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.


You’ve Got Mail, Direct Mail, That Is

direct mail

Let’s talk about something that’s considered a bit old-fashioned and unsexy in today’s marketing world – direct mail. You know, the sales letter, the postcard, the flyer, that lands in your mailbox. Since the advent of the internet, direct mail usage has gone down, but it has never gone away. Many online companies have never considered it a viable part of their marketing plan. And to that, all I can ask is WHY?

Why aren’t you using it? It still works. It still reaches customers and prospects. And it works better than email or Facebook ads or a slew of other digital marketing stuff at certain things. So, why aren’t you hitting them in the mailbox instead of, or as well as, the inbox?

For those of you who are answering that you find direct mail efforts uncool or too expensive or too ineffective, let’s look at some cold, hard facts and figures surrounding direct mail, especially as to how it stacks up against every ecomm and B2B’s favorite darling, email marketing.

Response Rates – Direct Mail vs. Email

Response rate is one of the major KPIs all you digital dudes and dudettes watch like a hawk. How many folks opened my ad? How many folks responded to it in some way? YOU can’t make sales if THEY are turned off, right? and it’s only junk mail if it doesn’t interest them, correct?

Email has a dismal response rate of .12% according to the Direct Marketing Association. And that’s an average. Letter sized mail gets a response rate of 3.5%, according to the latest surveys. It’s probably because more than 3/4 of all direct mail recipients respond to an ad or offer almost immediately, while less than half of email readers do.

Usage Rates – Direct Mail vs. Email

Everybody and their brother (and possibly even the lazy brother-in-law) in the digital world is using email for marketing, prospecting, and customer relations. Think I’m exaggerating? Last year, 74 TRILLION (yes, with a T) emails were sent out. That’s a hellava lot of emails hitting inboxes, folks.

Let’s compare that with 13 Billion letters. Not quite nearly as many, now is it? What this tells me is that there’s a lot less noise coming into my mailbox than my inbox. A lot fewer businesses are communicating with me through good old fashioned mail with a stamp on it instead of a time stamp. Which leads me to my next point…

Customer Reception – Direct Mail vs. Email

There are so many emails being sent, one recent survey found 70% of the folks asked thought they received too many emails every day. And over half of email list unsubscribers cite too many emails as their reason for opting out of lists they’d once happily opted into.

This plays out in a number of ways for direct mail:

  • it generates 10% more leads than email
  • it makes the majority of the readers feel “special” or “personal”, while they find email impersonal and not as professional
  • direct mail makes the receiver think of the sender as reliable, believable, and more trustworthy than email senders
  • direct mail is 10 to 20% more likely to convert a prospect to a customer

Customer Retention – Direct Mail vs. Email

Ever see an ad or open an email and then quickly move on to the next one, or the next task on your to-do list? You’re not alone. The average lifespan of an email is about 2 seconds. We open, read, dump it in the trash file, and go on with our day. Less than half of email readers can recall the brand or even the offer within an hour of reading the message. Email just doesn’t stick with them.

Direct mail, however, has a different story. A piece of mail has a typical lifespan of 17 days. That’s nearly three weeks! Now, it may just be lying about on the sideboard or desk, but it’s there. They see it as they pass by, stumble across it when they are tidying up. They are being reminded of you and your message every so often. Also, perhaps because of the relative novelty of direct mail offers or the more personal, “special” emotions generated by it, nearly three-fourths of your letter receivers can recall the offer AND the brand an hour after reading about it. Direct mail makes an impression, and it’s a favorable one.

Don’t Be So Hasty to Dump Email, However

All this good news about direct mail may have you deciding to abandon your email marketing efforts. And as much as I like the numbers and all, I have to say that would be a bad idea. Why? Because consumers – both B2C AND B2B – prefer a COMBINATION of direct mail and email together.

They go together like coffee and donuts, apparently. There are some instances where direct  mail is preferred – brochures, catalogs, welcome packs, bills and statements, and loyalty rewards. And still others – order confirmation and followup, company news and updates, complaints and customer service issues, and reminders for both payments and special offers – that customers prefer to receive via their inbox.

Nearly half of those surveyed declared that they prefer a mix of both direct mail AND email. And over half admitted that they like to browse a REAL catalog, then go online to make their purchase. In fact, customers spend an average of 25% MORE when offered a printed, mailed catalog and an online buying experience combined. Want to increase sales? Send them something they can hold in their hands, while letting them order from your website.

So What’s it All About?

My point is two-fold, actually…

First, if you AREN’T using direct mail, you’re missing out. You’re leaving a valuable marketing asset untouched, unused, and leaving money on the table because of it. If all you do is send emails, it’s time to add some snail mail to the marketing mix.

Second, direct mail DOES have a valuable and viable place in today’s marketing world, even for digital companies. Just because you aren’t a brick and mortar store built in Grandpa’s day does not mean you can’t generate sales and business using direct mail. And just because you’re on the cutting edge of technology doesn’t automatically disqualify you from the stamp-and-envelope crowd. I mean, if it’s good enough for Google, who uses direct mail on a routine basis, shouldn’t you at least consider it?

I’m adding direct mail to my own marketing mix starting in January. I’ll keep you posted as to what happens. And who knows? Maybe you’ll see a letter from lil ol Bloomers Marketing in YOUR letter bpx some day.

If you plan to use  some direct mail, or would like to discuss this topic further, drop a comment on this post. Let me know what you’re up to, and how it works out.

Till next time!