(Photo | Courtesy of Savy Agency)
Small towns often get a bad rep. Because of their lower populations and relatively limited options, brands might think they’ve entered a stalemate when it comes to marketing. In truth, the same things that seem limiting may provide ample opportunity for local brands. But there’s an art to marketing in a small town to achieve both brand exposure and noticeable results. Whether you’re in Sunriver, Oregon or Corning, New York, we’ve outlined the strategy to get your small-town brand noticed.
Defining small town marketing
Before we get into it, let’s define what a small town means. Most often, small towns are defined as those with fewer than 25,000 people. And recent surveys went so far as to show the average population of these small towns being closer to 6,200.
So, marketing in these locations can be a challenge. Small town marketing is usually defined as a local business attempting to reach those in the local community. And, typically, the “consumers who shop in small towns are looking for the small-town experience.” This means that marketing in a small town takes a certain mindset and a fair amount of strategy to be effective.
Effective marketing in a small town
Chances are if you own and market for a business in a small town like Sunriver, you are already all-too-familiar with the struggles. How can you find a foothold and create effective marketing in a small town? The following list is by no means exhaustive, but if you begin with these areas you’ll be well on your way to effective marketing.
Learn local SEO best practices
Local SEO is at the top of our list for a reason. Becoming a master at this will help you define your brand and reach the people you want to in your local community. To begin, you need to create an engaging website and do your research on effective keywords. From there, you can use “SEO techniques to get more visitors from Google and other search engines.”
Best practices for local SEO include optimizing your Google My Business profile, incorporating your keywords across multiple listings, and getting local coverage (and adding it to your site). You should also make sure your website’s internal link structure and title tags are optimized and work toward your marketing objectives. Lastly, be authentic and provide your online presence with your business information, custom imagery and accurate descriptions.
Sponsor local events
Being a local brand means that you need to be locally minded and involved in your community. One way to do this is to sponsor local events, preferably ones that align with your mission or values. For example, if you are an ice cream company, you could support a local boys and girls club or youth sporting event. This idea here is that “by showing your willingness to invest in the community, you will promote your business without having to use the hard sell.”
Being involved in local events is also a great opportunity to get local press coverage. Which, as we mentioned, positively impacts your SEO. You can also send out a press release to local media outlets beforehand.
Depending on how small your town is, most people may be acquainted with one another. But even in larger areas, word-of-mouth is one of the oldest and most effective marketing tools. It’s also one that you cannot control as much. What you can do is make genuine connections with your customers and establish yourself as an invaluable addition to the town.
The biggest takeaway from this is that “marketing face to face also gives the customer a chance to see what kind of person is running the business, rather than dealing with a nameless corporation.”
Generate buzz online
In addition to in-person connections, make sure you are also connecting with customers online. This could be through your website with regular blogs or content. But it’s more likely to be through a social media site like Facebook. When using these platforms, you can respond directly to questions, post event sponsorship details, and advertise for a giveaway or sale. Online activity also lets you “monitor online reviews of your company and respond to them accordingly.”
Use freebies and giveaways effectively
Another way to stay in your small-town customer’s minds? With freebies and giveaways. This might be especially effective when you’ve just opened your business but could also work when you introduce a new product or service. If you’re an ice cream shop, this might mean a free cone day once a year or branded swag at a sponsored event.
The point here is to create “an incentive [that gives]people a reason to get up and check it out.”
Why it matters
Maybe the best way to demonstrate why small-town marketing is important is to show why small businesses are. Small businesses, more often than not, contribute to the financial well-being of their local communities. They “cater products and services to [the]community’s wants or needs” and provide local jobs and opportunities.
So, marketing for these businesses matters because of the impact they have on local communities. Despite the lower populations, there are some significant advantages for brands in towns smaller than 25,000 people––something bigger brands in larger areas could learn from. Namely, these include the direct connection small businesses have with their audience, they provide value to the community directly with their products or services, and they can pivot quickly.
Examples we love
Savy has had the opportunity to work with and help brands market effectively in small towns and to grow their reach and audience.
As a local retail brand, Open Range’s three locations are primarily in small towns (Sisters and Redmond). They tasked Savy with creating a new, SEO optimized e-commerce site with the goals of growing their product catalog, increasing online sales and developing a stronger web presence.
Open Range is uniquely positioned in Central Oregon because of its brick-and-mortar locations that have direct interactions with community members, and their website, which uses local SEO to increase their marketing efforts.
McLean Concrete is one of the premier construction contractors in Central Oregon — serving both Bend and Redmond. This small business came to Savy to develop a sleeker site that represented their growth as a company and fully communicated their services to clients and potential clients. By developing a new website with fully optimized content, we were able to showcase their past projects, tell their story, and set them up for effective, local marketing.
A local Central Oregonian business owner, JD Platt, came to Savy with a new company, JD SUP (stand up paddleboard). To help him meet the local market, our team at Savy conducted research to help him broaden the company’s scope and reach a unique audience. In addition to this, we created a new logo and optimized website for the brand to make sense to the local community and expand its reach through marketing.
Small town, big ideas
At Savy, we have clients from towns of all sizes and we pride ourselves on being able to effectively market to each of them. To us, the smaller the town, the bigger the ideas.
Rob Brown is a founder and the agency director at Savy Agency, headquartered in Bend. Savy has brought brands to life since 2007 and is a top-performing Google Partner delivering comprehensive marketing services to brands in a variety of industries. Savy’s in-house team of designers, developers and content creators work together under one roof to enhance the competitiveness of every brand they serve.