1) Follow thought leaders in your areaIf you haven’t yet built up credibility or a positive reputation then you may consider “borrowing” someone else’s in the form of an endorsement or support from a respected thought leader in your local area. In years gone by, getting on the radar of these influencers would have seemed near impossible, but social media can vastly expedite that process. Twitter makes it easy to connect – more importantly – engage with these thought leaders directly, and there are a variety of ways to leverage those connections as part of your local marketing strategy.
2) Get involved in local groups onlineGoogle+, LinkedIn and Facebook all provide the ability for people to create discussion groups based on share interests or – in a lot of cases – geographical location. One of the fundamental aspects of marketing is that you need to find where your market “hang out” is and take your message to them. Becoming a valued part of such communities – and that means actually engaging with people and providing value to the community rather than going in all guns blazing in sales mode – will help you to build good will and cement your place as the “go to” person in your area for the services or products you provide.
3) Take part in regional “hours”While Twitter doesn’t have the facility to set up discussion groups and communities, many of its users have co-opted the hashtag functionality in order to help people connect over shared interests or shared locale. One of the most popular ways this is done is with regional “hours”, where at set times of the week people will tweet using this hashtag to identify themselves as being from a certain area and looking to connect with others. One such example of this is #northeasthour which takes place at fixed times twice a week and is often so popular it ends up on the Twitter trending list. If you’re looking to connect with other local business owners, then quickly build a network and a following then this is a simple but effective way of doing that.
4) Become a sought-after resource and a local connectorThere is a massive benefit to being seen as someone others can turn to for recommendations and referrals on the stuff they need. If one of your local connections is looking for a supplier, an introduction, suggestions on something they’re planning to do or somewhere they’re planning to visit, then you can use your own social media network to get recommendations from your online contacts, which you can then pass on. This can go a long way towards building goodwill and helps position you as ‘the guy’ (or girl) people need to speak to. And, of course, when they come knocking looking for something that you yourself can help with then that trust is already built.
5) Keep your ear to the ground for unhappy customersIt used to be that the only way you could voice your displeasure at poor customer service or shoddy products was to pop a letter in the post to Watchdog. These days, anybody with the slightest gripe has instant access to a potential audience of millions around the world, and many delight in using this platform as a soapbox for the slightest of grievance. While larger, faceless companies can easily ignore and dismiss the grumbling of the unhappy masses, a cluster of disgruntled customers in your local area venting their spleen online could do some significant damage to a small business. So, it’s important to get out there and face any complaints people may be making about you online.
6) Take advantage of local listings and be easily foundWhen people are in a buying mood, the search terms they plug into Google, Bing and company get more specific than they would be if they were just fact-finding. Typically, this involves adding a location “modifier”. For example, “butcher” becomes “butcher in Weston Super Mare”. As such, it’s important to make sure that you’re easily found for the specific terms people use when they’re in buying mode. Naturally, a big part of that is your website, but another important element is local listings such as those that Google themselves offer in the form of Google+ Local Pages. Review and ratings websites are gaining greater prominence in search results, so listing on sites such as Yelp, TripAdvisor and other such sites appropriate to your business is something which is becoming more important for getting found. Mike Morrison is a local marketing expert and the founder of Local Profit, where he writes for and consults with small businesses.
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