This post was contributed by RainPOS.
Marketing a local business from within your target community comes with advantages and disadvantages.
On one hand, you get to speak with your target customers face-to-face on a daily basis and can network with the greater public at local events. On the other hand, the cold and impersonal outreach strategies that many nationwide businesses employ won’t impress your local audience. A botched marketing campaign can damage your reputation in the community in a way that’s hard to overcome.
The general small business marketing tips still apply. For example, you’ll want to use a multichannel marketing strategy to reach your entire target audience and stay front of mind. However, there are a few unique tips to keep in mind, specifically as it pertains to marketing a small business within its local community.
We’ll cover the following three local marketing tips to elevate your small business in your community:
- Maintain an online marketing website.
- Ask customers to review your business online.
- Invest in external data to improve direct mail outreach.
While these tips will run the gamut of both your digital and direct mail marketing strategies, remember that nothing spreads the word about your business better than a happy customer! So, in addition to improving your marketing efforts, make sure that your in-store operations are running smoothly as well; employee engagement and customer satisfaction should always stay at the forefront of your efforts.
With that covered, let’s dive into the first tip!
Maintain an online marketing website.
Most modern businesses maintain a web presence, even if it’s just a straightforward website that lists the business’s street address, operating hours, phone number, and email address. However, with a few adjustments, your business’s website can be a powerful digital marketing tool to both increase foot traffic to your storefront and improve customer satisfaction when they arrive.
Essentially, you’ll want to adjust your website to not only include baseline information (like that listed previously) but also to feature a full inventory of your products and services. That way, individuals in your community can visit your website, browse your offerings, grow interested, and begin planning their visit.
When you think of making changes to your website, you probably think of a content management system (like WordPress or Hubspot). However if you look beyond a simple content management system, you can gain the ability to feature a full inventory of your products and services online with the functions of a point-of-sale (POS) solution.
Rain POS lists a number of ways that your retail POS can elevate your website from a marketing capacity, including features such as:
- The ability to create a full marketing website with ready-to-use templates and search engine optimization tools.
- A full online inventory that’s automatically updated in real-time as items are purchased in the store.
- An online calendar that features upcoming classes, workshops, and other events.
Of course, not every POS solution offers marketing website-related tools. If your solution doesn’t currently offer these capabilities, it may be worthwhile to research solutions that do. Given the amount of time that consumers spend researching companies online—and, the fact that they can peruse the inventory of big-box retailers online with the click of a button—this isn’t something you want to go without.
Marketing Websites in Action
This tip is especially useful for small businesses that have one-of-a-kind items in their inventories.
For example, imagine you own a local boutique that sells unique, handmade clothing items crafted by local artisans. These items are loved by community members and often sell quickly. You have one of each unique item; once it sells out, it’s not going to be restocked.
Because your online inventory automatically updates in real-time, local fans of the artisans can monitor for when new products drop and plot their plan for purchasing items before they sell out. Further, potential new customers who hear about your business can peruse your inventory online to see what all of the excitement is about before making a trip to your store.
Ask customers to review your business online.
When you’re researching a provider or store, you probably search through a few trusted channels. For example, you probably Google search the product or service to see which companies are the most popular locally—specifically turning to those that rank highly in the search results. You probably also ask your friends, family members, and peers in your community to see which companies they recommend.
Both of these strategies have something in common—your opinion of the business is based on how well (or poorly) people around you speak about it. We’re much more likely to trust the recommendations from our friends and family members, or 100+ five-star reviews, than a website that has received little public recognition.
With this in mind, boost your digital marketing efforts by building your social clout online. The best way to do this is to collect positive online reviews from happy customers on Facebook and Google, both of which have specific functionality for providing local recommendations.
There are a few ways to do this. You could post signage around your store, asking customers to review you on Google and Facebook—but honestly, that’s not the best way to do so. It relies on customers to go out of their way to find you on Google or Facebook, which few will do.
On the other hand, you can invest in a POS solution that empowers you to send automatic email and text messages inviting customers to leave a review. They’ll be able to quickly click a link and leave their review with ease.
Customer Reviews in Action
Let’s say you run a business that offers classes on a topic where the instructor’s expertise is paramount—for example, a dive shop that hosts diving excursions. After all, when your customers go on a vacation and are searching for a local dive shop to go on an excursion with, the last thing they want is an instructor who isn’t particularly experienced or knowledgeable. Their safety depends on it!
Thankfully, your instructors have years of experience diving in your local area and beyond. By automatically inviting past excursion attendees to leave reviews of their experience on Facebook and Google, you’ll quickly amass a number of positive reviews in which happy guests vouch for your expertise, knowledge, and safety measures. This word of mouth is the best way to build trust in your services.
Invest in external data to improve direct mail outreach.
There are several benefits that come with digital marketing, including increased reach and decreased costs. It’s significantly less expensive than the cost of printing and sending direct mail, but that doesn’t mean you can phase out direct mail completely.
Instead, brainstorm ways to make your direct mail marketing campaigns more cost-effective and increase the return on your investment. One way to do this is to better target your direct mailings—after all, every letter or brochure mailed to a household that wouldn’t be interested in your product is money thrown away. With a targeted mailing campaign, you’ll only print and mail content to households with a high likelihood of responding positively.
To better target your campaigns, consider investing in third-party data about households in your area. You can actually purchase direct mailing lists and have the data from those lists (such as names and mailing addresses) appended to your customer database. These lists can be created using whichever parameters you’re targeting, such as:
- Geographic location
- Demographic information (such as age, marital status, estimated income, religion, household composition, pet ownership, etc.)
- Life changes (such as new homeowners, new parents, college students, etc.)
This is just a small sample of the targeting parameters that you can apply to the marketing lists you purchase. That way, you’ll only send direct mailings to prospective customers who are likely to be in your target customer base.
External Data in Action
For example, let’s say you operate a craft store and are preparing to unveil a new class offering: arts and crafts classes for elementary- and middle school-aged children.
To improve your direct mailing, you invest in a direct mail marketing list that includes data for households with children within a 15-mile radius of your store. You create brochures that include an overview of your new workshop offerings, an explanation for how to sign up, and a discount code for the first class that a customer signs up for. Then, you mail it only to those households identified in your target location that have a noted presence of children.
You’ll send fewer brochures and save money as a result. And, you’ll likely have more class sign-ups because your brochures will be sent to households that are likely to be interested!
As a small business, a personal and trustworthy multichannel marketing strategy is key to improving your local outreach efforts. With the right POS solution and external data, you’ll have the foundation for a strong local marketing strategy.
These foundational strategies will help you connect with your local community members in personable ways that resonate with them. However, there are plenty of other strategies out there that you can leverage to capture and maintain your customers’ attention. Each audience is unique, so pay attention to what your audience responds positively to and refine your approaches accordingly. The result will be a highly effective local marketing strategy that maximizes every dollar you invest in outreach.
About the Author
Brian King, Co-Founder and CRO of Rain Retail
Brian King is a co-founder & CRO of Rain Retail Software. He has a degree in Business Management from the BYU Marriott School of Business, 10 years of small-business marketing experience, and over 13 years of direct sales experience. To date, Brian has worked with thousands of main-street retailers to help improve their online presence and performance. Rain specializes in point of sale and website software for specialty retailers.