5 Steps to Guide Your Next Local Marketing Campaign (plus The $25k Makeover Contest)

Finding new customers is a huge task for any small business, but it’s especially difficult if you run a local business that requires local marketing to customers from a limited geographic area.

This fact is well known and well cited – and it’s actually what motivated the $25,000 Marketing Makeover contest that we talked about a few days ago.

If you haven’t heard, CBS Local is teaming up with Constant Contact and Audio AdCenter to present one small business with a $25,000 marketing prize to boost their local marketing efforts. The contest runs until June 30, 2014 – so we urge you to learn more about it and enter here.

But in the end there will only be one Grand Prize winner – it will change one small business owner’s life, but by taking the right steps ALL small businesses can be winners if they choose the right strategy.

There are many specific marketing techniques you can try (and we do encourage you to explore your options!) But having a general game plan will help. Use these 5 steps when setting up your next local marketing campaign.

1 – Decide on Your Local Marketing Budget

Before you start out any local marketing campaign, you need to have a budget set. Knowing your budget will help you figure out what strategies are within your grasp, and what tactics you’ll have to set aside for later (when that budget – and your business – grows).

How much you budget for local marketing can vary from $0 to thousands of dollars. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at how much other small businesses are spending on marketing and decide on a dollar amount that you feel comfortable with.

The following are results from a 2013 Yodle survey, which asked small business owners, “On average, how much is your business’ monthly marketing budget?”

  • 23 percent of small business owners said $0, meaning no money is specifically set aside for marketing each month
  • 56 percent reported a budget between $1 and $499
  • Only 22 percent spend over $500 per month on marketing – and of that 22 percent, 13 percent spend between $500-999 (meaning: only 9 percent spend over $1000 per month)

The results show that you don’t need to have a huge marketing budget to be successful. Choose a number you feel comfortable with, and adjust it up or down as you explore what works for you.

2 – Try Offline Local Marketing Strategies

Next, you have to decide where that marketing budget goes, and one thing most local businesses think about is their offline local marketing strategy.

Offline strategies like these are designed to capture people who are in your geographic area and therefore potential customers.

There are many direct local marketing strategies that you can try, and here are a few ideas to get you going:

  • Flyers, business cards and other promotional merchandise
  • Running special offers, contests, or handing out coupons
  • Teaming up with other local businesses – for referrals and even for a joint-venture promotion
  • Community involvement, such as volunteering or having company-sponsored volunteering events
  • Sponsorship, including sponsoring events, sports teams, or charities
  • Traditional forms of media, like ads in the local paper or on the local radio station

Results of your local marketing efforts will vary, so make sure you pay attention to what works and what doesn’t.

3 – Try Online Local Marketing Strategies

Okay, so you’re a local business. Maybe a restaurant, a clothing shop, or a business that provides a service like yard maintenance or cutting hair. So you don’t have to be online, right?

Wrong!

Online strategies should be a part of any local marketing campaign because your local customers – like everyone else these days! – spend a lot of time online. Basically you have to go where the customer is.

Just like offline strategies, there are many things you can try – but this list will get you started:

4 – Merge Your Offline and Online Local Marketing Campaigns

This is an important step that many small businesses forget – they either focus on offline marketing…or online marketing…or even both – but their campaigns are disjointed and not as effective.

Whatever promotion you decide to run for your first local marketing campaign, try to think of ways that you can push that campaign both offline and online. What you end up getting is a multiplying effect, where you create more buzz, entice more customers, and have more success.

There are a lot of ways to merge your local marketing campaigns so with this one we really encourage you to be creative! However, if you’re stuck – or don’t quite understand how you can fit offline with online strategies – check out these ideas:

  • Get your business set up on FourSquare and encourage customers to use it. That means that when customers stop into your business (offline) you’ll get an online check-in that promotes the business.
  • Use hashtags to promote offline events online. Perhaps you’re running an offline contest – think of a short but creative hashtag to identify the event. Then include this hashtag on all promotional flyers and posters so people know about it, and encourage those entering the contest to use the hashtag when they talk about it or enter.
  • Consider using QR codes. These look like little squiggly boxes, and you can place these codes on your offline material (like business cards, menus, in-store ads). When someone sees the QR code offline, they can scan it with their phone to be directed to more information online.

The possibilities of combining offline and online local marketing are endless and it’s a pretty wide open field right now. Find some clever way to merge your local marketing campaigns and you will definitely get noticed.

5 – Measure Your Local Marketing Results

The final step in the process is to evaluate the results of your local marketing campaign. It’s a way to reflect and discover what works for your small business.

The basis of measuring your results is first deciding what you should measure. Some things you may consider are sales, phone calls, emails, likes, check-ins, the number of people who come to an event, or enter a contest, or anything else that can be counted and measured.

You may have to be creative when deciding how to measure your campaign, but in some cases there may be a tool available (such as ReachEdge for digital campaigns). You may also have to deal with the fact that some campaigns (like social media marketing) are hard to measure – so choose a couple different things to see what works.

However you do it, measuring your results is essential to success because it helps you determine what strategies will work for your small business, and what your ROI is.

I know these 5 “simple” steps look like a lot of work – but local marketing IS a lot of work – a lot of potential rewards too! The idea of these steps is that when you get to #5 you can cycle back to #1 for your next campaign. Over time you refine the process and discover your personal secrets to business success.

Take a second to enter the $25,000 Marketing Makeover contest – because one small business owner’s dreams WILL come true on August 1, 2014! And then follow these steps to launch your next local marketing campaign.

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Jennifer Peaslee

Jennifer has a Masters in Sociology from the University of Notre Dame. She is currently working as a freelance writer, editor, blogger and researcher.

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