Local is the new black. It goes with any marketing scheme, and people are more likely to deal with a company simply because it is local. Indeed, buying local is widely considered as the socially and ecologically responsible way to go. However, even with this advantage, there are disadvantages to going up against the big guys—the large, global businesses that have marketing budgets exceeding your gross income. Fortunately, there are several ways to market yourself that will turn your small scale into a strength rather than a weakness.
Come together. Sometimes two heads are better than one. Often, your vendors have bigger marketing budgets than you do, which can mean that partnering with one of them more than doubles your audience. Talk to the vendors who sell products through your store; chances are that at least one will be willing to go in on a branding campaign that will sell both your and their messages at the same time.
Offer incentives for local customers. Have you sent out a coupon allowing local audiences to try your product at a discounted price? Do you offer special deals for people in your neighborhood? These little things will only make a minor effect on your per-item profit, but they can have a huge effect on the way your business is perceived and your likelihood of success in your field.
Talk to local media. Many small business owners consider themselves above the local news stations, but they can be an invaluable advocate in your small business’s success. Being involved with your local media not only provides free advertising, it allows you to be viewed as an expert in your field. It gets your name and brand out into the public, where you need it to be. A short news story on your business will be more effective than a huge advertising campaign, and significantly cheaper as well.
Get involved. Be involved in a local event, a local charity, or other cause. This doesn’t have to mean giving large cash donations; sometimes simply selling event tickets through your store is enough to get a little free publicity and present yourself as a hometown favorite. You can also personally take part in local activities such as walkathons and holiday celebrations. Things like this reinforce that you are first and foremost a member of your community.
Sponsor local events. This may not be an option for cash-strapped new businesses, but as you grow and expand you should consider sponsoring local events. This will give people the impression that you are both local and involved. There is no better way to build an image of being a local, community-oriented business.
As you can see, marketing yourself locally doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive, especially if you follow the five new ways to build your brand online. Because buying local is the latest trend, a little goes a long way in this regard. By emphasizing your local roots, you can find success both in your community and beyond.