post reviews and tell their friends about you. You can do it by email or, better yet, by sending something through the regular mail—a postcard or a personal letter with a promise of a reward. Look for local organizations that allow networking opportunities. Rainmakers is one such organization. They host, both live and virtual, professional networking events, business-focused educational sessions, roundtable discussions, summits and community service projects. BNI (Business Networking International) is an Indy referral marketing organization that specializes in word-of-mouth marketing. BNI has 270,000 members worldwide and chapters throughout the Indianapolis area. Question #10. Why Is Local Content Important? As we mentioned before, Google gives preference to local businesses in local Maps search results. By adding local identifiers to your online content, such as the city/town name, zip code, street names, neighborhood names, local events and lists of resources, you help Google to rank your website higher in organic search results. Question #11. Is Signage on Sidewalks Important to Businesses? Yes. Signage on sidewalks still works, especially if the business is in a high-traffic area. Putting sidewalk signs in front of your store can potentially increase your sales up to 30% according to studies. Be sure to add your company’s name and hours of operation to your sign. Sidewalk signs are very effective for service businesses too. For example, it works wonders for home improvement businesses. It allows local contractors to market in neighborhoods they work in. Happy customers usually tell their neighbors about their experiences, becoming a natural referral partner for your business. Question #12. How Effective Is Car Wrap Advertising? Car wraps and auto magnets are surprisingly effective, provided you have eye-catching images and colors. They become a moving billboard for your business, effectively promoting your brand even if you have only one vehicle. “On average, wrap advertising costs as little as four cents per thousand impressions. This is significantly lower than other forms of advertising. For instance, it’s estimated that outdoor signs cost $3.56 and newspaper ads cost $19.70 per thousand impressions. Wrap advertising isn’t quite as cost-efficient as online advertising, but it’s certainly more effective than some other forms of marketing.”Outdoor Advertising Association of America Question #13. Should I Promote My Business with Workshops and Classes? In most cases, teaching a local class or a workshop is worthwhile. Teaching a local class is particularly helpful if your product has a learning curve. Doing a workshop is like giving out free samples. You deliver free experience with your product or service while making friends at the same time. Even if only a couple of people show up to your class, it is worth it. Question #14. How Do You Keep in Touch with Your Customers? Is It Worth the Effort? Yes. Do not lose track of those who shopped at your business in the past. It is easier and much less expensive to retain return business from a former customer than to convert a new one. Here are a few ideas on how to keep in touch with your customers: Email a newsletter with a loyal customer discount to make them feel special.Wish them happy birthday and congratulate on other holidays and anniversaries.Email articles of interest matching their employment or hobbies. To find such an article, set up a Google Alert on the person’s name, company name, his/her industry and/or topics of personal interest.Connect on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram.Give previews of new products and services.Ask for input on how you can improve your products or services. Simply by keeping in touch with your past customers, you will be on the top of their minds, and eventually, it will generate return visits. Question #15. Does Voicemail Have the Potential to Convert Prospects into Paying Customers? Yes. When people are waiting to be connected, you have their undivided attention. Informative voice recordings can be educational as well as promotional tools. In addition to having a message recorded for prospects to listen to while on hold, ask everyone at your business to record a promotional message (special discount, free estimate, event invitation) along with a regular voicemail message. Make sure you update these messages monthly. This is a very powerful marketing technique that very few businesses use. Question #16. How Do I Get My Employees to Promote My Brand? Employees are your company's most important brand assets. You absolutely must encourage your employees to promote your business to friends and family on their personal social media accounts and by word of mouth. Employees know more about your business than anyone else. To make this initiative successful, you need to provide specific direction on the messaging as well as periodic training. This is a low-cost, high-return marketing tactic that most small business owners overlook. Encourage employees to promote when possible, and your sales will eventually spike. Here are a few ways you can use to reward your employees for their efforts. Question #17. Is SMS Marketing Effective? Here are the facts about SMS marketing: - 75% of consumers are comfortable receiving SMS messages from brands as long as they opt-in to messaging, according to MarketingProfs. - 56% of people surveyed would rather message a business than call customer service, according to Nielson. - 83% of millennials open SMS messages within 90 seconds of receiving them, according to OpenMarket. - Consumers are more likely to open text messages before any other form of mobile communication, according to Emarketer. - SMS messages have a 98% open rate compared to 20% on emails, according to SMS Comparison. - The response rate of SMS text message marketing is 45% versus email response rates of 6%, according to Statista 2019. As you can see, SMS marketing is quite effective when used properly. Infrequent text messages that communicate a meaningful value offering really do work. Also, the occasional mass text message will boost both online and offline traffic to your business. The challenge is to get people to subscribe to receive your SMS messages. How do you do that? Here is a great article from Mobile Monkey, a leading provider of free chatbot and SMS services, “15 Irresistible SMS Opt-in Strategies to Grow Your List.” Question #18. How Do I Get Local News to Cover My Story? If you can get your business on the local TV news even one night of the week, it will help. Local media outlets are constantly on the prowl for intriguing news stories to share with their audience. If your business is launching a new product or has a special event on the horizon, reach out to your local TV news networks. The local media might be interested in covering the event. It also might be possible to tie your business’s event into a local story or timely topic of discussion. This approach makes the coverage feel more like actual news rather than a promotional feature. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to “Get a Story on the Local News.” Question #19. Why Do Companies Have Loyalty Programs? The goal of a loyalty program is to keep customers by rewarding them for their repeat buying behavior. Frequency loyalty cards is a great way to lure customers back. These cards encourage customers to return to your business to qualify for a discount or special offer. To learn why customer loyalty is critical to your business's long-term success and how you can turn your satisfied customers into delighted brand advocates, read “Customer Loyalty: The Ultimate Guide.” Here are 20 popular loyalty programs that are worth considering. Question #20. How Do I Advertise Locally Online? Both Google and Facebook allow you to target potential customers in your local geographic area. It probably doesn't come as a surprise that the cost of ads fluctuates depending on your goal. Here are the costs for most popular online ad platforms: Google Search Ads (AdWords): $2.32 per clickFacebook: $1.72 per clickLinkedIn: $5.26 per clickInstagram: $0.20 to $2 per click For help with running ads, check out these articles: Facebook ads for local businesses Google ads for local businesses Focus on Local Marketing and Your Small Business Will Prevail It is no secret that small businesses are considerable underdogs against big corporations and other large businesses. Follow the local marketing advice detailed above, and it will be that much easier to capture market share from the big boys. Local marketing zeroes in on those residents who are most likely to spend at small businesses in the area. This targeted approach converts prospects into paying customers and helps to build relationships that last. Treat these new customers right, and they just might prove loyal to your business for years to come.