Establishing a new business in a local market can be challenging, regardless of your niche or business size.
And as most SMBs don’t have vast budgets to spend on marketing, competing with larger national businesses can seem like an impossible task.
That’s why you shouldn’t even try.
Because as a local business, you’ve got something they don’t, you’re local, and that’s a decisive advantage if you play it right.
The trick to beating your national competitors is embracing your localism and creating a brand that engages the community, ensuring you become an integral and indispensable part of it.
And you achieve that using a culturally aligned branding strategy aimed at those you’re in business to serve.
We’ve got nine tips to help you do it.
#1 Define your brand image (stand for something)
Your brand image is how customers think and feel about your brand; it’s the perception they have of it, regardless of whether it’s right or wrong. A good brand image takes time to develop, born from consumers’ daily interactions and experiences when using your business.
And that’s why you’ve got to be at your very best when running a local business.
Your brand image influences everything from your store font signage, staff attitudes, and customer care. And you should begin developing it from the moment you decide to start your business. But before you can start creating it, you need to define what your brand represents, also known as your story.
Your brand story should answer and convey these questions:
· What do you and your brand believe in?
· What community pain points will you solve?
· How will you solve those problems?
· Why are you solving those pain points? What are you trying to achieve, apart from profit?
As you develop your brand story, remember it’s more than just an elevator-style pitch to sell your business. It must be directly focused on how and why your brand relates and serves your local community.
Speaking of which:
#2 Get involved in the community
Since 1963, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has sponsored the National Small Business Week (NSBW). It serves to recognize and highlight the positive impact and importance of small businesses in the USA.
Because communities need small businesses like yours, and it pays to take advantage of the NSBW and connect with your local community as a local business owner because once you do, they’ll remember you for the rest of the year.
How to get involved in your community:
1. Sponsor local events and charities – In every town and city, there are theatre productions, community halls, parades, and other local events that rely on donations from businesses in the area. And offering sponsorships for an event is an excellent way to show your support.
2. Sponsor a school activity – Sports teams regularly require sponsorship too, and what better way to get into the hearts and minds of your community than sponsoring the local little league or the college football team.
3. Fundraise for an important cause – Fundraising for local causes close to residents’ hearts is another excellent opportunity to show people you’re there to serve the community, not just sell to them.
4. Run workshops – You can help residents and business owners by providing free tutorials. This strategy often results in those you teach seeking your paid advice or service in the future.
5. Offer free services or discounts – Strengthen your public image and spread the word about your brand by providing free products or services to non-profit organisations, libraries, or schools.
#3 Create a logo that conveys your brand
A common mistake made by local businesses is not creating a recognisable logo that conveys their brand image and engages their target audience. Perhaps because they believe logos are only for big brands or online businesses; either way, they’re wrong.
A brand logo that resonates with people is equally essential for your local business, and you’ve got numerous ways of creating one.
For example, depending on where you live, you might have a graphics company in the area that can design it for you. If not, you can hire a designer online, and nowadays, you also have the option of using a logo maker platform that can create a logo for you.
Whichever way you choose to create your brand logo, ensure it has the following five logo design requirements:
· Simplicity: Simple logos scale better and are easier to recognize.
· Memorable: The best logos are memorable logos; try using something unique in yours, such as a catchy icon or funny wordplay.
· Timeless: A logo can grow old but must never go out of date, avoid passing trends, opt for timeless techniques.
· Versatile: Your logo must work in a range of sizes, colors, and mediums.
· Appropriate: A logo must be relevant for your intended audience and market niche.
#4 Brand your packaging/bags
Product packaging design includes choices of material and form, graphics, and the colors and fonts used to wrap a product, including a box, a bottle, a can, and every kind of container.
And most of us love great packaging regardless of the product because if the packaging is good, it instantly increases our confidence about the product within, and that’s a powerful first impression.
Your packaging must be designed specifically for your intended audience, so it engages their senses, convincing them the product is what they want and need. And include details that inform consumers of what’s inside, who it’s for, and how to use it.
Even the packaging process can be automated with tools that allow you to brand your packaging instantly.
#5 Invest in branded signage (if applicable)
First impressions count, especially in business.
And as your signage is often the first impression people see, whether it’s your shopfront or work vans, so you must get it right and take full advantage of the branding opportunity.
While branded signage will cost you a small investment upfront, high-quality custom signage that conveys your brand’s image and identity, engages with your audience, and creates a memorable positive first impression, is priceless.
And it’s a marketing strategy that you only pay for once.
#6 Be consistent in your brand image
The quickest way to establish your brand in your community is through consistent use.
From your website, signage, social media accounts, packaging, and other marketing materials and strategies, everything should be connected through your brand colours, fonts, and above all, image.
Because when you regularly expose your local target audience to your brand’s core message, it solidifies your business recognition within the community.
But brand consistency goes beyond marketing materials and brand design; it includes your business beliefs, brand promise, and the customer experience you provide.
#7 Co-partner with local brands
Co-partnerships are an excellent way of increasing local brand awareness and can benefit both parties by building better business relationships and growing revenue.
And as local businesses generally co-partner with other local business owners and suppliers, any sales generated stays in the community.
According to American Express, 67 cents of every dollar spent with a local business stays in the local community. And of that percentage, 44 cents go to the business owner and employees, and 23 cents is reinvested throughout other local businesses.
The key to a successful co-partnership is finding a business that compliments yours, an overlap between brands. For example, a local gym could co-partner a fitness equipment supplier or a women’s clothing retailer with a hair salon.
#8 Tell your brand story
Toms Shoes, Yeti, and Ben & Jerry’s have an engaging brand story that vividly explains what they believe in, resulting in an incredibly passionate audience and following.
It’s because their stories are genuine, not manufactured. An according to an Accenture Strategy 2018 survey, 66% of consumers think transparency “is one of the most attractive qualities a brand can have.”
These brands are super transparent about their purpose; their narrative resonates with you, making you feel connected and encouraging engagement.
Once you’ve perfected your brand story, ensure everyone can see it by placing it on your website’s about page and marketing materials – and always tie it back to the local community.
#9 Give back to the community
Consumer preferences are changing, and people now have new expectations of companies.
Now’s the age of authenticity, and brands have to get real if they want to engage and connect with their target audience. And a recent survey shows that 86% of consumers say that authenticity “is a leading factor when deciding which brands they’ll use and support.”
These shifting consumer preferences mean business owners must adopt a new paradigm, where maximising profits no longer leads the way.
Modern consumers want brands with a higher purpose – “88% of Americans say they would buy products from a company leading with purpose”, and there’s no better purpose than giving back to the community your business serves.