Marketing is tough for new startups, especially those that have an absence of experienced marketing-related leadership. You’re already juggling dozens of important priorities and trying to maintain a grip on your fragile customer base; on top of that; you have to review your marketing priorities and keep a balanced budget despite minimal access to capital and resources.
This is exhausting enough on its own. If you’re also struggling with dominant competitors in your space, each of these problems intensifies.
Why Local Marketing is a Startup’s Best Friend
One of the best solutions to the marketing problem is often neglected by startup entrepreneurs because of how they perceive it — but it can support your company for years to come: local marketing.
What Is Local Marketing?
It’s a bit intuitive to understand local marketing. It’s a combination of marketing and advertising strategies that target a local population rather than a national one. You can choose to focus on residents of a given city, county, or state — or even launch a number of separate individual campaigns, each focused on a different area.
“But wait, my brand is national!” Don’t worry, this applies to you, too. As you’ll see, the benefits of local marketing are valuable to local and national brands alike. Plus, if you get started with local marketing, you’ll always have the option of expanding to reach a national audience. No matter what, you’ll maintain your flexibility, so you can switch up your strategy if you’re not satisfied with the results.
The Advantages of Going Local
So what’s the big deal about going local?
There are a handful of major advantages you’ll find when going local.
- Less competition. One of my favorite advantages of local marketing is that you’re going to face less competition. Let’s say there are about 100 companies like yours operating throughout the United States. On average, that leaves about 2 per state. Depending on where you’re operating, there might not be a competitor within 100 miles of you. If you focus on a specific local audience, you’ll completely avoid clashing with a competitor focused on a national scale. Oftentimes, that means you’ll get a better chance of being seen, you can afford to spend less money, and you won’t have to worry about your message being contested or diluted by another brand.
- Higher relevance. If you’re focusing on one target audience, you’ll have more specific data to work with – and a higher chance of winning the appeal of those individuals. You can fine-tune your message to appeal to the specific people who live in this area, rather than trying to reach as many people as possible with a generic approach. If your message is more relevant and better tuned to the local population, they’re going to engage with it more strongly. In most cases, this will yield better results, dollar for dollar.
- Newly available outlets. Switching to local marketing also opens the door to some marketing tactics you might not otherwise consider. For example, if you’re fixated on getting seen by people all over the country, you won’t even think about attending a local event. But if you’re focused on winning over the population of a given city, this is a perfect opportunity. If you want the best possible results, you’ll need every available tool in your arsenal.
- Lower costs. For the most part, local marketing is less expensive than national marketing. For starters, since you’re going to target a smaller audience, you’ll typically have to pay less money. In addition, you can often take advantage of local relationships and opportunities as a way to cut costs. And on top of that, because you’re focusing on a non-competitive niche, you’ll end up spending less money on things like targeted ads. Local marketing is the way to go. So if you’re trying to make the biggest potential impact with the smallest potential budget.
- Potential for expansion. As I briefly mentioned before, it’s ridiculously easy to expand a local marketing campaign to suit a national environment. You can start adopting many different cities as individual local marketing strategies in your overall campaign, gradually expanding the reach of your business. Or you can simply widen the lens of your campaign’s focus and shift your attention to a broader segment.
Top Local Marketing Strategies
If you’re going to focus on local marketing, rather than national marketing, these are some of the most important strategies to use.
- Local SEO. If you’re familiar with search engine optimization (SEO), you likely already know about the possibilities of local SEO. SEO uses a wide range of tactics all geared toward increasing your website’s rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs), including writing content, tweaking the code of your website, and building backlinks. If you focus on local-specific keywords and phrases, you can avoid the dense competition at the national level and attract more local visitors to your site.
- PPC ads. Pay per click (PPC) ad platforms offer you a wide range of tools to display your ads for specific audience segments. For example, it doesn’t take much to change your targeting to hone in on people from a specific city – and the ads will likely be cheaper than their national counterparts.
- Event marketing. You can also take advantage of local events if and when they occur. Depending on the nature of the event, you might be able to speak in front of a local audience, set up a booth and interact with attendees, or just network with the locals.
- Loyalty programs and special offers. Never underestimate the power of loyalty programs, especially on a local scale. Incentivizing your best customers to keep coming back for more purchases is one of the best ways to generate a persistent stream of revenue.
- Referral programs. Another way to use local marketing t0 get more sales is through a referral program — which is especially powerful at the local level. Make it clear to your best customers that you’re a relatively new business looking for more customers – and incentivize them to refer you to their friends. For example, you could give them a $50 gift card for each new local customer they send your way.
- Newspapers and journalism. Working with journalists is always a great way to get some free publicity. And working with local journalists is much easier and more accessible than working with national publishers. So reach out to your local reporters and see if you can work together on an important story.
- Partnerships and relationship marketing. Don’t be afraid to reach out to other business owners in the area. Chances are, you can form a partnership or exchange products and services in a kind of barter system. The more ingrained you are with the local business community, the more visibility your business will get.
- Guerrilla marketing. Finally, don’t forget about the power of guerrilla marketing. These inexpensive, unconventional tactics that require creativity and can be hard to pull off, but if you’re successful, they have the power to uplift your brand for years to come. Tap into your creative side and see what you can come up with.
From Local to National
Almost any local marketing strategy can be altered in some way to make it national. For example, instead of focusing on local keyword terms, you can optimize your content for more generic national phrases. Instead of targeting people in a specific city with your ads, you can expand to focus on people all over the country. Of course, this isn’t a shift that has to happen overnight. Still, it’s worth considering as a long-term move, especially as you generate more revenue and have a bigger budget for marketing and advertising.
Local marketing isn’t the right approach for every startup — especially if you’re focused on a national audience and you have ample funding or limited competition. But if you’re struggling to promote your business or if you’re worried about tight resources, it could be your best bet for early-stage growth.
By Timothy Carter