Local marketing is a task that should be on every retailer’s to-do list. Increasing your presence in the community generates buzz, helps drive traffic to your store, and can ultimately increase your bottom line.
Those are some pretty sweet benefits, which is why you should invest the resources in putting yourself in front of the locals. Need help accomplishing this? Here are seven steps to get you going:
Step 1: Claim all of your listing online
Be sure to cover all your bases when it comes to your online listings. Get your business’ contact details on major online directories and see to it that the information is consistent across the web. Duplicate or inaccurate listings can hurt your rankings and “findability” so address these issues as you see them.
An easy way to do this is to use a business listing solution such as Moz Local, which lets you manage your online business listings from a centralized dashboard. Moz Local pushes your information to all major data aggregators and “ensures your business listings are correct, consistent, and visible across the web.”
Step 2: Beef up your listings with photos and reviews
Add photos of your store and products to you listings, particularly the ones on Google+ and Yelp. This will make your business look more credible and also help it stand out in search results.
Consider this example:
Antiqology, an antique store in Huntington, IN (which also happens to be an awesome Vend customer) has done a good job with their business listing on Google. Aside from adding their address, phone number, and hours of operation, Antiqology has some photos up on its listing, helping it look more enticing compared to the other businesses that only have generic listings.
Also try to rake in more positive reviews on Yelp. This can do wonders not just for your business listings’ credibility, but also your search rankings. “Google is starting to favor reputable directory sites, like Yelp, in search results,” says Brandon Seymour, owner of online marketing agency Beymour Consulting. “In some cases, I have even seen Yelp listings outranking the business website for branded search terms. Especially for smaller businesses just starting out, Yelp can provide great domain authority which in turn means higher search visibility.”
In the example below, you’ll see that for the keyword “dog treats pasadena,” the Yelp page of The Dog Bakery outranks its website, demonstrating just how powerful Yelp pages can be.
How can you get more people to leave positive reviews for your biz? Nothing is more effective than offering awesome products and experiences. So take care of your customers. Help them find what they need, give them genuine advice, and do your best to make sure that each person walks out of your store satisfied.
It also helps to create a great in-store atmosphere and feel through unique displays, designs and fixtures. In addition to injecting some personality into the location, this gives people a reason to whip out their smartphones and take pictures that they can post on Yelp and other social sites.
Finally, grab a “Find us on Yelp” sticker for your location. This is a good way to remind people to look you up on the site without being too pushy or “in their face” about it. If you haven’t done so yet, request for a sticker here to get one for your store.
Steps one and two are the basics of local marketing. These are the minimum steps you should be implementing to increase your local presence. If you want to take things further, however, consider the following suggestions:
Step 3: Pay attention to local trends and weather forecasts
Keeping an eye on specific trends and even weather forecasts in your area can help you come up with timely and relevant marketing ideas.
Is there a local event coming up? Is an important city official or celebrity is celebrating his or her birthday in the next couple of weeks? Whatever the occasion may be, try to tie in a sale or store event to celebrate it.
If you need help identifying trends in your area, consider using social networks such as Twitter or Facebook. Both sites have features that identify what people are talking about in specific locations.
You can also check out Google Trends to get insights on popular and rising searches in your location. Once you’re on the Google Trends website, click “Explore In Depth” and select your country and city from the drop down menu at the top of the page. Further narrow down your search by selecting a time frame and specific category (i.e. if you’re an apparel store, go to “Shopping” then select “Apparel”)
Google will then serve up lists of the top and rising queries for your parameters, and you can get insights into what people are searching for in your city and industry. For instance, in the screen shot below, you’ll see that in the past 30 days, some of the top apparel-related searches searches in Orlando Florida include “halloween costumes” and “halloween costume ideas”. With this in mind, a clothing store in the area could create content or launch promotions around such trends to attract local consumers.
Another useful tool is Trendsmap, which lets you easily see what users are buzzing about in different geographical areas.
You can also use your local weather forecast to come up with promotional ideas. Plenty of retailers, including Marks & Spencer in the UK, have been using weather data to make inventory and marketing decisions. This year for instance, M&S used temperature data to pinpoint the first official BBQ weekend and stocked up on burgers, sausages and picnic treats to keep up with demand.
Consider doing the same in your business. Is there a storm in the horizon? Put boots, raincoats, or any related items on sale. Are temperatures rising in your area? Stock up on fans, tank tops, and other items that can help customers beat the heat.
Step 4: Cross-promote with non-competing businesses
Find other local stores that complement your business and strike a cross-promotion deal with them. You can, for instance, co-sponsor an event, or provide free samples and coupons that the other business can give out (and do the same for them). Another idea is to mention each other’s store in your respective newsletters, blogs, or social pages.
For instance, for Mother’s Day 2014, menswear retailer Jack Spade ran a promotional email campaign inviting subscribers to check out Kate Spade New York for their Mother’s Day needs. (Hat tip to Business2Community.)
Step 5: Get involved in the community
Engaging with the locals can do wonders both for your business and your community as a whole, so keep finding ways to get involved. Whether it’s donating to a charity, creating a float for a local parade, or simply showing up at town hall and Chamber of Commerce meetings, making your presence known in your city or town will help increase awareness for your biz—while enriching your community at the same time.
Need more detailed ideas on community involvement? Check out this previous blog post on staying top of mind and this LinkedIn article on corporate social responsibility.
Step 6: Hand out business cards… with style
A well-designed business card handed to the right person at the right time can pique their interest and drive them to your store. Vanessa Cooreman Smith, owner of Flourish Boutique, says this practice has helped her immensely in marketing her store to members of the community.
“One of my favorite tactics is using the business cards I made up for myself and all my employees to carry with them and pass out when the opportunity arises. But instead of the traditional cards, they are essentially a small advertisement. They have a fun photo on the front, our store location and info, and even a coupon on them for first-time customers,” Smith shares.
She has her team hand out these non-generic cards to people in order to spread the word and bring them into her store.
Step 7: Explore your marketing and advertising options
From AdWords to Facebook to the local newspaper, retailers have plenty of options when it comes to where to spend their advertising dollars. Each business is different though, so there are no hard and fast rules regarding where you should advertise. What you can do, however, is figure out which media outlets resonate most with your customers.
“Know where your current customers get their news and information. As you serve your customers, ask them what radio stations they listen to, what magazines they read, and where they get their news,” advises advertising and marketing consultant Hilary Hamblin. “If your current customers are already paying attention to that media, other people like them are, too.”
Once you get insights into where your customers get their news, do further research and find out what each medium has to offer. For instance, if most of your shoppers are reading a particular website or magazine, check out that publication’s advertising sheet and to get details on their readership and circulation. This will help you determine if it’s worth it to advertise with them.
Needless to say, the most effective way to figure out which advertising strategy works best is to test and track your efforts. If you’re advertising online, pay attention to your analytics to find out exactly which ads are driving traffic to your site. For your offline strategies, be sure to ask new customers what brought them into your store to figure out if those newspaper or radio ads are working.
Remember, the “build it and they will come” strategy doesn’t work in retail. If you want your customers to find your store, you need to give them a little nudge in the right direction. Hopefully, the pointers above gave you some ideas on how to accomplish this.
Got any other local marketing tips? Let us know in the comments.
About Francesca Nicasio
Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.