Small businesses are always searching for the edge in the competition for consumer dollars, but many don’t take that first all-important step: getting to know their community.

If success is the goal, than this is absolutely necessary before a small business owner can even think about a marketing strategy. Marketing – particularly on a local level – is not going to work without a deep understanding of the local target audience.

So before beginning any campaign, get to know the people. Get out and eat at local restaurants and go to local events. Scout the competition in your particular area of business, either yourself or through your network of friends.

Once you feel you know your potential customers well enough, it’s time to develop a marketing strategy.

Local Marketing Tips for Small Businesses: Traditional Marketing

There are plenty of ways to strategize a plan involving traditional marketing. For example, you might go the extra mile to create services for the locals, such as placing water dishes for dogs in the front of your store if there are many people who walk dogs in your neighborhood. Or perhaps offer extra outdoor seating if the weather in your area is good enough.

The idea is to be creative and stand out from the competition. Local business environments are competitive, and you can’t expect to make it by word-of-mouth or walk-in business alone.

Other things to keep in mind:

  • Always keep in mind the four “Ps” of marketing: people, product, placement (how you distribute your goods or service) and promotions.
  • Write down a marketing plan. Your business is important enough that you should think your plan through and commit it to writing.
  • Develop a professional brand – this is more than just a logo, but a symbol that encompasses everything you want you and your business to represent.
  • Develop a partnership with someone who is willing to help you with your marketing efforts on a commission basis (particularly if you are on a low budget).

The Importance of Online Marketing

Even as you get your traditional marketing efforts up and running, it’s important – perhaps even more important – to turn your attention to online marketing efforts. Even when buying services or goods in their own neighborhood, consumers are increasingly turning to the Internet to find their destination.

Developing a savvy and effective marketing plan can bolster your business in ways that reach far beyond what you can accomplish with more traditional methods. But as with all marketing efforts, the online marketing plan needs to be well thought-out, planned and budgeted.

Ideas for marketing your business online.

Find a partner. If you are lost when it comes to Internet marketing, considering hiring someone who specializes in the field. With the proliferation of Internet-based businesses and marketing, you can typically find someone suited to your budget.

Make use of social media. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – your direct pathway to finding people on the Internet who are interested in your type of product and service has already been created for you. The goal is engage and have an ongoing conversation with both your current and potential customers.

Write a blog. Another idea worth consideration is creating a blog that discusses your product or service. This allows another method of interacting with customers. The more you are seen as the face of your business, the more customers will feel comfortable about using your product and services. It’s a welcome change from the often faceless, bureaucratic feel that comes from chains and corporations.

Design a great website. More and more in modern business, your website is the home of your business and where most of your customers interact with you. It’s a place that allows them to look over your goods and services on their own time – be it noon or midnight – and also allows them to interact by leaving a message or sending an email. Thus a great website design is increasingly important in a connected world.

Content is king. The best designed website with perfectly-placed assets such as banner ads and multi-step forms is worthless without good content. Readers can immediately tell the difference between content written with some thought behind it and that which is simply dashed together and thrown on the page. Do yourself and your customers a favor and either write content yourself that is compelling and informative or hire someone to do it.

Keep up with the latest. Either read a lot about online marketing or hire someone to do so for you. Either way, it’s important to know the latest methods of marketing online, which can change frequently, particularly in the area of content.

If you keep these tips in mind, you’ll be off to a great start in marketing your small business. But don’t forget step 1: get out there and learn your area, get to know the people you want as customers. Then you can use traditional and online marketing to help guide them to products and services they want.