Marketing your local business

You have a fantastic business. You have a hardworking team, a strong supply network and a great product. But does anybody know about you?

Too many small businesses get everything else right but neglect to develop their marketing. It’s essential to make an effort in this area if you want your business to have a future.

Why marketing matters

Marketing isn’t just about promoting your products or services – it’s about building up a relationship with potential customers so that your business is the first they think of when they want to buy the sort of product you sell.

As well as attracting customers, it can help you to retain them and can even encourage them to recommend you to their friends. Too many people think of marketing as an add-on. You’ll be much more successful if you think of it as an investment; experiment with different methods and monitor their success so that you can work out the best way to profit from that investment.

Traditional marketing methods

Traditional marketing includes things such as television, radio, newspaper and magazine adverts; posters, leaflets and flyers; engaging with local communities, forming promotional partnerships with other businesses and sponsoring events. These days, however, the world of marketing is changing.

Many of these approaches no longer have the reach they once did (for instance, people are watching less television), and others have a poor cost-benefit ratio compared with online marketing. Whilst it’s important to recognise that online marketing is not free (if you don’t invest much money you will have to invest more time), it’s considerably cheaper than most traditional methods in comparison to its reach, and it’s a more flexible tool.

Creating a website

The first thing you need to think about when building up your online presence is a website. This acts as your front office, the first place that many customers will come into contact with your business, so it needs to look professional and be well maintained.

It also needs to function on the full range of devices people now use to access the internet, including mobile phones. You can find good free testing sites online to help you check this.

When developing your website, you will need to think about what you want it to do. It could be the site of an online store or it could direct visitors to phone you or visit your premises. Using video on the site is the most effective way to get your message across and showcase what you do.

No matter your approach, you will need to be careful in considering security – you don’t want the likes of the shell shock interfering with your operations.

Using social media

Social media is a gift to marketers, but there are lots of businesses using it, so in order to stand out you’ll need to know a few tricks. The first thing to think about is which forms of social media will work best for you.

It’s generally unwise to use more than two or three because you’ll need to dedicate a fair amount of time to them in order to make them effective, and neglected accounts can damage your reputation.

Facebook has the biggest reach and is good for chatting with customers to build up a friendly reputation, but Twitter is very useful for quick updates and announcements.

For local marketing, it’s a good idea to make use of things such as Instagram, which are particularly popular with mobile users. This is because you can use it to catch people whilst they’re out and about and direct them straight to your premises.

Making the most of online marketing

Exactly how you develop your online marketing will depend on the particular nature of your business and the customers you’re trying to reach. When seeking local customers, one of the best things you can do is make use of review sites, asking happy customers to write about you on sites such as Yelp or on sites specialising in your trade.

To encourage customers to engage with you online, you can offer discounts or run competitions. This can persuade people to follow you on social media or to join your email list, where you can also post announcements about what your business is up to. For many types of business, the best way to get people excited about new products is by using images. The likes of Pinterest can come in handy with this.

Whatever you choose to do, the important thing is to pay close attention and be ready to adjust your approach to focus on what gets the best results. This is subtly different in every case because every business is different, but if you persevere, you’ll get results.

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