Online Marketing Ideas and Strategies for Local Businesses [with examples]

If your business is local, in all likelihood, you will be competing with a number of other local companies in your area for customers’ money and also possibly bigger, national franchises as well. Thus, making your presence known locally is essential. 

How can you do this? There are quite a few standard and atypical ways that you can use to get your name out and we’ll talk about that.

But before that:

What is Local Marketing?

Local marketing refers to all of the strategies that businesses employ to reach and engage customers in their local geographic region. It includes a set of strategies that may include must-haves such as proper storefront signs and search engine marketing, social media, online and offline forums to partnerships with other businesses to increase their presence in a local community, events and specialized advertising techniques.

Specialty stores, restaurants, medical professionals, and law offices are among those that utilize local business marketing techniques.

In this article we’ll cover mostly digital/online marketing strategies. While storefront signs, referrals, business cards and billboards are typical offline marketing methods, all of them can and should be accompanied with making the brand visible online. 

local marketing

Have a Website to Unlock the Power of Local Marketing

A website sounds like a given/default thing for many but there are too many small and medium local businesses that don’t have a website. A lot of them have a website but it’s so old that it is not optimized for mobile users or they rely on auto-generated websites that don’t belong to them and aren’t synced with the brand. 

In today’s digital age, having a website is no longer optional for local businesses; it has become an essential element of any effective local marketing strategy. A website acts as a virtual storefront, allowing businesses to establish a robust online presence and connect with potential customers in their local area. 

Get Found on Google and Seize the Attention Of Local Customers Near You

The reason you do local SEO is to make yourself noticeable to your target audience on Google and other search engines. This means employing a series of strategies to give your business’ name prominence. 

A major part of local marketing strategy involves localizing your SEO. Local SEO refers to all of the optimization techniques necessary to give you increased visibility, improve your brand awareness, and increase the amount of site traffic you get:

  • Optimize your website for keywords that can potentially drive traffic from areas you care about. Typical variations can be: 
    • Plumber near me 
    • Mexican restaurant open now
    • Probate lawyer + your city’s name 
  • Create a Google Business Profile – Select the right category, add pictures, get reviews and keep the profile updated
  • Add information on your website how to reach you. It can be directions to your office along with a phone number, or it can be a list of areas and neighborhoods you service if you are an electrician or a locksmith. 
  • Get your business listed on all important business directories and more specifically in places that people in your area care about or are industry’s top reference places. More info about that below, but when you list, make sure the information is up to date and your Business Name, Phone Number and Address are correctly listed. 

Optimize Your Google Business Profile

Your Google Business Profile is a separate listing on Google specifically for businesses. It serves as a way of giving you a distinct profile within Google and automatically putting you on the Google map. Optimizing your GBP involves a series of steps that ensure all of your company information is accurate, in sync with the information on your website, and easily navigable by the public.

Be Listed on Sites Where People Find Businesses Like You 

In order to make your business prominent in local directories, you should figure out which places people tend to look when they search for businesses like yours. This includes both general directories, as well as industry-specific ones. For example:

  • Yelp is a directory that covers many types of businesses. Don’t forget Apple Maps or Bing’s maps. They may not be very important for Local SEO but are necessary places to be in. 
  • If you are a doctor, popular directories include sites such as Vitals, Healthgrades, and Wellness.
  • If you are a lawyer, FindLaw, Avvo, and Nolo are commonly used.

Regardless of your industry, there should be listings in your area where people go to look for the type of service or product you provide. Look up where your competitors are listed and see how popular these directories are.

Be the First in Both Review Numbers and Scores

Reviews play a pivotal role in the success of local businesses, as they have a significant impact on consumer purchasing decisions. Here are two key reasons why reviews are crucial for local businesses:

  1. Building Trust and Credibility: Reviews serve as social proof, allowing potential customers to gain insights into the experiences of previous customers. Positive reviews act as endorsements, instilling trust and confidence in your business. When consumers see a multitude of positive reviews, they perceive your business as reputable, reliable, and trustworthy. On the other hand, negative reviews provide an opportunity for businesses to address customer concerns and showcase their commitment to resolving issues, further building trust and credibility.
  2. Influencing Purchase Decisions: Today’s consumers heavily rely on online reviews before making purchasing decisions, especially when it comes to local businesses. Studies have shown that a majority of consumers read reviews and consider them as valuable as personal recommendations. Positive reviews can sway potential customers to choose your business over competitors, as they are more likely to trust the opinions and experiences of other customers. Conversely, negative reviews can deter potential customers and drive them towards alternative options. By actively encouraging and managing reviews, local businesses can influence customer perception and increase the likelihood of attracting new customers.

To encourage customers to give you reviews, there are a number of things you can do. First, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to do so. Provide links on your site and other social media to review sites. You can also incentivize it by offering discounts or potential giveaways. The more positive reviews you get, the more people will be naturally inclined to choose your business. 

Run Social Media Contests and Giveaways

Another thing that you can do to generate interest among a local community is to run different kinds of contests and giveaways through your social media platforms.

There are a number of advantages to having special promotions like this. First of all, they give you increased publicity and help spread your name among your community. When people see a special promotion happening, they are likely to tell others about it. Particularly – but not only – in the early phases of your business’ development, this could be a big boon to your popularity. If you decide to run a promotion, be sure that the methods and deadlines are completely clear in advance, and that you utilize the most effective channels possible in your advertising.

Here are some methods that you can use to advertise promotions: 

  • If you’re having a promotion, one way to start can be by setting up an event on Facebook, and also advertising on your other social media. Tag whatever community businesses might be relevant to your business. If you’re running a food-related business, for example, you can run an event on the patio of your business and give away free samples of a new special to the public.
  • Similarly, if you run a social media contest, you can take the opportunity to get to know your local community by making an event out of choosing a winner and publicizing it to the community. Examples of social media contests could include things like submitting a photo for the best photo contest. Say you’re running a line of sportswear, and you want to get images of people wearing your clothes in interesting situations (on top of mountains, doing yoga on exotic beaches, etc). You could offer a free set of items (or a dollar amount to be used) to the winning participant, and celebrate the winner in a community-wide event.

Focus on Paid Local Advertising 

Taking advantage of local paid advertising opportunities is a good way to get noticed on local forums that are frequently seen by the general public: 

  • Local newspapers, digital and online. Your city will likely have more than one newspaper, but you might also consider community newspapers if you have a large enough target group within a certain community.
  • Community websites, and sites/social media of other, complementary businesses. If you supply athletic wear, you might want to place an ad on the sites of local gyms. If you run a music school, think about placing an ad on a community website for children’s recreational activities.
  • Google Local Service ads. You’ll need to meet certain requirements to qualify for them, such as having a state-issued business license, insurance, and possibly other requirements. But paying for an ad on Google Local Service ads can get your company’s name on the top of a SERP.

Empower Your Local Customers with Valuable Blog Content

Creating and distributing local-focused content is an effective way for local businesses to position themselves as experts in their industry while catering to the specific needs and interests of their local audience. Here are a few examples of how businesses can leverage different content formats to engage with their community:

  • Blog Posts: Maintain a blog on your website where you can publish informative articles related to your industry, local trends, tips, or guides. For example, if you own a local fitness center, you could create blog posts on topics like “5 Healthy Recipes Using Locally Sourced Ingredients” or “Outdoor Fitness Activities in [Your City].”
  • Videos: Create engaging and shareable video content that provides value to your local audience. For instance, if you run a local home improvement store, you could produce videos showcasing DIY projects or providing tutorials on home maintenance tasks specific to your region, such as “How to Prepare Your Home for Winter in [Your City].”
  • Podcasts: Launch a podcast series where you discuss topics relevant to your industry and the local community. As an example, if you own a local restaurant, you could host a podcast featuring conversations with local farmers, food experts, or chefs, discussing farm-to-table practices and the local culinary scene.
  • Local Event Coverage: Attend and cover local events through blog posts, videos, or social media content. This could include providing event highlights, interviews with organizers or attendees, or even live streaming portions of the event. By doing so, you position your business as an active participant in the local community.
  • Expert Interviews: Conduct interviews with local experts, influencers, or thought leaders in your industry. This could be in the form of written articles, recorded videos, or podcast episodes. By sharing insights and perspectives from local authorities, you establish your business as a trusted source of information and create valuable connections within your community.
  • Customer Success Stories: Share success stories or testimonials from satisfied customers in the form of written case studies, video testimonials, or podcast interviews. This helps build trust and showcases how your business has positively impacted the local community.

Let’s say that you are a local marketing company. You can blog about local events of different types, and take the opportunity to highlight the names of companies in your area whose work you are promoting, as well as your own agency. If you’re promoting a community athletic event, for example, you can blog about it on different community platforms, both general and fitness-related.

If you are an accident attorney, you can blog about dangers to avoid in the area that have high accident rates. Places like Colorado or other mountainous regions unfortunately have a lot of dangerous areas; if your specialty involves helping accident victims, take the chance to show your expertise in popular local forums.

Run Promotions with Other Local Businesses

Combining your efforts with other local businesses can be a great way to potentially double your reach and also show people that other businesses have enough faith in you to partner with you. Think about businesses that have products or services that complement yours: 

  • If you run a nutritional supplements store, you could partner with a sporting goods store to provide limited-time discounts on both your products. 
  • If you are a landscaper, see if you can partner with roofers, kitchen remodelers, patio furniture sellers to sweeten deals for your customers.
  • If you run a recreation center, you could partner with a local restaurant to hold an outdoor event for the community.

In addition to increasing your audience, having links to one another’s sites will increase your site traffic, as well as your ranks in the search engines. You can advertise your promotion in different ways:

  • Create a banner to be used on both your websites, as well as your social media
  • Encourage sharing across others’ social media
  • Write blogs about your promotion on different forums
  • Advertise your promotion in the local news

Participate in Local Charities or Community Events

Getting out into different sectors of society can increase your visibility beyond simply advertising directly. Even if you are not marketing your products or services directly, participating in something like a local charity can give you the opportunity to meet people and add them to your mailing lists. And you might be able to find one that is relevant to your business. If you can participate in a charity to help needy children, and your work involves working with kids, you’re likely to meet people who will be interested in your services.

Why Not Host Community Event Yourself?

You can also hold events of your own. In addition to holding contests and giveaways, you can take advantage of holidays or national days related to your industry to hold an online or offline event. You can also hold events celebrating the anniversary of opening your business or other relevant dates. Few people knew that June 1 was National Donut Day in the US until local donut companies started giving away samples with other orders.

Find a Local Influencer

There is a lot of talk these days about influencers, and justifiably so: Some people have a talent for attracting large numbers of followers (experts estimate that even the lowest level of influencers have even 1000 followers, and the number can be exponentially higher), and more importantly, followers tend to be fanatics who really pay attention to what influencers say. So finding one in your area who can help spread your name could be to your advantage. 

In looking around, try to find someone whose message is relevant to your work, or who has a reputation for being interested in your area. Even if the person you find is a local singer, perhaps they have interests that they are willing to promote in their commentary. If you are a vet, for example, you could find an influencer in your area who loves animals and is willing to make a post about you.

Employee and Word-of-Mouth Marketing

It never hurts to get your employees involved in your marketing. This not only multiplies the effect that you will have, but it shows that your employees really care about your business and aren’t just in it for the paycheck. Regardless of your industry, there are ways that your employees can help you spread your messages:

  • If you run a restaurant, have employees share specials on their Instagram, and mention their own favorites as part of their posts.
  • If you run a services company, such as home repair or plumbing services, employees can help share customer testimonials.
  • If you run a clothing store, customers can share photos of their clothes on Instagram.

In addition, word-of-mouth marketing is known to be one of the most effective forms of marketing, with some estimates saying that almost 90% of people trust their friends’ recommendations over those of traditional media. Word-of-mouth marketing involves people sharing information about a company’s products or services, particularly (but not only) through social media.

By providing really top-quality customer service, you can incentivize word-of-mouth marketing among your customers. If you provide repair services for people’s homes, check back with them on a regular basis to see how the repairs are holding up. If you are a dentist, offer complimentary cleaning for patients who go to you for complicated procedures.

Make Offline Efforts Resonate Online 

When you are up and doing marketing and have a list of offline programs such as below, remember that offline marketing tactics can effectively boost a local business’s visibility within the community, it is essential to recognize that their impact can be further amplified by integrating online components. By leveraging the power of online platforms and digital marketing techniques, businesses can extend the reach of their local advertising efforts, engage with a wider audience beyond physical trade shows or fairs, amplify the effects of referral programs through social media sharing, expand the reach of loyalty programs through email marketing or mobile apps, and maximize the exposure gained from sponsoring local events by promoting them on social media and through online PR campaigns. By combining offline and online marketing approaches, local businesses can establish a comprehensive and cohesive strategy that leverages the strengths of both realms to enhance their visibility, reach, and impact in the digital age.

  • Take advantage of local advertising opportunities, such as billboards, radio spots, or newspaper ads, to reach a geographically specific audience.
  • Participate in local trade shows, expos, or community fairs to showcase your products or services.
  • Offer referral programs that incentivize existing customers to refer new customers to your business.
  • Offer loyalty programs or exclusive discounts for local customers to encourage repeat business.
  • Sponsor local sports teams, community events, or charities to enhance brand visibility and community involvement.

Understanding and employing effective local marketing techniques are essential to businesses hoping to make their mark in a local community. There are many different methods that you can use to make your presence known both online and in person within your community. 

If you want to gain and maintain a solid customer base, keep on top of your local marketing strategy. You’ll be amazed at how you can win the affection of your community if you do it right.