When you are first starting a business, it is frustrating to get the ball rolling. As both a business owner with experience marketing to a very localized audience and then starting a national business, I know the struggle. The marketing tactics a national company may use is significantly different than the marketing tactics for a local business.
In part one of this two-part blog post on marketing strategies for local and national businesses, you’ll learn the techniques I used to keep my niche audiences engaged and repeatedly purchasing my services for my local business. Below is how I started a business from scratch with customers only within a 30 mile radius.
- Start with the low-hanging fruit
When you’re running a localized business, it’s important to rely on the family and friends you have in your town. This is where a majority of my first clients stemmed from and how I was able to expand my business in the future.
The reason you start with this low-hanging fruit is because these individuals already know and trust you. Friends and family are more likely to support you in a new venture and are happy to help you spread the word and succeed.
This is especially true in the military community, where others are supportive of helping each other out. As a military family, home may be many places and this just makes your network stronger. Reach back out to old friends at former duty stations and ask them to support you from a distance.
For those locally, the clientele is constantly expanding with new military community members coming and going. As loyal ones leave, you have the opportunity to gain referrals and support from a distance. As new ones arrive, you have a never-ending stream of new connections to support your venture.
Tap into your community network and ask for support. While you don’t want to be annoying, you should stay in touch with individuals and then every few months, reach out and ask if they know anyone who would be interested. It’s an indirect way of asking them to support you that doesn’t come off as asking them for money (that’s the worst!).
2. Expand to friends of friends
With a few local family members and friends as clients, begin to utilize referrals and your extended network to build relationships with those you do not know. This can be done through referral marketing programs, initiating relationships through thank you letters to former clients, shout-outs online to those you’ve worked with, features on blogs, success stories, etc. Use your local resources and new-found client base as trust factors to attract those you want to work with in the future.
3. Get out there
This step was always the most challenging for me, but improved my leads and business marketing efforts drastically. It involved getting “out there” both personally and physically.
This meant attending vendor events and setting up a booth, attending networking meetings, handing out business cards during casual conversations, telling my story and successes to others, partnering with local businesses, pitching my ideas to bloggers and other thought-leaders in the area, and overall, just putting my brand in front of others.
It was tough (and sometimes uncomfortable to be that open), but it worked. As a photographer (my roots!), I was able to do head shots for a local (now nationally-recognized) military spouse blogger that ended up being used on her website, social media pages, and new book! Check out her work here. I never would have gotten that opportunity without getting out there and promoting myself to one of my military community role models.
4. Use social media to get a local following
The biggest mistake I see local businesses making is being all over multiple social media channels. I’m going to warn you, I’ve tried them all and if you’re a local business, many social media channels became a waste of my time.
I found that some social media platforms were too national focused and hashtags didn’t bring me the right kind of clients. As a result, there are only a few platforms I recommend for local businesses targeting regional clientele.
One is Facebook business pages. These are easily searched for because of the addresses found under the about page, local purchasers who post and share your products online, events that you publish in your region, and their SEO (search engine optimization) features. They also can be customized to be shown to certain audiences (like only the United States) and free targeting allows you to promote to certain cities.
If your marketing is done right (and you haven’t encouraged those outside of your target market to follow your page), these are all localized clients truly interested in your product or service. Add in a Facebook group where you can approve members and you have built a localized community interested in starting conversations about what you offer.
The second suggestion for a local business is an Instagram page. While Instagram is filled with spam bots (so annoying!), it is a great way to use localized hashtags (and up to 30 of them!) to connect with other local businesses (that actually have a real person running their accounts). The platform is also visual and graphics/photos perform very well on both Facebook and Instagram. If you are a business that has a brick-and-mortar or sells a product, these platforms can be beneficial for telling the “behind the scenes” story.
The last platform I would invest time into for a local business would be LinkedIn. This is always a great platform for any business looking to network with local community members, partner for blog posts or events, and in general, knowing people who could refer you to others.
5. Keep marketing simple
I started my localized business with a Facebook page and eventually started other localized ventures by blogging, partnering with others, and keeping a website current. In general, keep marketing simple for a localized business. SEO will be your lifesaver and so will local promotions to an email list or direct mail. Don’t get overwhelmed with your business’ marketing platforms and focus your localized business strategy on customer service, referrals, and networking. Use social media, a website, and blogging to compliment your in-person strategies.
The best part of having a local business over a national one is that you get the opportunity to build relationships in-person instead of through a screen or phone. Use that core marketing strategy to your advantage and build trust by being present.
Read part two of the post here on how to market your national business.
If you’re unsure of how to use the social media platforms mentioned in this article properly, get access to my free social media guide for military community entrepreneurs.
Jenny Hale is a marketing and social media consultant, coach, and teacher for military spouse and veteran business owners. Nicknamed “The Military Social Media Guru,” she uses her background working with military non-profits, corporate companies, the Army, and as an entrepreneur to help others struggling to meet their business dreams. With the goal of bridging the gap between the military community’s marketing efforts to civilians and vice versa, Jenny works to make an entrepreneur’s vision come to life. You can follow her on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.