I live in Medina, OH. I like to call it a “Norman Rockwell Town” because it’s all those things you think about when you think of Norman Rockwell’s vision of America; a town square with a gazebo, rounded with small businesses. Some of these businesses have been there for decades (like my FAVORITE hardware store, Medina Hardware).
And then there are new businesses that open all the time. Right now, my favorite is called “Circles on the Square”, it’s a donut shop that runs a lot like a Subway. You pick your basic donut and they will customize them for you. The donuts are delicious and the smell is outrageous.
As I was putting this story together, I noticed something interesting — local businesses are always complaining about the big box stores eating away at their market share, but they are leaving a lot of simple opportunities on the table; having an internet presence and assuming that they don’t need to build a local brand if they are a local brand — that is, right in front of your face every day.
Local Businesses Have Only Themselves to Blame if Customers Don’t Choose Them
If you run a local business and have no local brand or no internet presence because you think selling online won’t help your local brand — just stop for a moment and take a look at this startling statistic I found on Small Business Trends.
The internet has given local businesses powerful tools to make their imprint upon the local community. By combining tried-and-true traditional marketing tactics with a highly visible online presence, your local business can establish itself as a memorable brand entwined with locally focused values.
Here are the steps you can take to solidify your local brand presence and build a strong reputation:
Ensure You Have a Solid Digital Presence
Search engines are the first thing people turn to when they have questions about a new business, so your local brand must ensure that it has a professional presence on essential digital channels.
Start with a well-designed website that makes use of your branding design principles. For instance, use a palette similar to your brand color scheme and a header font reminiscent of your logo typeface.
The most essential part of your website — at least as far as local branding is concerned — will be your contact information: Name, Address, Phone Number (NAP) and Business Hours. Using schema markup will ensure this information displays properly when people search for your business online.
Speaking of which, even if you are a local business without a public office/storefront, establishing your address listing with services like Google Maps, Yahoo Local and Bing is a must. By registering your business (for free) with these services, you greatly enhance your local search visibility.
Also, since new business openings are often an event within a local community, you can help the press get everything right by creating a press kit that includes a sample press release about your grand opening.
Get Active on Social Media
It may sound like a paradox, but the best way for people to feel as if your brand has a physical presence within their community is to be active on social media. Social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are communities unto themselves, and most relationships between users will have a local connection.
Tap into these networks with a solid social media profile that showcases iconic images from around town as part of its brand. You can also seek out local “influencer” types — people highly active and visible within their community — to befriend and help nurture as ambassadors. Think of people that everyone knows — such as people that work at a well-established and well-liked local business, like a popular microbrewery.
Paying for regionally targeted promoted Facebook and Instagram posts can also offer substantial ROI if your goal is brand awareness and brand lift. Even with a minimal budget, you can expose hundreds of locals to your business and get them talking.
Claim Your Local Directory Listings
The internet is filled with local directories for businesses. Ensure you create a profile for your business and claim it on:
- Google Maps
- Yahoo Local
- Trip Advisor (if relevant)
- Angie’s List (if relevant)
- Any local directories, such as in your chamber of commerce or BBB
Want to know more? Here are a few more articles on how to claim your business listing:
Work With Local Influencers to Build Events
Become friendly with other non-competing local businesses to build a network of peers and mentors. Within this group, you will no doubt find some of the aforementioned local influencers. Link up with them to see what your brand can provide in terms of helping to serve as a hub for local events.
Events are the best way to build a local brand. Not only do they earn attention through people participating in the event, but photos, videos and coverage of the event can provide assets for further social reach. By uploading photos and getting people to tag themselves, for instance, you have just spread your reach to friends and family of event attendees.
Possible events include:
- Sponsorships of local parades, 5ks or charity drives
- Hosting farmer’s markets or artist’s markets
- Hosting or co-sponsoring music and culture festivals
- Tabling local trade shows, festivals and industry events
- Organizing a sports day at a local park
- Organizing a game night for locals to play Dungeons & Dragons or board games like Catan
Promoting and covering these events on Facebook and Instagram will be the key to solidifying your local brand. Even if a handful of people show up, if you can document them having a good time, you have already won more fans.
Emphasize Stellar Customer Service
Bad customer service is the death of a local brand. Create practices and training that ensures each experience is positive.
Part of customer service also includes engaging with people online. Be responsive to social media messages and comments. Create an email marketing program to help assist with retention and send out promotions like limited-time-offer coupons.
Also, as a business owner, ensure you avoid discussing controversial topics on social media since this can often send the townspeople running with their torches and pitchforks!
Making Your Local Brand a Member of the Community
The practices listed above will all help increase your local brand’s visibility in the community and build positive, locally focused associations. Stay active, offer value to your community, and become a friend to all — that’s the true secret to local branding success.