Updated: Jun 30, 2021
Are you a small business owner with a business based in a local community? This blog is for you.
How to promote your business in the community
Read on to learn local business marketing strategies whether you are established or a new business with no customers yet.
I am a freelance marketing consultant and my business is based in South East London.
For several years now I have lived and worked in a local area.
I’ve used a business premises where I’ve taught workshops and held client meetings, which I’ve needed to advertise to local people.
In this blog I’ll bring together my marketing knowledge with my role as a fellow small business owner.
How Do Businesses Attract Local Customers?
There are two main business types to think about when we consider local businesses.
1. Retail Businesses If you are a business with a shop in a local area then first of all, you are visible to your customers. If you are on a high street you may have great footfall (the numbers of people passing by) People can walk past and clearly see your business.
Usually without the Covid 19 restrictions they can come into your shop and visit you.
Having a shop is one method of attracting local customers. They can see whether the products and services are what they need before they go any further.
Your shop promotes your business locally.
2. Service providers working in an area Another local business could be a service providing business in a local area but you don’t have premises. Perhaps you are a service based business and you usually work from home or a workspace. For example accountants, graphic designers, copywriters.
Or maybe you are a service provider who goes into peoples homes to carry out a service. For example architects, builders, gardeners, cleaners, mobile beauty therapists, or personal trainers.
You like working with people within the local area and want to market your business to them.
Now we’ve considered the two different categories of local business, shops and service based businesses. I’ll move on to discuss how you can market both kinds to ensure you are seen within a local area.
How to promote your local business online
When you need the services of a business how do you begin your search?
You might ask a friend for a recommendation ‘ I’m looking for a great florist do you know anyone?’
You might search on Google ‘ I want a personal trainer near me’
As small business owners we all know how important word of mouth is. So that first idea is important. We want the friend to suggest our local florist. Even if the conversation starts there how do you think it will continue?
This quick scenario sets it out.
Friend 1: ‘ I’m looking for a great florist to do the flowers for my wedding next year, do you know anyone?’
Friend 2: ‘ Oh yes, you must check out Jo’s Flowers on East Street, she is fab. I’ll show you her Instagram’
Friend 1: ‘ Oh fab, I’m looking her up now, her flowers are gorgeous and wow she has 50, 5 star ratings on this website too, must be good, thank you!’
Someone is at home. They really want to get in shape this year but they don’t feel they can do it alone.
They type into Google, personal trainers near me.
Google shows them a map of their area with 10 businesses pinned to the map.
The person hovers over one of the options, up pops a 5 star rating left by 100 people.
The person clicks onto that business, and is soon browsing on their website.
The website lists the services that trainer provides, the areas they cover, and the prices they charge.
The person sends them a quick instant message, the trainer replies, and within 5 minutes an appointment is booked.
If you think about the first scenario, the local florist needs to have a beautiful shop that people can see flowers in. But they also need a website, social media, and to be easily found online when people look for them.
In the second example, the trainer needs to be easy to find online, available for enquiries, and to offer the right price point.
In both examples you will have noticed that past customer reviews were valuable to the potential new customer.
What tools do you need to promote your business locally?
Whether you are a shop on the highstreet or a services provider working from home or in the local community you need to let people know you exist.
The following section is going to lay out the marketing tools you need to have in place for best practise local marketing for shops and service providers.
If you don’t yet have a website then you really might want to think about it. Having a website offers you as a small business owner looking to promote your business locally so many opportunities to be found.
For one you can fill your website with local information that clearly sets out where you are and where you operate.
You can mention locations such as ‘ east dulwich’ postcodes ‘ SE22’
You can link to other small businesses in the area and ask them to do the same.
You can list your site with services such as Yell.com
You can blog about your local business and what you offer to people in the area.
And you can list your business on Google My Business which is a very useful free tool that will really help you with lots of the objectives mentioned so far.
Google My Business
Google My Business is a free tool that allows you to promote your Business Profile and business website on Google Search and Maps.
With your Google My Business account, you can see and connect with your customers, post updates to your Business Profile and see how customers are interacting with your business on Google.
To claim your free listing you have to go onto the Google My Business website and claim your business address. They will then send you a code in return that you have to validate to proceed.
All of that only takes a few days and then your account will be available to operate.
If you are a local shop then you can list your opening hours for your customers, any restrictions they may need to know about because of Covid 19. You can also send customers to your website for your delivery services or click and collect.
If you are a local area business that can travel to customer homes, you can include all of that information in your ‘ about us’ section.
My top tip about Google My Business is to download the App once you have claimed your account, and use that to interact with the tool from your phone.
You can treat it like any other social media app in this way. Upload photos. Include links to events you have on, your blogs, recent press. Anything you like.
One of the most important aspects of Google My Business is the reviews facility. Anyone can leave you a review using the tool. As people do judge a business based on the social feedback of others, you may want to really work on getting people to leave you a review.
If someone searches for you on Google and you come up on Map View or Search View the person can choose to rank the results on rating. For example, they may want to only see people with over a 4* rating.
Even if you are the best business around, no ratings means you are effectively out of the running without reviews.
Remember our scenario above? Two friends are talking about booking a florist to do the flowers for a wedding. Whilst the recommendation came word of mouth, person to person the next step was to check out social media.
Having a great social media account for your local business is a really important marketing tool.
Your social media account may even feature in a Google search for your business.
So how do you create a great social media account that showcases your business?
Sticking with our florist example, we need to see those beautiful flowers. So great product photography is really important to sell your business effectively.
We need to see the florist too. People always want to buy from people. Having some great photos of you creating beautiful floral products is very important.
To give a sense of place you could include pictures of your area, any beautiful landmarks. Parks, gardens, historic buildings. You could even show photos of your premises from years gone by.
To help create customer trust you should display testimonials from your delighted customers. You can use free tools like Canva to make them look nice and match your branding.
Now how does all this work to help promote your business locally?
Well first there is your account bio, the area where you get to tell people who you are and what your business does. Be sure to include the local area you operate in there.
Next there are the hashtags that you use with every post. Decide on around 5-10 that just relate to your local area and use them on all your posts. I would personally include your local town or village, your shopping area if it has a name, your business name, your post code, and then go wider with city if relevant.
For bonus points I would just like to mention engagement with other business owners. If you are a small business selling flowers and the local coffee shop also has a profile, go and say hi to them. Build a relationship. This helps them, and also shows your business to anyone looking at theirs.
You could also try joining in with local Facebook groups. Helping people by commenting with your knowledge and experience. And promoting your business on the days that the groups allow it.
Community is such a huge part of life as a small business owner do build it with other businesses. You could create late night shopping hours that work for several local businesses. You could create a loyalty package that you all offer to people who shop with your group of businesses.
A supportive network
When you are a business owner operating in a local area whether a shop or a service provider, you need a good network.
I’d really recommend looking for networking events that you can attend either in person or online.
You could volunteer to speak at an event if you like public speaking and feel you could add value. Or you could simply attend and get to know the other small business owners in your area.
Although press, including local press has taken a hammering in recent years with the advent of social media, it is still important. Not everyone is online. So it makes sense to build in traditional ways of targeting your customers via sources they trust.
Have a look at local papers and magazines that serve your local area. Could you contribute an article? Could you pay for an advert? Papers that go direct through peoples doors are often read more than once, so they are worth the money to invest in.
Depending on your demographic, if you are particularly targeting older residents of the area then using press can be a really good strategy. Often they are the people with money to spend as well.
In this blog I have explained how to promote your business locally.
I’ve shown you how to apply marketing strategies for small businesses that are helpful whether you have a shop or a services based local business.
I’ve highlighted the marketing tools that you might want to consider to raise your profile from websites to local press. Explaining how each one works for you as a local business.
Once you are well known in an area with a good reputation and a strong online profile it is sure to help your business in the long term.
Thanks for reading
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For even more low cost marketing ideas why not buy my book?
If you would like even more low cost marketing ideas I wrote a book. 100 Marketing Tips for Small Business Owners. Check it out here
Shona Chambers Marketing is a Marketing Agency based in SE London.
Specialising in helping Small Business Owners and Freelancers with their Marketing.