With flights cancelled and borders restricted, people are hemmed into their city, region, or state and hunting for things to replace that long-lost vacation with. But are they finding you?
Accessing your local market is always a reliable business strategy (and especially crucial now!) but it requires putting effort into the right places and making sure your message is *chefs kiss*.
We’re going to explore the behaviour of your local market and why they would visit you, then pull it all together for some straightforward and honest methods that will put your local marketing and advertising up a gear.
Behaviour of locals
When you want to find an air-conditioning repairman, what do you do?
Maybe you ask your friends for advice and find out who they recommend, or you’ll see who comes up on Google after a quick search. You might choose that guy with the big sign and the catchy radio jingle. Or maybe you picked up a brochure from the home electronics store when you bought the AC unit, and it has an advertisement on the back.
The ways we find services and activities around you is different from how we find them when we’re travelling. Usually, vacations are planned in advance and customers have their itinerary in mind – I say ‘usually’ because I know at least one person reading this is going to be the type to freewheel it and make it up as they go along. You fast-and-loose types have my respect.
But for many people, the thought of paying to spend 2 weeks somewhere new, only to arrive and find everything is booked out for the next 6 months would be a huge disappointment.
Nobody wants to pay for 2 weeks in a hotel just to spend the entire 2 weeks in a hotel.
So they go to sites like Tripadvisor, read blogs, or see what businesses are affiliated with their accommodation.
That’s why diligent marketing strategies are necessary to convince people to give you their money months before stepping foot in your front door.
Local markets work a little differently.
Locals become familiar with your brand through word of mouth and brand visibility, as well as scouring the tried-and-true pages of search engine results. They are also far likelier to come in with less notice, which means that any improvements you can make to your marketing will yield results a lot sooner.
Reasons for locals to visit you
People are drawn to brands they can respect and have something in common with, whether it’s supporting a local school, sponsoring a budding athlete, or sharing the values that they do.
Consumers want to know that their hard-earned money is going to support the business that they would support as a brand – when you see a local restaurant that donated to your social soccer team’s raffle prize, you already feel a connection to their brand.
No matter what, operators have an advantage with their local market to align with the community – you’re in the perfect position to understand their interests and desires, and to reflect that in your brand messaging.
Geographic limitations aside, the global restrictions have shown us how important it is to support local businesses. It means that the people nearest to us have financial security and can keep supporting other businesses with their income, and that our neighbours and friends can keep up with bills.
And these are probably all people who are itching for an exciting activity or new experience! From parents with a full house of bored kids to a team of staff who have been working under new demands, we can all agree that it’s been a long year and we deserve a little fun (as soon as it’s safe to do so).
Putting it together
When we assemble all this information together, it’s instantly clear that there is no copy-and-paste answer to getting your locals in. Each business is different, and their local markets and ways to advertise to them are different too. I can tell you how to get started and what options you have available, but you’re going to need to pick out the right one for you.
What everyone can do is to start by creating 1-3 buyer personas.
A “buyer persona” is the vision of your target market, and the process of creating one is simple but enlightening! Simply imagine your ideal consumer as one generic person, and describe them the way that an author might plan a character for a novel. You can evolve these over time as you gather research or examples.
You might start with their name, age, gender, marital/family status, location, income, and what other kinds of hobbies they have. Then consider what goals or aspirations they have, what challenges they may face, what they value in life and what could drive their decision-making process.
Next, add how they communicate and access information. Is this person likely to participate in sports leagues or clubs, or to read a particular newspaper? Would they commute and listen to the radio, or catch up on current events on social media?
If you’re feeling confident with the basic idea of a buyer persona I’ve outlined, there’s resources to go to the next level in this Hubspot blog.
Wherewolf users can export their Wherewolf data and pore over the graphs we instantly create from their analytics – just filter your results by the state or region you’re in, and you’ll instantly see your guests graphed with details like age, gender, and the marketing channels they found you on – you’ll even see the peak times of year these guests visit you!
Now that you’ve outlined your key demographics, think about these strategy suggestions and how you could find your ideal consumer. They could be right around the corner (literally).
When used appropriately, radio stations can be highly effective for businesses seeking out a local customer base. The cost varies depending on the radio station, how many listeners they have, and what timeslot you want – but if you think your buyer persona matches this marketing channel, a well-timed and perfectly-executed advertisement across the airwaves could be a game-changer.
Twenty years later, I still hum the jingle for a rock-climbing wall in my hometown.
An effective radio advertisement has a few key elements:
- Don’t be too corny… Even in an ironic or sarcastic way.
- Explain any offers or promotions twice. They’ll consider it the first time they hear it, but they’ll appreciate it the second.
- Mention your business name at the beginning, middle, and end. There’s no point advertising a two-for-one offer if they can’t remember where to redeem it!
- Aim for the same timeslot to really drive the message home. Repetition is key, so you want to make sure you’re getting that buyer persona, like “Jeremy the Accountant who Rock Climbs” on his way home after work as many times as possible.
- Tell people what to do next, like where to find you and when the offer is running out.
You should already be active across your social media, whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, Google, or Twitter. But social media is going to be an instrumental part of your local marketing and advertising.
Competitions like Photo Of The Week, or a lucky draw for using your hashtag, will encourage people to leave posts or tags at your location and expose your brand to their audience. You can also encourage guests to check in on Facebook with a giveaway, which adds their attendance to their Facebook timeline.
Remember to follow other local pages and leave comments on their posts, so when your audience is checking out the latest photo gallery from the bakery down the street, they see you encouraging local businesses too. The more times a potential customer sees your brand or business name, the better!
While you’re checking out your social media pages, make sure your business details are correct – your address, opening hours, and contact information should all be up to date.
SEO, or ‘search engine optimisation’, ensures your website is easy for search engines to find. If you aren’t advertising on Google, SEO is going to be the surest way people find you online and get you on the front page of Google search results.
Use these tips to get started:
- Google Reviews boost your SEO, so if you’re looking for online reviews then remember to encourage reviews on Google! The search engine giant will “reward” you for adding content and credibility to their Review platform by increasing where your site is displayed.
- Alt-text on your images are easy to add in and increase your SEO too. For example, if you have an image of a couple riding horses on their honeymoon, add that into the alt-text (e.g., ‘Couple on honeymoon horse riding’). When blind people visit your site, the alt-text will explain to them what the image is – search engines will use this information to build out a wider understanding of your business, so if someone is looking for ‘honeymoon ideas’ in your area, they’re likely to find yours! This article has more useful info on alt-text.
- On that note – the text content that accurately describes your business or is relevant to what you do will increase your SEO too. Add blogs or updates in your business, talk about your town or region, and make sure your Google business listing has the correct information about your business address, hours and contact details. All of this helps Google to find you when people search for ideas in your corner of the market, which helps those people to find you.
- Backlinks – or when other websites link to you on their website – create more networks for search engines to find you. If you support local initiatives or charities, partner with other operators, or create content for other sites, they should include a link to your webpage. The more traffic a website gets, the more important that backlink is going to be for search engines to find you. Here’s a backlink right now, to a website about how to build backlinks.
Your local market exists all around you so, depending on your budget, you should be trying to get front-and-center in their day-to-day life.
Think about those buyer personas again – where do they go over the course of their week? Do you have brochures with offers and discounts at local clubs and gyms, or other places that those people will frequent? What about signs outside your business, on the street or walkway? The focus for the last few years of marketing has been online, but if you have room in the budget to go old-school then it’s a simple and easy way to get the word out!
Word of Mouth
Word of mouth is worth more than any other strategy, so if your business is already popular among locals then it’s likely that you have a lot of local advocates! There are a few ways to actively encourage referrals too, if you think this could be improved.
You can send an email to your guests after visiting that includes a discount code or reward if they refer a friend.
Wherewolf users can add this into their Wherewolf automatic email, and you can use your existing Wherewolf database to send an email to all local customers. This could be inviting them back with a friend for 10% off, or throwing in some merchandise so they can rep your brand when they’re out running errands.
You can also set up a rewards system for your most loyal locals! For example, when a guest comes in and indicates that they heard about you from ‘Word of Mouth’, ask them who referred them. That person can receive a prize, discount, or go into the draw for a monthly giveaway.
Wherewolf users can ask us to add in the question of ‘Who referred you? They can get a reward from us!” to their software.
Dive into your community, and make your brand unmissable at events, fundraisers, and sporting matches. Sponsor a team to get your brand on their t-shirts and mentioned in newsletters and brochures, or set up regular contributions to charity that demonstrate your commitment to improving your neighbourhood.
This could be financial, or you could dedicate some of your time, your team’s time (paid, of course), or your resources. After all, it doesn’t just have to be cash donations! You can help environmental researchers conduct their studies by driving them to location with your company boats or vehicles, or get your office involved in packaging hot meals for the needy. These are great ways to get involved with your region or state, and a fun, rewarding way to connect with your community in ways that they value.
See where your personal values and the values of your buyer personas align, and you’ll probably find a great cause in your area that’s waiting for people like you to lend a hand.
You’re not the only business on the block feeling the pinch, but not everyone is a competitor. You might see the hobbies and interests of your buyer personas and find a thread back to another business who you can set up a reciprocal marketing campaign with!
Look for clubs or gyms that your customers might visit, or other experience operators in the area who appeal to a similar base, and develop some exclusive offers to your shared market. Do you take guests on snowmobile tours? Reach out to the quadbike operator across town, and email your guests each a discount code to the other person’s business! Or offer package deals, where if they book an activity with both of you in one weekend, they get one free passenger for both those experiences.
Gyms, clubs, and associations are always looking for new members too. Talk to them about offering exclusive discounts or members-only events, and promote their organisation at your check-in desk.
There are thousands of businesses around the world experiencing the same obstacles and changing restrictions, it’s time to be innovative and work together for solutions.
Record Your Results
Every change in strategy deserves to be measured.
Using unique offers for your campaigns will give you real, tangible data you can track.
Discount codes and deals can be recorded through your reservation software or by your reservations team, you’ll quickly get an idea of how successful each campaign has been.
For digital marketing efforts, like SEO and social media management, the upfront investment is minimal until you get into paid advertising. I recommend making sure this is always part of your strategy. As your digital marketing expertise develops, keep asking your guests where they heard about you and keep track of what’s working, and what’s not.
Social media giveaways and hashtag competitions are easy to get started, and as they grow you’ll see more people getting involved and more guests indicating they found you on social media. We can help you promote these in your follow-up emails too -you might even find it’s worth increasing the prize!
For new marketing methods like radio, brochures, or community involvement, ask your guests where they heard about you. Wherewolf users can ask our support team to update their ‘Where did you hear about us?’ question to include these options, and these are all graphed and reported on for you. If you’re leaving brochures at different locations, we can add in a page for guests who select ‘Brochure’ and ask them to specify where they found it.
When we ask the guests that select ‘Word of mouth’ to note down who referred them, you can find that guest advocate in your Wherewolf database and contact them to thank or reward them!
There are a lot of ideas and tips to get you started here, and ultimately you’ll be the one to know what’s right for you and your locals.
We’re waiting to support you every step of the way. Put your thinking cap on and reach out to our team here when you have your strategy mapped out if you need any changes.
We can update your marketing source fields, help you access and filter your guest data, and adjust your follow-up emails that are sent to your guests after they’ve finished their experience to match your latest offer.