Could you make more of your location when creating, promoting or selling your products and services?
If there’s one thing we’ve seen emerge in the last few years, it’s a renewed interest in buying local. Whilst the struggling economy has had a part to play in the popularity of staycations, campaigns targeting ‘Buy British’, food mile reduction, carbon footprint and the like have also touched a nerve with consumers and businesses.
Whilst there are reports of the UK High Street in decline, you can’t ignore a renewed interest in farmer’s markets, local business networking events and a growth in the number of small producers. This presents some great opportunities for businesses. Whilst the internet and social media open up a global market, some companies are reaping the benefits of playing on:
- their location
- the local ingredients/components they use in their products/services
- the local skills and knowledge they possess
A return to buying local
Unless a product/service is highly specialised and hard to get hold of, people will often opt for the local supplier over another if the price is right. With purse strings tighter and time precious, people want their purchases to immediately satisfy their requirements. Even with hi-tech logistics, distance can mean delays, disruption and added hassle in some minds. Having a supplier on your doorstep reassures you that, if there is a problem, you can get it resolved more easily than if they were at the other end of the country. The cost of that supplier’s overheads may be considerably less than one of their competitors in another location and this could also be reflected in their price.
The locality factor also appeals to a renewed interest in buying from people we know and trust. Many businesses who are surviving well during the current economic climate are doing so because they are a familiar and valued face to their customers. That’s not to say that locality is the be all and end all in purchasing decisions, but it certainly is gaining greater weight.
What does your locality mean to your business offering?
So could you make more of your location in the creation, promotion and selling of your products? If you get to grips with the demographics of your locality, could you tweak your product/service offering to attract greater sales? What volume of relevant consumers or business decision-makers are in say a 10mile radius of where you are now? Would the fact that you’re only a 20 minute drive away appeal to them? If you sourced quality local ingredients in your products, could you attract greater interest or even be able to charge a slightly higher price? Could you attract a bigger national market because of the local ingredients/elements in your offering?
Online ways to be visible locally
Even when your focus is on buying power closer to home, online marketing has a powerful part to play in making you visible. Just think how often we also add in a geographic territory in our searches for products and services on the web. People do use online channels to identify local offerings and you need to make sure you’re visible in those search results. If you don’t already, consider:
- SEO – Talking to whoever does your search engine optimisation (SEO) – make sure your appearing on Google map listings and are appearing when people key in your product names and a specific region/town. A good source of help in this field is the team at Easyfindlocal (http://www.easyfindlocal.co.uk)
- Pay per Click – If yours is a competitive market, even locally, then consider pay per click ads that appear on searches where people are looking for your products and stating a given territory.
- Social Media – If you have a facebook page, LinkedIn page or twitter account bring out your locality in your content and updates
- Groups – See what social network groups and tweeters have a local focus and/or are located in your target territory. Can you join those groups, lend support or pose comment? Can you create special offers just for them?
- Endorsements – Encourage recommendations on your social media sites from local customers. Profile these on your website too and include that customer’s location against the endorsement. Eg. I really valued your professional and attentive service. Jo Bloggs, Guildford, Surrey
- Your website’s content – Does your website make your locality clear? If it would enhance the perceived quality of your offering, can you make more of the local resources you use in your products/services?
Offline ways to be visible locally
It also pays to consider traditional marketing methods to gain greater visibility locally. This does depend on the customer profile for your specific product or service, but consider:
- Publications – What local publications are still read and valued? Go for the ones that tend to have a longer ‘shelf-life’ in your target customer’s homes or businesses – this may be the local paper, a regular events listings or free magazine that’s posted through people’s doors, the local parish newsletter etc. Whatever it is, look at ways, to be visible through its editorial, advertising and sponsorship. Be a regular contributor so you become ingrained in people’s minds as the local supplier for (X).
- Events – Are there local events which you could use to promote your business? Think about the community events, business networking groups, trade shows, festivals and markets. Can you participate, take a stall, sponsor, advertise with them etc to increase your visibility locally?
- Busy spots – Think about the geography and logistics of your locality. Are there any frequently congested roads and routes? Is there a popular area where people congregate? Do you have a local train station busy every morning with commuters? You’ll often find promotional opportunities on offer for these areas, eg poster advertising, roundabout sponsorship, leaflet distribution etc. Also, if your local radio station is popular, can you explore with them opportunities for advertising, interviews, news stories etc that will appeal to their listeners? Build advertising campaigns around a promotion or offer which you can track the response to. This will help you to measure the return on that investment.
- Groups – There are probably going to be lots of different community and interest groups in your local patch. If you can, try and offer some support to those whose members tie in with your customer profile. Can you be visible by attending their key events? Consider offering resources, sponsorship and special offers to them, or why not run seminars, workshops, taster sessions, product demonstrations etc in one of their group meetings?
- Charitable efforts – If your business is committed to corporate social responsibility, consider what local charities could benefit from your support. Can you get local publicity/ recognition for your efforts here?
You don’t have to invest a fortune to be visible to local customers. A local Christmas Tree grower near me is offering the Parent Teacher Associations (PTA) in local schools a 10% commission on every tree parents order from him. Aside from factoring in the commission, the only promotional materials he’s had to finance is the creation of a booking form for each school and printing a copy for each pupil. It’s a classic win:win. The PTAs are delighted because of the cash injection they are receiving, the supplier gets to access a sizeable new market and the parents opt for this supplier because:
- a) It enables them to support the school,
- b) The supplier is local so there’s less carbon footprint and
- c) This supplier delivers quality trees to people’s homes so there’s no worry about getting the car boot/roof covered in pine needles!
Joining forces with other local suppliers
This leads on to another suggestion, which I’ve talked about before (Getting A Bigger Slice of The Cake – Using Collaboration To Win More Business). Think about the other businesses, suppliers and groups in your locality who have some synergy with you. Can you put together a joint offering? Can you cross-promote each other to your respective customer bases?
Make the most of your locality’s nuances and icons
Aside from where you’re based, think also about the nuances about your locality which are synonymous and appeal to the local market. Are there any popular landmarks you can (legally) use in your promotion? Is there any interesting history, personalities and stories that could fit well with what your business offering is all about? Are you seen to be supporting the popular local sports team, group, school etc in the area? If you don’t know what these nuances are look at the local media, tourism information or talk to local people.
As we said before locality isn’t the be all and end all in purchasing decisions, but it’s certainly gaining greater weight. For many businesses it does pay to make more of their local demographics and location. That market may indeed prove a very loyal and valuable business stream in the long-run. And just think, when the next downpour of snow descends and we need something quick, it’s our local offering that we’ll invariably turn to.