Local Advertising is hard, especially today.
The main focus is always on digital and online marketing, but there continues to be a huge amount of value in many traditional forms of advertising - especially if you're a business with a retail location or shop that relies on those local customers.
The problem most of my clients run into, however, is the cost. Even when they want to do something more local like radio ads or something on the TV, it’s almost always out of their budget. Or, the exposure they can afford is too small to make a difference.
Once, I ran a radio campaign and it cost me $3k. It was when I first launched a locally focused marketing business, and I really wanted to make a splash. The ads were great, and lots of people heard them. It wasn’t the biggest or best program, but it was decent enough to get some visibility for 4 weeks. Unfortunately, I only nailed one actual client from the whole thing. It was pretty disappointing, but I still have no regrets. Luckily, the client invested in a program worth just over $10k over an 8 month period, so I did generate a solid ROI.
But did I have another $3k to invest again? No. It was a one-time thing. It was just too rich for my blood, no matter how strongly I believed in it. Many people feel the same way about radio, newspaper, TV and even the Yellow Pages. It’s locally focused, traditional, and demonstrates to the community that you’re real, established and available.
So what are your options, when you can’t drop a few thousand dollars? I wanted to put together a list of things that have worked for me, and my clients.
So - what can you do when you're a local business on a budget? Lots!
Networking is one of the most powerful and influential local marketing tactics you can try. Some people may think this is free, but it’s not. You’ll invest your time, and often have to pay for your meal or membership. But the connections you make are invaluable. People want to do business with people they know, like and trust. Having the opportunity to connect with you in a neutral zone allows people to relax, and just focus on making meaningful connections.
When you attend networking events, never promote yourself. Be there to provide value. Ask people questions about their businesses, rather than talk about yours. This is a proven strategy in getting people to trust you. And, it helps you to overcome the jitters. I used to be terrified of networking, but I quickly learned I could easily take the focus off myself by asking questions, instead of talking.
TAKE SOME LOCAL COURSES
This may seem like an odd suggestion, but it’s similar to the networking thing. At local universities and through networking groups, there are often courses (even free ones) that are designed for entrepreneurs looking to obtain new skills, such as social media or financial management.
You will meet people that are just like you, who are simply trying to become better business owners. It’s a fantastic opportunity to make connections, especially when the courses are held over a longer period of time. It’s win/win because you get to gain valuable business skills while simultaneously focusing on fostering relationships. It’s a big investment of time but worth every penny.
ASK FOR REFERRALS AND TESTIMONIALS
This is something that goes back ages, but many people are either too shy or just don’t see the value. This is something that is completely free and can have a significant impact on your business. Unfortunately, most people won’t think to tell their network about you. But if you ask them to, after they have clearly demonstrated they’re pleased with your work, they will likely be happy to do it. Request written testimonials whenever you can - you can use these on things like social media and your website, but also consider including them in future sales proposals and any marketing materials or advertisements.
VOLUNTEER, SPONSOR & DONATE WITHIN YOUR COMMUNITY
Make yourself a part of the community by giving back. There are countless opportunities out there, with countless groups of people in need of funding and assistance. Even if you don’t have any money to donate, you can give your time. Working the hot dog stand at a local softball game with your company t-shirt on shows people that you care, and you’re here to benefit the entire community.
Other ideas would be to sponsor team jerseys and get your company name on the backs of kids who are traveling every weekend, playing their sport of choice. You could have your entire company organize a team for a local cancer walk, or you could donate your products and services for auctions and fundraisers. There are so many ways you can invest in your community that will serve as solid advertisements.
LOOK FOR BUSINESS BUDDIES
Finding other local, complementary or unrelated businesses to work with can be a huge asset for your company. You can form partnerships with other organizations who are happy to send work your way, as long as you return the favor. You’ll connect with people who are even happy to promote your stuff on their social media feeds.
Examples where this could work would be a landscaper connecting with a demolition company, or a plumber connecting with a house builder. They’re not competing, but forming an alliance to support one another whenever possible.
GET SOME SIGNAGE
This seems to be perceived as less valuable every year, and I just don’t understand it. So many companies operate out of offices where hundreds of cars pass by each day or each hour. Yet they don’t have a sign out front! No one knows they’re there. They think it’s too expensive to get a sign. I think it’s too expensive not to have one.
Another missed opportunity is vehicle signage. Decals are inexpensive, and most are magnetic and won’t damage your car. Think about how many times you’ve been sitting in traffic and noticed the words on the side or back of cars around you. This is something all businesses should do.
Also, consider swag with your company logo on it. You can get pens, tote bags, and magnets all pretty cheap. If you’re attending trade shows or networking events, investing a few dollars to send hundreds of people home with your brand in their hands is huge. I’ve ordered banners, pens, business cards and even tote bags from Vistaprint and always been really pleased with the price, the quality, and the speed of shipment.
START EMAIL MARKETING
Email marketing is often perceived as something for big businesses, but the results local small businesses see after implementing these programs can be astounding. If you have regular patrons walking through your doors on a regular basis, why aren't you doing more to connect with them? Email marketing continues to deliver the best return from any digital marketing efforts, even in 2017. And the best part about it? It's essentially FREE. You need to invest your time, and a few dollars each month for your email provider, but that's basically it. If you can't afford to hire someone to manage and create the content for you, you can easily take a course and learn how to do it yourself. A small investment that will yield significant results.
Founder of Malamax Content Marketing
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