Building a local brand is tough. Even if your business is in an area with significant foot traffic, developing your brand within the community is critical if you want to be successful in the long term.
Usually, when people talk about branding, they're often referring to large companies with a proportional budget for their marketing strategies. However, brand building is essential for local businesses, too. It's what will set you apart from your competitors and determine how your customers perceive you.
Luckily, to develop a local brand, you don't have to break the bank. Here are five important tips to keep in mind for branding your small business.
Create local partnerships
Team up with other local brands, and make sure that your objectives align or complement each other.
If you're unsure how to connect with other business owners, you can join local chambers or community service groups to expand your network, especially if you're just starting out. Then, you can partner up for campaigns that promote each other's brands.
Another way would be to reach out to local leaders of your community and help them where they are struggling. This gives your brand a social cause and shows that you value giving back to your community.
Simply put, building a trusted brand is much easier when you form connections locally.
Build relationships with the community
Small towns are all about building relationships and trust. If you show that you care about your customers—which you should, since public opinion of your brand can make or break your business—you're more likely to earn their trust and, even better, their loyalty.
To make this happen, you should actively listen to their feedback, be responsive to messages and inquiries, tackle complaints as fast as possible, and resolve issues. All that is to say: provide excellent customer service.
Leverage social media
These days, if a brand does not have a social media presence, it may as well not even exist. It's that important. Especially among millennials and the younger generation, social media is a must-have.
It's also a great tool for promoting your brand to potential customers; let them get to know it, and show different aspects of it. Social media is one of the best ways to interact with your current customers.
You can use social media to show that your brand cares about its community by sharing any local news you think will be of interest to your audience.
Establish a local SEO presence
There's no getting around it: SEO is one of the most important tools in a brand's arsenal to generate new leads and develop awareness. Many of the searches people perform on their phones today are location-based—meaning they're looking for businesses around them to meet their needs in that moment. Your brand should be right there in the search results, waiting to take care of them.
Investing in SEO can effectively build your online search presence and have a monumental ROI for your business. If you do it correctly, this can become a continuous source of new traffic and leads.
Some tips to optimize your website for local search:
Claim your business page in Google My Business
Verify your local address with Google
Make sure your business's name, address and phone number are consistent across all business directories
Control your online reputation
Online reviews are an important ranking factor in local search. Perhaps more importantly, they influence purchase decisions. Businesses with a low star rating or a low number of online reviews are ofen overlooked by customers. Reviews also provide a valuable source of feedback as the business identifies potential problems and improvements.
Tips for getting more online reviews:
Send the invite before the customer leaves your business
Make it ridiculously easy to request a review and to give a review
Send review invitations via text
Giving back means different things for different people, but it all depends on what you can do for the community. For example, you can offer to mentor another business owner and show them the ropes, so to speak. Or, you can volunteer for a local program. Lucidpress has a team of volunteers that deliver Meals on Wheels each day to local seniors.
Another idea is sponsoring local events (e.g. farmers markets) or sports teams, which is an effective way of getting your brand exposed to many people in the same area—and building a positive perception of your brand.
Aside from the business benefits, doing good for the community is rewarding in its own way. It feels great to get out of your bubble and do something for others.
I love this quote from former Disney CEO, Michael Eisner:
A brand is a living entity—and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.
Your brand is being shaped every day by the thousand small gestures your customers (or potential customers) are getting from your company. A gesture might be an interaction with one of your employees, a post on your company's Facebook page, or even a direct mail piece you send out.
If all these things contribute to building your brand, it's vital to be consistent with each gesture's message.
So, these are some essential tips to keep in mind if you're looking to build a local brand. If you follow this list of advice, you'll be one step closer to making your brand a success.
How to have more consistent local branding:
Tip #1: Establish brand guidelines.
If you don't yet have brand guidelines, create them. If you do have brand guidelines, revisit them and make sure they are up-to-date.
Tip #2: Make your brand guidelines easy to find.
The issue at most organizations is simply that their brand guidelines are too hard to find. The best brand guidelines are useless if they're too difficult to find.
Tip #3: Pick the right brand champion.
I'm curious: how would you answer this question? Who in your organization has the PRIMARY responsibility to manage and protect how your brand is used? Initially, I would've thought that, for most organizations, the designer or senior creative person has the primary responsibility to manage and protect the company brand. I mean, they're the ones doing all that "branding stuff" all day, right?
In our survey, CMOs/CEOs won far and away.
If brand consistency is important to your organization (which it should be), primary responsibility for managing and protecting the brand should fall to the CMO or another member of the executive team. When senior management recognizes the importance of managing the brand, it sends a clear message to everyone that the brand is worthy of protection and investment.
Know the differences between local audiences.
This is all about knowing your customers. Once you know your different customer segments, you can understand the differences between them.
For example, if you own a car dealership and have one location in a more affluent neighborhood than your other locations, you might notice that the affluent buyers are looking for something different than the buyers at your other locations. Maybe they want to see cars with leather and sunroofs. Your marketing at this location should highlight these things.