If you selected WOM, then you’re on trend with with the majority of UK consumers. A whopping 86% of customers are happy to put their trust in recommendations from family members or friends.
Surprised? Probably not. Local businesses have always been about good customer service and a keen awareness of the community they serve. Online or on the High Street, a successful local business is one which gets talked about (for all the right reasons!) online and in person. This blog is all about the ways you can make sure that’s happening.
At Imagefix we would describe a local marketing strategy as one which targets customers within a defined radius. It could be anything between 5-50 miles. The most successful local campaigns use a blend of geographically targeted online and offline strategies. Many of the resources we use for local marketing are free – which isn’t to say they’re resource free. Successful marketing requires a commitment of time, creativity and care. Get it right and the rewards can be astounding.
Each of the 20 suggestions below are based on our experience of successfully marketing local businesses in Bedfordshire. They are ordered alphabetically and we hope that you find them helpful as you develop your local marketing strategy.
Wondering whether it’s worth setting up a blog? It definitely is. Blogging is now considered one of the most effective marketing strategies. Over 50% of business that regularly publish blogs say that they have gained new customers as a result and businesses that blog just once a week get twice as much email as those that don’t.
Wondering how blogging works? Take a look at our FAQs on this subject, so your business has a head start when it comes to building your audience:
This tends to be the first question when businesses start blogging. The answer’s pretty simple; write about what you know. Do you bake cakes? Write about how you learnt to cook. Do you offer a service? Tell your customers how that service can benefit them, and offer some examples of the work you’ve done. Or you could ask your social media followers what they’d like to know more about.
Blog posts have been getting longer over the past few years and the average length is now 1,250. However, don’t let that put you off. The most important thing is that you produce something that is of use to your readers. Whether that’s 300 words, 500 or 1,000 will depend on how you have to say about it. Don’t get too stressed about the rules; instead start writing something your readers will enjoy.
This is pretty simple – the more blogs you post the more readers you’re likely to attract. Twice a week is an excellent goal to set yourself. If you can’t manage that, make sure that you publish at least once a week, regularly.
Blogs containing multiple images get twice as many shares as those that don’t. So knowing where to source high quality images is important. If you have images related to your business that you have taken and would be willing to share, these will get the most attention. Especially if they feature local areas. For free stock photos you can use:
There’s two ways to do this:
SEO – Regular blog posting is a great way to get your business climbing up the Google rankings. See our section on Local Search Engine Optimisation for more about this and tips on driving traffic to your blog.
Social Media – post your blog on all your social media sites as soon as it’s published. Then get your family, friends, employees, customers to share.
Do you support a local charity? You may find that doing so could have an impact on your local sales. One of the most important things about being part of a local community is what you’re willing to give back. Every community has a clutch of local charities that either benefit the area directly, or have a local connection with the people it helps.
If you’re already supporting a charity make sure visitors to your website or social media know about it. In recent research 91% of customers asked said they would switch brands to support a business associated with giving to charity. 85% agreed that their image of a business is more positive if they’re supporting a charity they care about.
Once you’ve found a charity you want to support, there’s a number of ways you can go about it. The most obvious is making a donation annually – which is great, but there’s not much marketing capital to be made out of it. Alternatively, you could name a day a week when a percentage of your profits go to your charity – that way the association is flagged up each week.
Finally, you could offer support in kind to a number of local charities and good causes. That could mean donating a prize to a local raffle. Or maybe you could sponsor a charity run. Alternatively, you could donate your product or service – a free electrical installation for a local care home; free food for a school fete, or a free website refresh for a local charity.
Community support for your business has to be earned, which means contributing your time, commitment and effort to being an active member of local groups. Involvement tends to pay dividends in lots of different ways; you get to meet other business owners, local residents, and you get a chance to show how you can offer a unique contribution.
We’ve come up with 4 different kinds of local groups to get involved with:
This is a no-brainer. There will be a small fee for joining your local branch but the benefits make it an excellent investment. If you haven’t come across it, it’s a local business network which works to support and further the interests of its members. The resources are amazing and there are plenty of opportunities to work with other business owners to enable local growth and prosperity.
Yes, these can be a terrifying drain on your time. They can also be a dynamic and enjoyable way to introduce yourself to other people running local businesses. It’s just depends what’s going on in your area. Why not ask on social media if there’s one locals would recommend, and try it out. If you have a great time, great! If not, you’ve only committed a couple of hours.
What are people exercised about in your local area? A new road destroying natural habitat? Air pollution causing health problems? A vital resource being closed down? If you have the opportunity to attend local meetings on ZOOM, or in person, go along. Not only will you be supporting your community, you’ll also be naturally growing your local followers on social media.
Check out the Facebook groups attached to your nearest town or city. Once again, this can be hit and miss. Some of these groups are vibrant and lively, others sit unused for months at a time. If there’s people contributing, introduce yourself and your business. Set yourself a goal of a couple of posts a week to see if it gains you new followers, or customers, for your business.
Don’t pull a face – competitions are perennially popular and they invariably pack a punch when included in your marketing strategy. Use your social media to make the competition come alive. The whole point is to get people following you, sharing your posts, tagging in friends and talking about your content.
Here’s the bare bones of how to do it:
Ask yourself, would you buy online without taking time to check out the customer reviews?
93% of online shoppers check out the reviews before buying a product and 91% of younger shoppers (18-31) say that reviews are as trustworthy as personal recommendations. Unsurprisingly, shoppers are more likely to buy after reading a good review. What’s more of a surprise is that 31% say they’re willing to spend more if a business has excellent reviews.
That’s all very well, but how do you get people to take the time to leave a review?
Unfortunately people tend to leave bad reviews more willingly than good ones. So how do you persuade your customers to give feedback, without looking desperate? Obviously, it needs to be really easy for them to do. Where it works you could make it a reciprocal gesture with other business owners. Try sending out a survey with your newsletter, or when a sale is complete – it’s simpler to answer questions than to start from scratch.
Often it’s the way customers are treated by a business that acts as a powerful differentiator. An online search that reveals the products are good but the owner is rude will put a severe dent in your site traffic.
Values sit at the heart of all customer service, and they’re pretty timeless. If you’re wondering what you can do to polish up your offering, it’s worth scanning this list to see if you’re missing anything:
Thinking that email sounds ‘so 1990s’? Then you’re missing a trick. OK, so it’s a remnant of the early internet, but there’s a reason about why it’s still with us. 99% of people with an email account check their inbox every day. The average email open rate stood at 16.4% in 2020. Every £1 spent on email marketing in the same year, made £42 ROI.
All in all, the majority of UK business owners continue to use email marketing because it’s trusted, widely adopted, and has remained an extremely successful marketing strategy.
If you don’t already use email marketing, it’s a way to keep your customers up-to-date with the latest product range, company news, and any promotions or product previews you’re running. First you build a list of people who want ongoing information from your business. Newsletters are a popular way to keep everyone up-to-date with the business as a whole. Additionally, though, you can target segments of the list with products or promotions they want to know more about.
Do you know what people are saying about you online?
A brand’s reputation is hard-earned, so most businesses want to know immediately if they’re receiving bad feedback. Most negative reviews will appear on your site, your review platform or your social media, and can be responded to straight away. More worrying are the blogs, or articles that appear beyond the range of your radar.
Google Alerts can help with this problem. You can set up an alert which triggers an email if your brand is mentioned anywhere on the internet. Instead of waiting weeks for someone to draw your attention to it, you’ll be able to read it and make a response immediately. And who knows? You might find that people are saying all kinds of nice things about you that you weren’t even aware of!
If you’re a local business 97% of new customers will find you on their phones. In order to gain your fair share of the people searching locally for businesses like yours starts with Google My Business. It’s free; it’s pretty easy to use, and its purpose is to help businesses manage their online presence across Google. Oh, and only 44% of businesses have taken advantage of GMB, so you’ll be ahead of the curve.
It’s pretty simple to set up your Google My Business listing. You simply set up an account and claim your business profile. Google will take you through a verification process and then you start to add your information. We’ve come up with 5 ways you can get the most out of your GMB page:
Form fatigue is a killer; you start out with the best of intentions and then, gradually, you start missing fields, not bothering to check consistency. Don’t let that happen with GMB. The more information you provide the better the chance that you’ll be found. Inaccurate or vague information will disadvantage you. So, take your time. Take breaks. Make sure that your profile is complete, consistent, and accurate.
Google encourages you to add imagery to your GMB profile. Of course you’ll add your logo, and a photo of your business – but why stop there? Images are a powerful persuader online, so take the opportunity on offer. Show searchers what you sell, the people who sell it, and don’t just give one image of your business; show inside and out – different angles. Good imagery could be the difference between someone clicking though, or going on to the next business.
Once your GMB profile is up and running, don’t let it languish. You can publish posts as often as you like. So add news stories, case studies, new stock. Keep your profile looking fresh and cared for, so people can come back to it to find new content and imagery.
91% of younger shoppers trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation from a friend. They matter. So encourage your customers to leave a review on your GMB profile. If they do, respond to show that you value their feedback. And bad reviews? If you respond by showing you’re listening, and ready to address the specific areas raised, even a bad review can turn into good publicity for your business.
When you’re setting up your Google My Business profile you’ll be asked to choose a category to which your business belongs. Dependent on what you choose, you’ll be invited to add features, services and attributes specific to your sector. A restaurant owner can select the ‘atmosphere’; or a shop may be able to add ‘Disabled Parking Facilities’. The more detail you add, the better your chance of being found.
Local listings make your business easier to find online – which is great news for you. Even better, getting your business into these directories is usually completely free. All you need to do is set aside some time to enter your details, make sure they’re accurate, and enjoy the free advertising.
You’re thinking it sounds like a long shot? Not at all. The job that local papers used to do – remember those Classified Sections? – is now done online. 46% of all the searches carried out on Google are looking for local businesses. That’s nearly half of Google’s traffic. It makes sense, therefore, to make yourself as visible as possible.
Google My Business is top of the pile for business listings, but there’s a whole lot more you can do. We’ve come up with 6 but there’s lots more out there to discover:
There’s plenty of others to find, and remember, each one you fill in is another piece of free advertising for your business.
Most towns and cities have a local newspaper still. A number of towns and cities are sprouting independent publications alongside the traditional ‘Post’, ‘Mail’ or ‘Digest’. If you’ve got a story that you think is worth sharing, a local paper would probably be delighted to print it.
If you haven’t come across the term SEO before, it stands for Search Engine Optimisation. Local SEO is all about optimising your website to ensure that you have the best chance of being found locally. If you want the full story on SEO, take a look at our Ultimate Guide. If however, you’re just looking for a quick list of tasks that will optimise your website, here’s our ‘cheat sheet’. It’ll give you the edge when it comes to local searches.
In Elizabethan London, shop signs were so large that they constituted a health hazard for pedestrians. Back then, the city was navigated according to the most memorable shop or tavern signs, so everyone tried to outdo their competitors.
With each century that’s passed since then, shop signs have got smaller, and we’ve learnt to navigate cities and towns using street names, numbers and Google Maps. Businesses operating online don’t have physical locations, so their brand (including the logo) becomes one of the ways searchers locate, remember and grow attached to them.
If you’ve had a logo for a while, it might be starting to look a bit tired. Even the most iconic logos are constantly being tweaked to keep them looking fresh and contemporary. Colours go out of fashion, fonts fall out of favour, and visuals start to look cliched. Getting a new logo gives you an opportunity to revisit your brand image and values. It’s also gives you a great opportunity to post on social media and blog about why you chose the new design.
Most marketing strategies concentrate on acquiring new customers. The loyalty card encourages existing customers to buy more, and with a greater frequency.
The loyalty card is simple to set up; customers get how they work straight away, and you’ll see the benefit pretty quickly. If you’re a cafe or restaurant, it’s pretty straightforward. Every purchase gets a stamp on the card. Your 10th stamp earns you a free coffee, or a discount off your meal.
Why stop with consumables? Find creative ways to incentivise your customers to buy more. Book shops can offer a free book. Hairdressers can provide a discount. Clothes shops can give out a voucher.
7 in 10 members of the British public use loyalty cards. 80% of millennials like receiving rewards from engagement with their chosen brands. If you’re not already offering customers rewards for their loyalty, maybe it’s time you started!
Is your business approaching a milestone? Whether it’s 10 years or 100 years in business, it’s a great opportunity to make a bit of a splash, and remind customers how long you’ve been around. Just take a look at how the big brands do it. Forget the slice of cake and glass of fizz; they’re creating new products or innovating old ones, giving away promotional gifts, or rebranding.
OK, so you’re not McDonalds or Marmite, but that’s no reason to let a marketing opportunity pass you by. If your bricks-and-mortar business has a history on the High Street, you’ve got a perfect story for the local newspaper – especially if you’ve got photos, too. You could run some posts on social media, showing what your prices would have been in each decade up to now. And what about asking whether anyone remembers using the shop when they were a kid?
Milestones give you the opportunity to start conversations with people from your local community, and that’s what marketing is all about.
Wondering how you can compete against bigger, more established local businesses? Create a niche. What’s a niche? It’s a specialised product or service that answers a ‘gap in the market’ for your customers. Here’s an example; Shoe shops are much of a muchness, until one of them decides to offer a line in shoes for vegans…
Whatever you sell can be ‘framed’ by the particular needs of your customers. Maybe your offering is cheaper than your local competitors, or better quality. Perhaps you’ve found a geographical area that’s not yet been targeted by anyone else. It could be that your product suits a particular age-group or level of geekiness.
It pays to be ahead of the curve when you’re looking for a niche. The most recent example was the boost in home working during the pandemic. Within a few weeks online businesses were finding ways to ‘spruce up your home office’, ‘provide solutions to limited space for home working’, or ‘deliver healthy lunches for homeworkers’ or even a beer after work.
Referrals are an ingenious marketing strategy – in which your customers do all the work! Basically, you’re asking regular users of your site, or shop to make a personal recommendation to a friend or family member (remember how powerful personal recommendations are?). For each person they refer, they get rewarded.
If you get it right, customer referrals are good for customer retention and customer acquisition. Getting it right, however, involves finding the right incentive. Your existing customers have to feel it’s worth their while to become an advocate for you – which could mean them posting on social media or talking to people face-to-face.
Equally important is the lure for new customers. They’re being introduced to a great new business, but what about if they see the possibility of also being able to earn a referral fee into the bargain?
Are you using social media to market your business? If you are, you’re one of a minority of small businesses taking advantage of this massive opportunity. OK, it’s time consuming to do it properly but, taken step-by-step you could find that it’s not so hard to build a loyal network of followers who’ll help to get the word out about your business.
5 Rules to Make it Happen
The ‘open’ rate for email marketing is 16.4%; the open/read rate for flyers is 57-60%. Print is cheap right now, so there’s every chance of a great return on your investment.
Experiencing a local business used to be about walking into a shop or an office; now it’s as likely to be about clicking on a link to a website. Two very different experiences but with one striking similarity: FIRST IMPRESSIONS COUNT.
The user experience (known as UX) begins with a visual impression and then moves on to an interaction with your site. UX is all about optimising the way the site works to fulfil the needs of the customer. The more the users feel that the site has been designed with with them in mind, the closer the emotional bond with your brand.
What makes a great user experience? Depends on who the user is. Businesses know their customers better than anyone; they know what they’re looking for, how they like to buy, and what level of customer service they expect. A website designer will be able to translate your understanding of your customers into a ‘customer journey’ which successfully fulfils their requirements technically.
If you’re lacking the time or resources to fulfil your marketing aspirations, why not let our digital marketing team lend a hand? Imagefix has over a decade’s experience in delivering solid success rates for our clients. Whether you’re looking for someone to manage your social media, or you want a web design refresh, we have a team of experts waiting to work with you.
Imagefix is a one-stop-shop for all your marketing needs and your success is what drives everything we do. We work with businesses across Bedfordshire and the UK to expand their reach, grow their brand, and maximise their sales. Are you ready to get started?
Logic Plastering is a local plastering company based in Kempston, serving Bedfordshire. The owner wanted to grow his customers across the county and asked us to carry out a local marketing campaign. We recommended a website design refresh, local business listings (including Google My Business), local SEO, a regular blog, and geographical landing pages for each of the areas served by the business.
Over the period June 2020-Jun 2021, website visitors have increased by 450%, and page views are up 245%. Logic Plastering has 20 Page 1 Google listings for trade and geographical keywords. Our client reports that his business has been transformed by the additional sales our work has provided. He has grown his team and is now able to step back from his operational role in order to make strategic decisions about where he wants the business to go next.
Would you like to talk to one of our local marketing experts about increasing sales for your business? Call us right now on 01525 715608
Imagefix Web Design,
Brickhill Drive, Bedford,
Bedfordshire, MK41 7PH.
Imagefix Ltd, Building 52,
Wrest Park, Silsoe, Bedford,
Bedfordshire, MK45 4HR.
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