Marketing Yourself to Main Street – Tips for Local Marketing

local marketing

A copywriter mentor of mine, Steve Roller of the Copywriter Cafe likes to say that he could be dropped in any city where he knows the language and find enough work to last him 6 months or more. Without internet, without knowing a soul when he arrives. He’d simply use his local marketing skills and find local shops and businesses on the streets around him that need his services.

Local Marketing is Different

Could your business survive without the Web? Could you make a living in a strange town or city? Could you make a living in your OWN home town? Do you know what it takes to market to local business owners?

Local marketing is different from online marketing. There are different ways to approach local businesses than you would use to approach an online prospect, even if USING online marketing to reach your locals. Local marketing is different, too, if you are in the B2B sector, as you will often find that many small local B2B guys simply AREN’T online.

Who Qualifies as “local”?

Now, I’m not talking about franchisees, here, like the Pizza Hut and Tim Horton’s. Or local agents for regional or national companies, like insurance agents and financial advisers. I’m talking about truly local businesses, owned and operated and innovated by folks in your city, town, maybe even neighborhood.

The little guy on the corner with the florist shop. The gal down the street at the cafe’. The auto mechanic who fixes your car. The CPA who does your parent’s taxes. Even a larger biz like the car dealer on the edge of town, and the construction firm that built the new town hall, and the law firm on the 6th, 7th, 8th, AND 9th floors of the bank building, as long as they aren’t a “branch” office of some larger firm, they are “local” and need local marketing.

And there’s no  reason why YOU can’t market your goods and services to them. You just have to know HOW. And it’s NOT how you market to the world at large on the internet. Here’s a few tips to help you market yourself to your own Main Street neighbors, wherever your Main Street might be.

You Need to Approach Local Marketing Differently, Even Online

Online, we have these wonderful things called by various names – free downloads, optin rewards, lead magnets (my personal favorite), lead generators. Their entire purpose is to offer enough value to the prospect to get them to sign up for our email list or subscribe to our blog or try our stuff. And they work beautifully at it, too, when the right mix of offer, audience, and value is achieved.

In the world of local marketing, you need to do two things with your lead magnets. In the online world, you can offer all kinds of stuff – discount coupons, tip sheets, checklists, ebooks, you name it. That typically doesn’t cut it in the local marketing world. Your online folks need a taste  of what you have to offer. Your locals? They want to know what makes you different.

Here’s the scenario: You are trying to break into a market that has been dominated by Hank or Al or Kate up the street. Your local customers KNOW what you’ve got, because they’ve been getting something similar from Hank or Al or Katie all these years. So, your lead magnet should be something that tells them how you are DIFFERENT from the competition. What makes YOUR cleaning service, or tax prep, or muffins better than Hank’s or Al’s or Kate’s? Local marketing needs to focus on your uniqueness, not just on what you’ve got to offer. And yes, that goes for the lead magnet you are giving away on your website and advertising on Facebook.

Local Marketing Requires Offline Efforts

For many of those local B2B guys who can’t be bothered to spend much time online, or have their own online presence, you have to go real old school. Walk in and introduce yourself. Have a business card and brochure or other goodie you can leave behind. Again, make sure it showcases your differences with any local competitors, because chances are, they already have someone to do what you do.

And local marketing, even when done online, still needs that personal touch. The phone call follow up instead of the email. The thank you note when someone signs on to your client stable. The card or gift come Christmas time. They aren’t some anonymous internet account, but your neighbor and fellow business owner. Treat the as such.

Let’s not forget that this IS your community, YOUR home town, whether it’s Manhattan, NY with its millions of people, or Mill Creek, WV with its 700 folks. Local marketing may mean showing up for ball games, school carnivals, litter pickups, and the Lions Club’s spaghetti dinner. You may have to buy cookies from Girl Scout Troop #83 or start getting your morning coffee from the corner diner every day. In short, local marketing is no place for introverts or the anti-social. They are your tribe, like it or not, and they’ll expect you to get involved just as much as they are.

Local Marketing is NO Place for Family, Maybe Not for Friends

It’s one thing to be friendly, even form a friendship, with a local client. But it’s never good to mix business and family. And that can include old friends, too. Local marketing should be part of your business strategy to increase sales and income. Local marketing should be approached with the seriousness of any other business venture. And that means you CAN’T be giving discounts to Cousin Erin or taking time away from clients to work on Uncle Joe’s latest “get rich quick” endeavor. (Or worse yet, endorse his endeavor.)

If your family has a legitimate existing business, or someone close to you could benefit from your goods or services, by all means, work with them. Work for them. Take them on as a client. But treat them as you would ANY OTHER customer or client. No discounts. No special treatment. It cheapens you in many eyes, and makes others question your professionalism. And then there’s the “what if” something goes wrong. If you can’t get your Grandma’s order delivered without a hassle, how in the world can they expect you to handle their business?

And for the love of all that’s good business practices, do NOT use friends and family as prospects for your new endeavor. Unless they are the very definition of your ideal customer or client, stick to marketing to OTHER locals. Your family may buy, or hire, but from the outside, everyone will see that they only did it BECAUSE they are friends and family. You also run the risk of alienating the very people you are closest to, by constantly marketing to them when its obvious they aren’t qualified or interested. Commit your local marketing efforts to the rest of town, please.

Local Marketing Can Pay Off

Like my friend Steve, if you get good enough at marketing locally, you may not NEED an online effort. Or as much of an online effort, to satisfy your business needs. Having a bunch of stable, local clients can also mean more peace of mind. You don’t have to worry about changes in this platform’s terms of service, or increases in that site’s advertising rates. You’ve got Main Street in your pocket. Let the internet howl in rage and tear itself apart! (Isn’t it great to see all those online biz folks get in a flurry and huff every time Google makes an algo change or Facebook decides to update its timeline policies?)

Whether your Main Street is a step away, or a world away, from my door here in small town WV (no, it’s not Mill Creek, they’re twice our size), I can help you with your local marketing efforts. Drop me a question in the comments, or hit me up with an email. We “locals” have to stick together.


Lessons Learned from a Crappy Writer

Usually, we go to the best and the brightest to expand our knowledge, skills, and experiences. I have my mentors, my sources of inspiration, and they are wonderful, powerful people in my personal and professional life. I call them my VSPs – very smart people. Recently, however, I was taught some valuable, if costly, lessons from an unexplored and untried source – a crappy writer.

Here’s how it all started…I decided to put together a team of “junior” writers to help with overflow work and small jobs that take time away from larger, more profitable, more complex work. I took to  the job boards and found dozens of young guns itching to join up. I knew I needed some way to filter out the crappy writers from the promising ones. I devised a winnowing process of several steps to help identify certain areas necessary to the task of writing for others.

First, I created some pretty precise instructions to follow, to try their hand at following specific guidelines. That step alone weeded out dozens who could not or would not comply. Next, they were asked to provide existing samples of specific types of work. This disqualified many more, as they had no experience with the types of content and copy I was offering to my clients. Lastly, I asked for a writing sample of a certain type on an assigned topic. That brought the number down to less than 10.

All was going well until I began assigning work to the assembled team. It quickly became apparent that somehow, some way, Mr. Crappy Writer had managed to slip through my net and into my small pond of otherwise competent, talented wordsmiths.

How could that happen? What went wrong? I began investigating by asking the culprit himself. And this is what I learned first:

Lesson 1: Samples can be heavily edited.

Crappy Writer had never written anything acceptable on the first draft in his life. Or the second or even the third. Even the sample he wrote for me was presented to an online critique group before he turned it in. Everything he’d shown me had gone through round after round of editing and critiquing. And he expected me to do the same with his work for me – give him endless feedback and rewrite opportunities until he got it “right”.

There were some other lessons to be learned, as well. Such as:

Lesson 2: Some writers actually think it’s the boss’s job to teach them how to write.

Crappy Writer expected me to take the time to educate him on how to write the various content and copy he would be assigned. At minimum, to have samples and examples he could use as templates. Better yet, formulas to follow. Even better still, step by step sets of instructions.

And Lesson 3: It’s perfectly acceptable to be paid in advance for work that you don’t know how to do, have no hope of completing on time, and that needs many hours of editing and rewriting before it can be submitted or published.

At least, that’s what Crappy Writer told me.

I realize that there are writers and content marketers at all levels of experience and skill. I’m certainly no “expert” on many types of copy and content. Or even content  marketing. I have learned from the best, discovered some things on my own, and graduated with more than one hard knock, but I don’t know all there is to know. Which, I think, brings me to Lesson 4:

Not everyone has the same definition of professional ethics that I do, or think they should.

No, I’m not an expert. But I also won’t profess to know how to do something I don’t. I won’t take a gig or position or client that asks me to complete work or tasks I’ve never done before, or never completed without the aid of others. At least not without telling them so. And I’d certainly never demand full fees for what amounts to an internship – more learning than working, more learning than earning.

Maybe, in that respect, I’m not cut out to be an “internet marketer”. Truth is, if that’s what it takes,I don’t want to be.

I want to help folks who want to change their world for the better. I want to help the small business owner who knows a whole lot less about content marketing and copywriting than I do. I want to make a difference in my world AND in theirs.

I have skills that I have used for years. Skills that I, and my clients, can take confidence in. Do I always get it “right”? Nope. And I’ll be the first to admit it. But I always work with clients until it IS right, or right enough. Point is, I’d never sell a bill of goods that weren’t the best I could supply.

Mr. Crappy Writer opened my eyes. Made me realize just how easy it is for others out there to find themselves strapped with one of his clan. And made me realize just who I am, what I want, and how I can help others avoid the same mistake I made.

If you’ve had enough of Crappy Writer or Con Man Marketer in your life, why don’t you contact me here at Bloomers Marketing. Together, we can change the world. At least the small part of it we call ours.