How to promote your business locally (17 of our top tips!)

February 12, 2021

This is Rammy is a podcast that only features news and events in and around Ramsbottom, a town just outside Manchester. It won the first-ever UK Podcasters Award for Best Places and Travel and boasts thousands of downloads per episode.

The New York Launch Pod features conversations with entrepreneurs and local businesses, with the goal of helping new business owners kickstart their companies in The Big Apple. It has also won multiple awards and been featured in several magazines.

Who would have thought that a podcast that is only about one town, could be successful? That’s because we underestimate the impact of having a local community. When it comes to formulating a marketing strategy, smaller is better.

We’ve put together some top tips to advertise your business locally:

How to promote your business locally

1. Join local groups

The key when promoting your small business locally is to focus on the community. People want to feel part of a group, and being part of that is what can give you a competitive advantage over international or even national companies.

Some of these local groups might have Facebook pages and run online meetups and local events. You can also join your local Chamber of Commerce, which offers exclusive benefits such as business health cover, better funding options and even roadside assistance.

Although you will need to pay a fee to join some groups, they will all allow you to attend meetings and events where you can bring exposure to your brand. They are a great way to form partnerships, build relationships with other small business owners and play a larger role in your community. This is still true throughout lockdown: online and digital events are still relevant places to promote your business.

2. Run competitions and contests

Running competitions and contests are a great way to bridge the online and offline world, increase brand awareness and boost your social media marketing. The best way to promote a competition and boost word of mouth is through your social media. Ask local customers to post pictures on social media with specific (and local!) hashtags, and offer prizes to those who win the most referrals.

Make sure to add your shop link in your bio so people know where to refer to when they want to learn more about your products. You can also build lists for email marketing by offering competitions and asking potential new customers to enter by sending in their name, phone number and email.

3. Offer local discounts and rewards

Another great marketing tool are discounts and rewards - everyone likes making savings on products and services. A great way to encourage people to purchase and order online is to offer discounts to those who order online. Large discounts and vouchers are a great way to get customers’ attention. Add your city name in the hashtags and discounts so customers know it’s from their town.

4. Partner with local businesses and influencers

You don’t have to have a million followers to be an influencer. Research has shown that micro-influencers have higher engagement rates and report better conversion rates than those with hundreds of thousands of followers.

Look for local influencers and people in your community or industry that are well-known and have a large following and build partnerships with them. As they are micro-influencers, it may not be their full-time profession so they won’t necessarily expect to be paid. They may be willing to work with you for free products or experiences, which will help you to keep your costs down.

Influencers will be able to promote your brand or business, but they will also create lots of high-quality media that you can use for future marketing. Not only will you be exposing your brand to your influencer’s followers, but it’ll help reinforce that feeling that your business is part of the community.

5. Add your business to any local listings

Make sure you are on all the local listings in your area. This could be a registry, citations or an online version of the yellow pages. You may need to pay a small fee per citation, but it’ll help you gain more exposure to your business as well as provide links back to your website.

Another way to find listings is to check where your competitors are being linked to and see if you can gather the same links. Most importantly, don’t forget to add your website, business address and contact details to Google My Business and Google Maps so customers find you when searching online!

6. Add your logo to vehicles

If you’ve already invested in company vehicles in your city, then why not add your logo and website address too? Adding a bit of branding is not too expensive and serves as low-cost local advertising. Every time you go for a drive, you’ll be exposing your brand to people in the area.

7. Sponsor a team or event

This could be a sports team, a school team, a chess team - you name it. Anything that is a team from your city and related to your local community, consider sponsoring it (even better if it relates to your services/industry).

Sponsoring could mean an advertisement on their website, a logo on their clothes or an outdoor banner wherever their events take place. Sponsoring things will also allow you to boost your SEO, as companies, teams and organisations will be more than happy to link to you on their websites.

Where to advertise your business locally for free

On a tight budget? Here are a few tips to help your local marketing, whilst keeping costs low.

8. Exchange favours

One of the best ways to advertise your business for free is to exchange favours with other businesses. If you know a business that is not a direct competitor and may have a common customer base, then consider proposing a cross-promotion. This could be as small as promoting their business on a newsletter or social media, to incorporating their services within what you do.

For example, if you offer physiotherapy sessions across various locations in your city, you can partner with a small sports shop that also offers sports clothes, massage balls, etc, and even add their flyers in your waiting area. You can then tag each other on social media so both of your followers gain exposure to your brands.

The underlying theme here is building relationships and building win-win partnerships. This will allow you to keep your marketing budget to a minimum while increasing your reach.

9. Turn your shop into a QR code

QR codes make it easy to access an online shop or link. With Pomelo Pay, you can turn your online shop into a QR code for free, allowing you to promote your website and services on literally anything with a surface! This could be on a direct mail flyer, an advertisement, or even on someone else’s ecommerce website/newsletter.

QR codes make it a lot faster and easier for customers to access your online shop, learn about your services and even order online. If you are a new business, you can build a customer email list by offering discounts to encourage people to sign-up and send their contact information.

10. Take local photos

Every local community in the UK has its own landmarks and historical monuments. Why not take advantage of those and incorporate them into your brand? One way of doing this is by taking photos of the team, brand, mascot or services in landmarks around your city and promoting them on your social media and website.

You can choose to pay a professional photographer, or go the cheap way and simply take these photos yourself. Post them online and on Google listings, so people can see which city you’re in. See how Rettie, a Scottish estate agent, takes photos that include various landmarks of Edinburgh:

If you take great photos you can upload these to photo sites and allow other people to use your media so long as they provide accreditation. When these sites link to your business page, this will help your SEO.

11. Donate to a local charity

Sure, it’s not strictly free; but you can choose to donate your own products or services to a specific charity rather than money. If it’s a strategy that makes sense, join forces with a local charity and let customers know how you’re giving back to the community.

Whether it’s an annual contribution or special promotion, both will bring exposure to you and the charity’s brand. If you run a special event, make sure that you get the charity to mention your business on their website. You can also get local media involved and even get a mention on local newspapers and news sites. Moreover, pay attention to a good pagination SEO practices to drive visitors on your website and retain them.

Tips to advertise your services online

With more of us online now than ever, it also makes sense to implement local digital marketing. There are a number of low-cost ways to build awareness. Not all of them may be right for you, you just need to pick one and focus on it.

12. Create content specific to your community

Remember the This is Rammy podcast? It’s a perfect example of creating content specific to a community. It’s unique, only relevant to locals and a great way to become well-known within a city. If podcasting is not your thing, you could consider writing blog articles or posting social media content that is relevant to your local community.

For example, as an estate agent, you could write interesting content about the houses in your city: which ones survived the war, interesting facts about how houses used to be built and information on the most interesting buildings in your city.

13. Improve local SEO

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) refers to the strategies that will get you ranking higher on Google. The first thing you should do to kick off your SEO strategy is register with Google My Business. When you search for something local such as “mechanic near me” or “coffee shops in Stratford”, Google returns results for businesses that are in this vicinity.

The top results that Google returns in a local search will be from Google My Business. So naturally, you should sign-up for an account. Registering is straightforward, you just need to wait a few days for Google to send a verification postcard to your address which ensures you are a local business.

You will have competitors who have their own Google My Business profiles and you will need to differentiate yourself from them. You can do this by filling out all of your business information, uploading photos and videos and regularly posting updates.

Most importantly you will need to build up your positive customer reviews. Ask all of your past customers for a review, and offer a discount if people are reluctant. Make sure that with all your future jobs, you ask for a positive review from your customer (so long as you’re sure you made a great impression!).

14. Improve SEO

In addition to creating a reputable local profile, you should ensure that your website is optimised for Google and other search engines like Yelp and Bing. You probably have lots of competition and you will all be fighting for those coveted spots on the first page.

The more generalised your keywords, the harder it will be to get found. Trying to rank for ‘vegan restaurant’ will be extremely difficult, but trying to rank for ‘vegan restaurant Croydon’ will be a lot less so.

The more specific you are, the better chance you have of ranking higher - however, you these long-tail keywords will have fewer people searching for them. So it is a careful balancing act.

Send your website to friends and family and ask them for feedback. Once you have decided that your content is the best it can be, you need to build a backlink profile. Backlinks are when another site links to your site. Google treats backlinks as a sign that one website trusts you.

Broadly speaking, the more backlinks you have, the more trustworthy you are (in the eyes of Google). Bear in mind however that not all sites are created equal. If you have lots of backlinks from spammy and disreputable sites, this will hinder rather than help you.

Getting another site to refer to you can be difficult and will take some imagination. If you own a restaurant, make sure you are listed in local business listings and restaurant directories. Throw special or charitable events and contact local newspapers for coverage. Get in touch with food sites and offer to write guest posts detailing recipes from your restaurant.

It will take some time and effort but if you are able to focus on your SEO you will be doing more than much of your competition, and you will see results.

15. Run ads

Online advertising sounds simple, you just need to make sure that what you bring in is more than what you spend on your ads. However, this can be complex in reality and if you don't know what you are doing you may find yourself spending a lot more than you thought you would.

There are a number of websites available. You can run Google ads, Facebook ads and ads on all of the most popular social media platforms.

As you are a local business, it’s critical that you focus on the demographics of your target audience, otherwise you’ll be paying money to advertise to people in Manchester when you are situated in London. You will be able to target potential customers through sex, age and even occupation (depending on the platform you use).

It will take lots of trial and error, and you should read a few tutorials before you run any marketing campaigns. If you’re in an industry with low competition you may find ads to be a cost-effective marketing tactic that brings in the customers you need.

16. Upload videos

When people need information or the answer to a question the first thing they run is a Google Search. If they need to learn how to install a window or want the recipe for chicken parmesan, Google will return videos on the results page.

You can build awareness of your business by uploading instructional videos for these kinds of queries. Naturally, you should only make videos that you have expertise in. If you’re a plumber, you can show DIYers how to install a bathroom. If you own a bar, you can make a video on making the best mojito.

Videos on property refurbishments, before/after deep cleans and hot towel shaves, don’t require million dollar production sets, and yet they can rack up millions of views. Video equipment is now very affordable and accessible. Have a think about the kind of videos you want to produce and if it resonates with viewers, you will be able to build an online following.

17. Publish case studies and surveys

People love reading case studies and interviews from locals, as well as success stories with your services. If you provide services to local businesses, you can try interviewing them and writing up case studies.

Remember the New York Launch Pod? Hal has grown his podcast by interviewing local businesses and publishing success stories. People want to hear what’s going on in their community, and you can be the mediator!

That’s what we do! We regularly publish case studies on how businesses have used features such as QR codes, payment links and online ordering systems to grow their business. Our latest one features Phoreal, a street vendor from Kingston, and how he used Pomelo Pay to grow his revenue by 10%.

The one main advantage of being local is that you can be part of a community, something that can you give you an edge over the competition. In the age of self-isolation and the internet, people value local communities now more than ever; which is why now is a good time to focus on local advertising.