Thinking local means focusing on local marketing.
While this might seem like a given, in reality, most local businesses fall short in this aspect. A 2016 survey in Small Biz Trends revealed 62% of consumers thought local businesses needed a better online presence.
Toluna, a consumer insights company, reported that 70% of consumers worried about the challenges that small businesses faced when competing against large retailers. However, 50% of them spent very little on local businesses.
Many customers said they didn’t feel that small businesses catered to their local communities.
Think Local Trend
One solution for small businesses is to start a “Think Local” initiative in their communities. Several of them exist across the country. One of them is the North San Diego Business Chamber championing regional commerce by encouraging local purchasing. This strengthens local commerce, helping to grow jobs. The initiative also encourages the general public, school districts, and government agencies to buy local products and services.
The Think Local First DC organization was formed in 2006 to provide support for local businesses in Washington, D.C. Their website encourages helping locally owned businesses by linking neighbors into a web of economic and social relationships while contributing to local causes.
Think Local First DC points out that in 2014, independent businesses created over 2 million of the 3 million regional jobs. That’s 66% of employment opportunities. Every dollar spent locally generated at least 3 times more economic impact.
In Wisconsin, a startup called Think Local Magazine now publishes in 9 Wisconsin communities. Their magazine promotes local businesses by advertising their products, services, and offering discounts.
Get Involved with Your Community
Join every relevant (to your interests and business) community groups, charities, organizations, and events. Put yourself out to your community as a person who cares and wants the community to grow and improve.
Once locals get to know you as a person and what type of business you are involved in, they will want to help you and your business.
Local Marketing can make a Difference for Small Businesses
The Kabbage Team, which finds small business loans and provides free marketing tips, points out the use of mobile devices on the internet now surpasses PCs by 55% to 45%, according to data from comScore.
As a result, “mobile local searches” provide a greater opportunity for local businesses. The Kabbage Team analyzed research from Google, Purchased, and MediaCT regarding local search behavior and found:
- 80% of consumers use search engines to find local information.
- 80% of consumers want to see ads customized to their location, such as city, ZIP code, or their neighborhood.
- 54% used smartphones for local business searches of directions, hours, and product availability.
- 50% of the consumers who conducted smartphone local searches visited one of those stores within a day.
- 18% of smartphone local searches led to a purchase within one day, compared to only 7% on their non-local searches.
While more consumers rely on local searches, unfortunately only 6% of small- to medium-size U.S. businesses currently maintain a mobile optimized website. This is supported by a Hibu survey, a company publishing a local ads directory. The reason is simple: Potential customers do not like viewing non-mobile optimized sites on their mobile devices.
The Huffington Post emphasized the need for websites to optimize for mobile devices by revealing that 57% of mobile users abandon sites taking longer than 3 seconds to load. In addition, 30% stopped making a purchase when they discovered the site’s shopping cart was not mobile optimized.
Ways to Improve Your Business Local Online Marketing
- Make Your Website “Local Optimized”: Convert your existing website so local customers can find you more easily. Place your business name, phone number, address, and hours prominently on your site. Use big fonts with a simple design for easier reading. Help locals find you, or call you to get directions.
- Mobile Optimize Your Website: If your business does not have a website or needs to become optimized for mobile devices, there are many inexpensive tools available to help you. A “Responsive Website Builder” tool allows you to quickly transform your website to detect what type of mobile device a viewer is using to make the viewing easier.
Here are three low budget tools:
√ DudaOne allows any website to be copied onto DudaOne with no rebuilding required.
- Join Google My Business: It’s a free listing appearing when people search for your business or businesses like yours on Google Maps and Google Search. Their tools allow you to build a website, update your listings, and engage with customers from your phone, computer, or tablet. You can also display photos of your products, set up a customer reviews area, and upload videos.
- Join Yahoo Localworks: You can list your business on 60+ online directories like Yahoo, Yelp, Bing, WhitePages, MapQuest and more. It costs $29.99 per month, and you can enhance your listings with photos, promotions, discounts, and other details. Quick updating is available on all listings with easy tracking performance features.
An Example of a Successful Local Marketing Campaign
Wiggle Waggles Artisan Dog Treats & Bistro To Go is a family-owned business located in the suburbs of Chicago, Ill. They offer special doggie bones, dog snacks, cookies, treats, and cakes made from natural ingredients.
They ventured into local marketing after they closed their physical store due to its high overhead costs. The company restructured into a dog treats delivery service, plus street sales with free samples.
Great effort is placed into local search and local ads on social media. Their targeted audience is within a few miles. They experienced great success with Google local search ads. Social media ads promote special offers and sales in targeted neighborhoods. Business improved by 150% their first year.
Promote the Benefits of Supporting Local Entrepreneurs
- Improving the Local Economy: Consumers buying locally keeps more money in the community. A Chicago study revealed that every $100 spent with a local business kept $68 in the city, compared to only $43 from every $100 purchased at a chain retail store. Local business owners tend to buy their supplies locally. Chain stores buy from their corporate headquarters.
- Keeping Communities Unique: The flavor of a community comes from its local businesses. While every city has similar chain franchise restaurants, department and grocery stores; the unique diner, corner grocer, and local bar are one-of-a-kind.
- More Personalized Service: Neighborhood owners know their customers better than corporate owned businesses. Knowing what your regular customers need creates personalized service. On the other hand, customers know the people behind the local products making it easier to connect with them.
- Improved Customer Services: Dealing with large corporations with a 1-800 number can be frustrating. Customer service representatives are too far removed from the decision-makers. Your local business owner is personally connected to every employee where problems can be solved faster.
Promote these benefits in your advertisements to develop local community loyalty.
Thinking local for business success means getting involved with the nearest Think Local initiative. If one doesn't exist in your area, contact your local Chamber of Commerce to help them start one.
Get involved with your community organizations, charities, events, and any groups you can join to make you and your business known and liked.
Optimize your website for local online marketing and mobile devices. If your business does not have a website, create one that is optimized for mobile devices.
Join Google My Business and Yahoo LocalWorks for greater exposure to your local consumers.
Promote the benefits for supporting local entrepreneurs.