Marketing in a small town is much different than doing so in a large city. Most marketing advice you’ll find online comes from those living or targeting markets in big cities. As such, their advice doesn’t always translate well for those looking to promote in smaller areas.
Few marketing companies opt to work in a small towns due to the smaller target audience and potentially lower revenue, but don’t count small towns out just yet. While the overall market is usually smaller, marketing in a smaller town does have its advantages.
Where to Begin
As with any marketing campaign, the first step is to identify your “Expert Zone”. What are you an expert in? What is your exact expertise? Is it print ads, it is digital ads, is it networking? Find the “what’ that you do best.
Next, find the “who”. Who is your target audience? Operating in a smaller area can afford you the opportunity to potentially narrow in your focus better than in the segmented and diversified markets of a larger city.
Are you a mechanic or restaurant owner? Each different business will have it’s own “Expert Zone”. An Italian restaurant might specialize in pasta, while another in pizza. Know your Expert Zone, and know your target client!
Be the Expert
Once you know your zone of expertise, establish yourself as a local expert in the niche. This is especially effective in smaller cities and towns where word of mouth carries more weight and saturates the market faster than in a large city.
Establishing yourself as the “go to” in your niche is best done by showing people, as opposed to just telling them. If you have prove you are an expert, then the message is better received! And one of the best ways to show your expertise is to give away knowledge and advice for free.
A small, actionable piece of advice, that people can implement immediately and get results immediately is going to establish your expertise faster than any tag-line, or sound byte.
Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can establish yourself, locally, as an expert in your field:
- Write an article for your local newspaper. This is a fast way to establish yourself as an expert. They don’t let just anyone write articles for a newspaper, right?
- Start a blog, where your target audience is the local customer. Write directly to them, and tailor your message to their needs and wants. Clear, concise language that speaks directly to your target market will convey the greatest expertise.
- Host a free seminar. By holding a seminar, you are setting the audience’s expectations. You wouldn’t hold a seminar if you weren’t an expert! Once there, ensure your message is so interesting and intriguing that your target market cannot wait to implement your ideas. Make the topic so interesting, people have to be there to hear what you have to say!
- Make face to face connections. People do business with people they know, like, and trust. If you see people face-to-face often, you build up that like Once they know and like you, then trust is almost guaranteed. If you are new to town, then you need to establish yourself, and shopping locally is the best way to get to know some of the locals. Go to a restaurant, and chat with the waitress. Go to the locally-owned grocery store, and chat with the butcher. Go to a car wash held by the local high school.
- Attend local events, especially if your target client is going to attend. Do you own a mechanic shop? Go to car auctions! Be where your customer is going to be, and talk to people.
LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter are all methods used by professionals to connect with local clients. Facebook groups are especially useful, as long as you aren’t spammy and treat people as people, not dollar signs.
If your target client has a particular interest (If you’re a mechanic, a car club group is a great starting point), join groups they are interested in, and develop relationships with people there. Don’t just drop a link and expect people to come flocking!
Social media can take up a LOT of time though. If you are pressed for hours in the day, stick with ONE social network where your target audience hangs out the most online and knock that out of the park. It’s always better to have one highly engaging and valuable social presence on one network, than neglected ones of 3-5. Given the value social media has, hiring an agency to help you balance the workload and drive leads and conversations is also a good idea.
Build Relationships that Matter
Remember the factors of know, like, and trust. They have to know you, and like you, before they trust you enough to click your link, or use your service. Treat people in groups like your circle of friends.
Another method is to sponsor or host a local event. This isn’t a ‘sales event’, but something that will attract the right people in town to your event. If you are a mechanic, then hosting a car club event for members to showoff their cars is a perfect match. If you are a butcher, hosting a BBQ event would be the right pairing.
In the 80’s in San Diego, California, a local realtor held an annual free lobster-fest. He provided the free lobster, and sold drinks to those who attended. After only a few years it became so popular, it exceeded the capacity of the outdoor venue where he was holding it – thousands of people would show up for free lobster.
It eventually attracted entertainers, musicians, and others who would help keep the massive crowds happy, and hydrated, before getting their lobster. This was a marketing idea well ahead of it’s time. It was so popular that an event which ended in the 90’s is still discussed in 2018!
The Right Message to the Right People
Don’t forget, it’s all about the message to your target client. Don’t worry about a high-priced logo, or slogan. Identify the language your target customers use, and speak to them in that language. Don’t drive away potential customers by speaking at them like a child, rather speak to them like a friend, in a casual friendly manner.
A brand is perception. Establishing yourself in a small town means building your reputation, which directly correlates to how well people Know, Like, and Trust your business. When people think of your brand, they think of you, not what you say you are. Good brands evoke positive feelings and associations, so it’s important to build that reputation up as quickly as possible. Brands are “why” not “what” or “where”. Brands that evoke the strongest positive emotions have the broadest reach.
Narrow your Focus
Be sure to narrow your focus. If you are trying to appeal to too large of an audience, your message will get lost. But if you narrow your focus so much that your name becomes synonymous with your brand (Q-tip, coca-cola, Kleenex), then your reach will broaden naturally, as your brand awareness spreads.
Develop your message for YOUR local community, specific to the local market. Read the local paper for news about the area to learn more about the community so that you can resonate with people. Keep the small town in mind when marketing to them, or you will instantly lose them.
As you might have noticed, this article focused a lot of YOU, your reputation, visibility and value to the community. Unlike operating in a big city, localized campaigns generally have a more personal touch, and word of mouth spreads fast.
Leverage these small town benefits to your advantage and you’ll be tripping over new customers left and right.