Many companies spend much time promoting their brand to an audience as big as possible, optimizing strategies, leveraging new channels, and developing distinctive campaigns. An element that is sometimes overlooked, even though it's essential to a good marketing strategy, is a local marketing strategy.
This comprehensive guide discusses all the important facets of local marketing and gives you tools and tips to get started.
The value of local marketing
Unlock your potential with Local Marketing Automation
What is Local Marketing?
We don't want to sound too much like a high school essay, but let's start this guide with a definition of Local Marketing.
Local marketing is a marketing strategy where you target local or regional audiences, often within a certain radius of your company's physical location(s). Local marketing is therefore also often called local store marketing or neighborhood marketing.
Local marketing involves adapting components in the marketing mix to local conditions and characteristics. For a very basic example, think of translating your campaign into the language your target audience speaks. You can also get very technical and adapt your marketing materials to the weather conditions at specific DOOH locations.
By adapting to a specific location or audience, you're better able to connect to them, which is a great way to build trust. Local marketing can be done in big ways, small, online, offline... The options are endless. It's also not just reserved for smaller, local companies. Multinationals also greatly benefit from localizing their marketing efforts to connect to their audiences.
3 Examples of great local marketing campaigns
It can be helpful to have an idea of best practices before diving in yourself.
Because examples help with learning, we've put together a list of 15 examples of great local marketing. Below are three of those examples, click this link to see all of them (after you're done reading this, of course).
British Airways' "A British original"
The question "Are you here for business or leisure" is one ubiquitous with airport travel. It's also a question that can be hard to answer when your reason for travel doesn't neatly fit into those categories. The British Airways campaign features 500 unique print, digital, and outdoor executions, each showing the binary choice between business and leisure, and a third, different, choice. These third options are amazing examples of local programmatic marketing. Some are geared to specific locations ("Warm gusts of air that don't come from tube trains."), others to weather conditions ("Because this weather sucks."), and others are more general ("Mischief."). The campaign also covers videos that strike a more emotional cord.
Albert Heijn invites you to Iftar
During the holy month of Ramadan, Muslims fast between sunrise and sunset, breaking their fast at sunset with a meal called Iftar. Dutch grocery store Albert Heijn wanted to facilitate these meals and the connections they bring and has been organizing open-air Iftars during Ramadan In their #EtenVerbindt campaign. The organizing cities ran campaigns in the city, and stores displayed localized invitations on posters and online.
Localized McMenu items
McDonald's can be found almost everywhere on the planet (sorry Antartica). It may seem difficult for a brand that big to appeal to local customers, especially since its menus feature worldwide classics like the Big Mac, and part of its appeal is that these classic items taste the same wherever you are. However, McDonald's uses local foods to supplement their classic menu. You can get poutine in Canada, the McKroket in the Netherlands, and Le McDo in France offers the McBaguette. including local food culture makes it possible for the fast food giant to speak to their local audience and it creates a scavenger hunt for tourists.
Benefits of local marketing
The campaigns above are great examples of large companies reaching out to their specific target audiences. Connecting with the right people is the biggest benefit of local marketing, together with leveraging local market insights and being cost-effective.
1. Reach the right audience
Effective marketing is not about reaching as many people as possible, but about reaching the right people. And the right people are the ones shopping where you are. No one is looking for a hairdresser 2 towns over or a restaurant in another state (at least, not usually). Shopping locally is convenient, it means less travel time and the option to quickly get something last-minute. Sounds good, right?
2. Leverage local market insights
Every market is different, which is why tailoring marketing campaigns to individual regions and markets is so successful. Localization means shifting the focus of your campaign from reach to relevance. Using knowledge of the local market is crucial here, and shows customers that you truly know them.
3. Local marketing is cost-effective
In this ROI-driven world, getting the most out of your marketing budget is essential. We'll get more into it, but there are several great strategies and channels for local marketing that are completely free, like most social media platforms. Also, since it connects your company to actually relevant local consumers, localized marketing campaigns are more profitable than larger-scale corporate campaigns that target a much wider audience. Local marketing also activates the best type of free and well-trusted marketing you can wish for: word-of-mouth marketing.
Reasons why size doesn't matter
Local marketing isn't just for smaller, local companies. It is just as beneficial for companies that are internationally or globally active. Why? We'll tell you below.
Your customers are local
Makes sense, right? Your business serves the people that live in that area (and an occasional tourist). People usually don't go out of their way to a different city when they can go around the corner instead. When you reach out to your local customers, they will come to you.
And not only are your customers local, but they also search locally for the same reasons. Local search has boomed in the last couple of years and doesn't stop growing. The addition of local search functions in apps like Instagram extends the importance of local search and local findability - for all brands.
Local reviews mean more
Reviews about a specific location tell potential customers much more than reviews of your brand overall. If the real-life shopping experience is bad, that is what the customer will remember.
So, pay attention to the feedback you get, and show that you adapt accordingly. Have your local partners be the ones to react to the review for an extra local touch. If you show your local customers that you're looking out for their personal experience, they will reward you by becoming returning customers.
It humanizes your brand
The distance between the head office and their local customers can be very big, especially when talking about global brands. You can close this gap by being present and investing in your local communities.
You can do this by getting involved in local events or making local store managers the face of that location. Whatever you do, make sure it's authentic and that it adds value to the community. That way, you'll be more than just a brand name to your customers, you'll be someone they recognize in their community.
Sounds good right? Localization is what truly connects your brand to your customers. So whether you're a large company or a small one, make sure you adapt to the local communities that you serve.
Local marketing is an important component of your overall marketing strategy. A good local marketing strategy will lead to a boost in your business’s visibility and sales, so it’s important to get it right before you get started and go through the elements that make up your strategy. We'll go over some steps you need to take to create a local marketing strategy.
Research your local market
Of course, you want to know your local market and audience before you create your strategy, so you do market research before you enter the market and update this information while you’re there. The range of important elements to keep in mind is broad, ranging from language and local dialects to laws and regulations. Consider hiring local specialists or visiting your target market.
Localize and mobilize your website
Localizing your website makes for a faster and better user experience. We’ve probably all seen webshops that redirect us to the local version of their website, which saves us from seeing products that aren’t available in our region or trying to decipher a menu in a language we don't understand. Information like which location is closest to the user, and their opening hours, is specifically valuable. When shopping offline, having that info adapted to the user without searching through locations can be the deciding factor in determining whether to go to your store or a competitor.
An important part of making sure your website works for local consumers is optimizing it for mobile search. Consumers are using their mobile phones more than ever to search for their next purchase, so having a website that works well on mobile devices is crucial. According to Hubspot’s 2023 State of Marketing Report, “40% of marketers say that mobile-friendly website design and mobile messaging (...) is the most effective trend they’re currently leveraging”. A useful tool to check whether your website is mobile-friendly is Google’s Mobile-Friendely Test tool.
Invest in local SEO and SEA
Local SEO involves making sure your website ranks high for locally relevant topics and keywords, which you can use Google Trends for. You can also promote other local businesses and collaborate on content to create backlinks to each others’ websites, or add local business schema to your website.
SEA gives you the opportunity to target audiences based on their location. I don’t think we need to say more about why it’s an important part of your local marketing strategy. Just make sure to check that you include the relevant local information in your targeted ads.
Claim local listings
Claiming your business on local listings and third-party websites is an amazing way to gather reviews and customer feedback, and offer another route to reach your target audience. The most important local listing to claim is your Google Business Profile. You can also think of websites like Yelp, websites specific to your industry, or get on local directories. These websites create valuable backlinks to your website and help increase your word-of-mouth marketing.
Go local on social media
Social media is an amazing way to directly engage with your local audience. Most platforms offer a lot of options to localize your account, from tagging locations to the use of local hashtags. Creating individual accounts for locations or holding localized contests is also a great way to leverage local social media channels.
Be active in your local community
When you support your local community, that local community is very likely to support you as well. Be present at local events, or sponsor them if you can’t be there in person. Or collaborate with other (established or new) businesses in your community. This increases your visibility and shows you care about giving back to the community.
Don’t forget local media
Even though local media may not have the budget or reach of local media, it’s likely that your local customers listen to or read the local news through those local channels. So make sure to invest in them! Neighborhood newspapers, local radio, try to find the ones your target audience uses and get in there.
Brand localization as a part of local marketing strategy
Your branding is an integral part of your marketing strategy. And, as you localize your overall marketing strategy, you also need to look at your brand when entering local markets. You may need to adapt your tone of voice, how you present your company culture, or even your brand name and taglines. Consumers might have different opinions on how they expect brands to interact with them, and the other way around. Three things to keep in mind when localizing your brand:
Leverage local marketing channels and influencers.
Meeting local audiences where they are can be taken to a new level by choosing local newspapers/radio stations/etc. over (inter)national ones. It shows that you, as a brand, are looking beyond the usual channels available to you. The same goes for local influencers. They are actual members of the community and a trusted source of recommendations for consumers.
Remember your multilingual SEO
Since people are likely to search online in a language they use themselves, localizing your SEO improves your visibility. Think about using language indicators in your URLs, applying Hreflang attributes, and translating metadata. It is beneficial to ensure that the language menu is easily accessible on the front end, either as a part of the menu or as a pop-up when users first visit a page.
Keep a country-specific brand guide
We all know why having a solid brand guide is important. But adding guides for your specific markets is very helpful. Localized style guidelines skip the basic info and focus on the adaptations specific to that market. This doesn't just make it useful as a reference, it also helps steer your local marketing to lessen the risk of rogue localized marketing content.
The six most useful local marketing channels
We can assume that most marketers are familiar with most marketing channels, so we won't have to go into all of them when discussing local marketing. So, we'll just highlight six important marketing channels for local marketing.
- Reviews. We've mentioned them before, but reviews are incredibly valuable for you and your customers. Reviews showcase how much your customers love your products, of course, but also how you deal with negative feedback. Make sure to take negative reviews seriously, truly listen to your customers, and take in their feedback to improve your product and their experience.
- (D)OOH advertising. Ever been fully emerged in your role as passenger royalty and gotten distracted by a billboard on the side of the road? Digital Out Of Home advertising leverages video, music, location data, and additional real-time information in order to get you to look up from your phone. It's a direct and highly visible marketing channel, and with many programmatic DOOH platforms, it's very easy to utilize.
- Direct mail. If you're looking to reach people in a certain area, using direct mail is a great addition to your online marketing efforts. It certainly stands out more than the millions of digital marketing expressions people encounter every day, and if you include an interactive element such as a QR code, it's easy to track the yield.
- Live marketing. Curious who actually walks through (or past) your doors? Opening a new location? This is a great opportunity to take your customers from a persona to a person and meet them IRL! Take to the streets with flyers, special offers, or performers to lead passers-by to your location. A sub-category of life marketing is guerrilla marketing, which is the same thing as live marketing, only without a permit. Perform at your own risk.
- Local influencers. Local influencers can help you build that trust in the community through their ability to create authentic and culturally relevant content. Many local influencers also reflect a specific niche in the community. You can reach a highly specific and targeted audience by collaborating with them.
- Speaking of local influencers, we can't forget user-generated content. Though influencers are still trusted by consumers in general, the recent "deinfluencing" trend sees consumers (especially Gen Z consumers) becoming less trusting of slick influencer campaigns. User-generated content is a great alternative or addition. Reposting your audience's content doesn't eat into your budget, shows your product in an authentic setting, and increases engagement with your current and target audience.
Challenges of local marketing
Everything in life has its challenges, and local marketing is no exception. Let's go over some of the more common troubles seen in local marketing.
1. No sincere involvement
We've mentioned above the importance of being involved in your community. Even more important than that, however, is that said involvement is sincere. Consumers not only appreciate genuine attention to their community. It will hurt your business if you make them feel like a source of revenue instead of actual people. So think about how you show your involvement, and make sure it's authentic to your company.
2. A lack of creativity
A local campaign shouldn't have the same creative as an international brand campaign with a different store name slapped on the poster. It should speak to your local audience. One source of creativity for your campaigns is the people working in your customer-facing locations. Since they are members of the local community, they know which hooks can be used and which events can be leveraged. Make sure to put that knowledge to good use!
3. No automation
Marketing efforts in general can benefit greatly from automation, but this is especially true for local marketing. Imagine having to fill in addresses and opening hours for your 100 locations. Now imagine having automated this process. It's easy to see how using local marketing automation software saves you time and money.
4. No knowledge sharing
Local marketing successes are not shared enough internally. Which is a shame since these successes are also interesting to others in the business. It's important to have solid strategies to share these wins and give feedback where needed. Bring your local managers together to reflect on campaigns and implement what worked well in future ones.
5. Disconnect from your brand
It can be harmful to your brand if local campaigns don't comply with brand guidelines and look and feel disconnected from the brand. Luckily, there are several ways even large organizations can stay on-brand, like working with dynamic templates. They allow your local partners freedom to build their own marketing materials, without them (or you) worrying about whether that material follows brand guidelines.
Local Marketing Automation
To make life easier for marketers, there are a tremendous number of useful tools that make performing local marketing a lot easier and more efficient. Everyone needs a DAM, a distribution system, and preferably a system to help manage creative requests. No surprises there.
But local marketing benefits greatly from a specific way of streamlining your marketing activities. Please give it up for your soon-to-be new favorite 3-letter abbreviation: LMA, or Local Marketing Automation.
Local marketing automation simply refers to marketing automation software specifically made for local marketing. LMA helps local and national marketers streamline their efforts by centralizing marketing messages, campaigns, products, and location data. You can also easily localize and distribute content across a wide range of channels.
But saving time and money aren't the only benefits of using an LMA platform:
- It gives you comprehensive analytics of user- and location-specific information to increase participation and optimize marketing campaigns.
- You can tailor large-scale campaigns for individual regions, markets, and customers, with less work. This results in better results and prevents mistargeting.
- By centralizing and using templates, you prevent individuals from messing with your carefully built brand. This ensures a consistent brand experience in every location and region.
Other helpful tools
Local SEO platform
Tools like BrightLocal and Moz Local are ideal for monitoring and improving your local SEO performance. For example, with these tools, you can easily track your local rankings, benchmark your Google Business Profile performance, compare your backlink profile to competitors and gain insight into the search behavior of local searchers. These tools are a must-have for your local search results optimization.
Local Listing Score
Semrush and Moz have a handy free tool that gives users insight into their presence in the various directories such as Google, Facebook, and Bing. These local business listings, as mentioned earlier, are hugely important for local SEO.
Review management tools like ReviewTrackers help your brand see through the eyes of (future) customers thanks to reviews. These tools not only help you monitor, analyze and respond to reviews. They also show you where you are losing market share locally, how your business is performing compared to the local competition, and what you need to do to build a more authentic connection with your customers and further optimize the customer experience.
Brand management software
We've talked about the importance of brand consistency when localizing your marketing and adapting to different markets. Brand management software offers you features like a DAM and templates that ensure that the right assets are with the people that need them.
Get started with local marketing!
Hopefully, after reading this guide, you have become a local hero. The important thing to remember is that local marketing is a valuable addition to your existing marketing strategy, regardless of the size of your organization. Remember, you don't have to be small to be local!
You can go a long way with the right tools and technology, but in the end, you achieve more together than alone. Although your national marketing team will undoubtedly have the right expertise, your local partners ultimately know their market and customer best. Leverage that knowledge; be where your customer is in a way that is both recognizable as the national brand and feels personal and local at the same time.
Additional local focus can lead to surprising results and is a must if you want to stay ahead of the competition. Remember: