Go Local : Marketing at a Local Level

Startup businesses sometimes rush to advertise in the wrong places. They see glamour in certain vehicles, such as general interest magazines or cable TV, only to find that their costly ads don’t really bring customers in the door.

Today’s emphasis needs to be on local marketing - reaching individual communities with specialized messages. The bygone era of mass marketing, populated mostly by big companies that could afford that kind of thing, is being replaced by what marketing mavens are calling “mass personalization.”

The latest trend is to bring marketing down to the neighborhood level and make it personal to the customer. Tom Feltenstein, a top local marketing proponent, advocates targeting your marketing efforts to specific neighborhoods, “making sure your message is delivered only to people most likely to be your customers — those within 10 miles or 10 minutes of your door.”

Feltenstein, who works with many corporate giants on their marketing efforts, says that it’s all about thinking small and keeping your marketing local. He encourages stores, restaurants and other types of businesses to look no further - literally - than their own back yards for customers.

Local marketing keys: community involvement

This neighborhood-first mantra suggests a heavy dose of community involvement in your local marketing efforts. For example, here are three community-related marketing strategies:

  1. Good grades equal good customers: contact local school principals to offer incentives of free products or services to students who achieve high grades. When someone brings in a good report card to your business, give him or her the reward.
  2. Surveys equal more customers: regularly check the pulse of your customers with an attitude profile survey. You’ll collect useful data, learn what they like and dislike, and demonstrate your concern for their opinions, all at the same time.
  3. Complaints are your best friend: nine out of ten unhappy customers never complain — at least not to you. Instead, they don’t come back and then they go tell their friends. Your business needs to invite criticism so you can address the problem and turn it around.

Some other uncommon wisdom on marketing locally

  • Tap the potential of your greatest profit opportunity within your trading area - the customer base that is right in your back yard. Businesses, schools, churches, community events and even fellow retailers become your promotional allies in building cost-effective programs to capture consumer dollars right within your reach.
  • Local marketing is face-time marketing. Look for ways to convey your marketing message to potential customers one-on-one. You can go first to your employees, then from your employees to your guests, and finally from your guests to their families, friends, neighbors and co-workers. This brand of face-time marketing is intimate and personal, as opposed to slick and impersonal mass media advertising. Even big chains are latching onto this concept by encouraging individual stores to think small and locally in their individual marketing plans.
  • Contrary to some of the old “rules” of advertising, the local marketing approach eschews institutional “exposure” advertising. “Every local marketing program should pay its way,” says Feltenstein. “A marketing approach is either profitable or unprofitable based on results. If your current marketing is not measurably profitable on a per-project basis, kill it.” Move on to the next tactic, go for sales, skip branding.

To help generate more sales, treat your customers as authorities and unpaid local marketing consultants. Ask their advice and opinions of your operation, such as how you might improve it to better meet their needs. Don’t be afraid to reveal inside information, such as marketing ideas or recipes. The more they understand your business, the more they will respect what you are trying to do. Look for ways to show you are aware of them as individuals, not just customers.

Our Bottom Line

If you have limitless funds to throw at mass marketing advertising to build a name for your business, by all means go ahead. But if you want to laser-target your efforts to the best prospects in the most efficient results-oriented manner, try putting the neighborhood, local marketing concept to work for your startup business. Think small, think locally and capture the customer cash that is the easiest to reach.

© 2005 BizBest Media Corp.

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