As the number of online shoppers and purchase holidays, like Cyber Monday, grow, it may surprise you to learn that the majority of people still prefer to shop at local businesses. While more people enjoy the convenience of buying online—43 percent say that’s the reason they click to buy—there’s still a certain comfort in seeing an item in person before making a purchase commitment.
And while this buy-more-local strategy is still in vogue, it doesn’t mean shoppers have put down their mobile device, even when they plan to buy at a brick-and-mortar location. According to Google®, almost one-third of all mobile searches are related to location, like those “near me” searches.
What customers most want, especially outside of their local businesses, is a great experience. They want to know that their local businesses understand them and their community. Customers want to feel like a business is personalizing an experience just for them. According to one study, 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience.
With that knowledge, it’s time to brush off local marketing techniques to claim your space online and in your community. This Blue Paper will discuss how to make sure your business is top of mind when the local community needs you and how to use marketing swag to improve the customer experience.
Understand your customers
Knowing exactly who is going to be using your products and services will help you meet your customers where they are, whether it’s online or locally. This takes personalization. Studies show that 66 percent of marketers think they have a handle on personalizing advertising and marketing, but only 31 percent of consumers agree.
Personalization involves what is called “hyperlocal” marketing, and it’s important for businesses of any size wanting to capture the community’s attention. What does it take to be hyperlocal?
- Know local demographics and customs—then develop content and ads to match.
- If your business has many locations, make sure your social platforms are personalized for each community.
- Create a brand story that matches your company but also speaks to the community.
The intent with these tactics is to give your customers that local feel, even if you’re part of a bigger organization headquartered somewhere else.
Connect with local customers online
With so many people trying to find you using search engines, it’s important that your business maintains an updated web presence.
Update your information online
If you’ve moved to a new location due to expansion or added a new store, ensure business listing sites have your correct contact information, location and hours. Doing so will have a significant impact on whether customers find you when they need you.
A few of the most important sites to update include:
- Google My Business™
- Your local chamber of commerce
By verifying your contact information, you’ll also give your customers a place to provide online reviews. According to a BrightLocal® survey, 92 percent of consumers read online reviews, so asking for and getting customer reviews will enhance your web presence and your local reputation.
Use geofencing to turn local advertising into hyperlocal shopping
The popularity of mobile devices coupled with consumers’ habit of searching “near me,” has led to a recent rise in geofencing. This marketing tactic uses a combination of GPS and Bluetooth® technology to send push notifications to customers who have opted in to receive notifications from you when they step inside an electronic “fence” or defined virtual area. Using this technology can have enormous benefits to your business, like:
- Generating more local sales: Offering hyperlocal deals to those within your area allows you to be flexible with what you offer and when. Your offers can literally change with the weather, or you can take advantage of a community event.
- Increasing analytics and tools for metric analysis: While it can be difficult—and sometimes impossible—to know why someone came into your store, geofencing is able to tell you who is using your store and why. This valuable data can help you improve your customer experience.
- Providing personalization for customers: With all the data you’ve collected, you can offer personal reminders and details about products or services that fit their profile.
Get out in your local community
Once you’ve established yourself online, one of the best ways to show that you’re part of your local community is to get involved. Here are a couple ways to build a stronger presence:
Take part in local events
Being a part of local events gives you valuable face-to-face time with prospective customers and shows them you care about supporting the community.
In fact, for Kim Whitin, owner of Tri-State Concrete & Excavation in Fort Collins, Colo., taking part in local events is more about enhancing the company’s brand.
“We appear at many home shows,” Whitin said. “We have plenty of business, so we aren’t there to sell. We look at it more for branding. Our company name is out there on Google with excellent reviews, and we’re well rated with the Better Business Bureau®, so this is a way to get our name seen in the community. And If someone a year down the road says, ‘I need a concrete contractor,’ they might make the decision to use us because they remember us from that home show.”
When participating in local events, keep these tips in mind:
- Do your homework: Select events that pair well with your brand. And ask other local businesses if the event typically sees a lot of foot traffic so that you maximize your ROI.
- Know what your space will look like: Plan your space to achieve the perfect blend of marketing swag and promotional information that doesn’t look too cluttered or too sparse.
- Choose the best marketing promotional products: Choose products the audience can use to keep your brand top of mind. For example, if you have an auto-repair shop, choose an item with multiple uses, like the Tire Gauge Keychain.
In Whitin’s case, she wanted to give away tote bags, but because the home show was being held at a new college stadium, exhibitors had to follow NFL® rules. Because cloth bags are not allowed in the stadium, she opted for a Clear Sportpack.
“Everyone was asking for a Tri-State bag to hold their gear because they weren’t allowed to bring in purses or diaper bags and had to have a clear bag to hold their personal belongings and swag in the stadium,” Whitin said. “Many people told us that they would be holding onto them for football games at a later date.”
Sponsor a local event or sports team
Every community has local events and teams—from charity walks to little league games to community gatherings. Sponsoring teams and events gives you the chance to create a positive experience for community members. After all, 72 percent of consumers say they have positive feelings about brands that provided a quality event experience. And 74 percent of consumers say they’re more likely to buy the products from brands that create memorable moments.
Sponsoring a local sports team can also be incredibly beneficial when it comes to getting seen in the community. Even a huge brand like Mondelez’s Ritz Bits® found a way to get engaged in local communities by sponsoring more than 1,000 U.S. youth soccer teams. The company then encouraged those teams to share social content. This led to more than 100,000 digital brand engagements and a 77 percent rise in purchase intent in their target demographic.
While sponsoring one or two teams won’t lead to quite that level of online connection, it will still earn you positive local impressions from players and spectators. Make sure your sponsorship includes team apparel or giveaways, like T-shirts and ball caps.
Tips for local recruitment
Local marketing will help you find more than customers—it will also help you find local employees. As a recent article in Forbes® said, “Hiring from your local talent pool signals to your customers and clients that you’re a true citizen of your area. You’re invested in its growth, the wellbeing of its citizens and the health of the local economy.”
Hiring locally has its benefits:
- It simplifies the hiring process: Not only are face-to-face interviews more helpful than those performed online, it’s also easier to research candidates.
- It’s easier to build a network: If you hire one good employee, chances are they have local friends or family who are also good candidates, making it easier to create a better in-house talent pool.
Besides using more traditional means of recruitment, participating in local events—and not just job fairs—may help you find the right team members.
Kato® Engineering in North Mankato, Minn., sponsored a music festival to meet local community members. And find new employees.
“We like to support the chamber of commerce,” said Marketing Communication Manager Jason Miller. “And it helps us get our brand out in the community, and let people know we’re one of the bigger employers in the community.”
They gave out marketing promotional products, like pens and the Diversity Can Insulator, to people who stopped by their table. Miller also strategized how he could get the word out that they’re in need of new team members.
“Right now we’re hiring like crazy,” Miller said. “I gave out a business card with a QR code that brings people to our website’s career page, which has listings of all our current job postings.”
They also offered the promotional products during a recent four-day job fair at their headquarters. “We did a big advertising campaign through Facebook® target marketing, radio ads and billboards,” Miller said. “So far, we’ve hired three people on the spot.”
No matter how many branches or employees your company has, every one of them is part of a local community. By claiming your space online, sponsoring local events and teams, and offering marketing swag that fits the local vibe, you can offer a great customer experience and show people you care about the community just as much as they do.