Always Engage With Your Community

Whether online or offline, the most important thing is to present people with an awesome front. You need to constantly be engaging with local consumers, both online and off. Get active on Facebook, set up a website, and regularly interact with local customers through online channels. While doing this, however, don’t neglect the real world.

“There is this amazing new social networking tool that’s become popular lately,” jokes Street Fighter Marketing President Jeff Slutsky; “a radical concept called meeting people in person. Whether you’re a business owner or the general manager, make a point to introduce yourself to at least five people every week.”

Of course, it sort of goes without saying that you’ll want a decent elevator pitch (and a good looking set of business cards) before you set out to do this. Otherwise, you might just come across as a sleazy salesperson – and nothing could be worse for fostering a bit of local goodwill.

Partner Up With Other Local Businesses

Speaking of meeting people, why not connect with a few other local business owners? You don’t necessarily need to maintain an adversarial relationship with other merchants in your region, particularly if you serve different demographics. This is another piece of valuable advice from Slutsky, who maintains that by cross-promoting with other merchants, you can bring in valuable traffic that your business might otherwise not see.

“Provide a special certificate for other local businesses to pass out to customers with a special offer from you — compliments of them. You get your advertising handed out for free, and the promotional partner gets to offer their customers a perk.

In the online arena, you should work to make sure your website is designed so that people from your city are likelier to find it on Google. The reason for this is quite simple – according to Google, the vast majority of online searches (particularly on mobile) have local intent. That means that whoever’s carrying out the search is looking for a local retailer to provide them with what they need.

If your site isn’t set up so that it’s displayed in their results, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity.

While you’re at it, you’d best ensure that your website works on mobile devices just as well as it works on desktops. Consider it part of the optimization process. A pretty staggering percentage of mobile searches are done looking for local businesses.

Get Gift Cards And Giveaways Going

Never underestimate the power of free stuff. If the relative success of promotional platforms like Groupon and LivingSocial have taught us anything, it’s that people love getting things on the cheap. It’s one of the best ways to raise awareness of your brand.

Of course, it might seem like you’re losing out on revenue – giving stuff away for free (or almost free). And yeah, maybe you might make a bit less money on your sales. At the same time, though, you’re going to be bringing in a whole ton of business you might otherwise fail to see, in addition to netting yourself a positive reputation amongst local consumers – both excellent benefits.

Host (Or Sponsor) Local Events

Last, but certainly not least, look into hosting or sponsoring a few local events. Is there a sports team that needs a cash donation to keep itself going? A festival that needs sponsors and volunteers? A charity that’s being run out of your city? All of these things represent excellent marketing opportunities for your business, if played right – especially the charities.

If you’re working with a charity, don’t just throw money away. Get a little creative. Add some special items to your menu if you’re a restaurant, or offer gift cards to anyone who’s donated a certain amount to a particular fundraiser. Show people that you care enough to think outside the box, and they’ll repay you by becoming loyal customers.

Cultivating Your Roots

Marketing isn’t easy for a small business, even if you’re starting locally. It doesn’t have to be so difficult, though. There are plenty of awesome tactics, tips, and tricks to make things easier on you – and to spread the word about your brand to everyone who cares. This article covered just a few of them – there are plenty more out there, just waiting for a savvy marketer to figure them out.

So what are you waiting for? Jump to it!

Image credit: Mtaylor848