Whether it’s for your own business or for your clients, targeting a local market can be difficult.
For one, you have to have a solid understanding of the scope of your local market and how your potential clients are searching for you, geographically.
Another factor is the possibility that you are up against some legacy competition that may rely on foot traffic and referrals – while you may be a new player in the field.
With that being the case, some digital marketing methods may not be as effective for you.
You need a local branding strategy that’s focused on where your potential clients are, and where they are finding your services online and in person.
Here is a seven-step method for getting more traffic for your local clients or your own marketing agency.
How to Create a Local Branding Strategy in 7 Steps
Branding goes way beyond a tagline and a logo.
The most important component is cultivating a strong brand message that resonates with your target audience. If you hop right into the marketing tactics, you’re missing over half of the equation.
That’s why this process starts with market research and brand messaging.
Go through the steps one at a time to create a local branding strategy that works to get you – and your clients – the traffic you deserve.
1. Conduct Local Market Research
When creating a marketing strategy, the first step is always to get an understanding of what it is that your target market actually wants. If you don’t, you may miss the mark completely and your marketing efforts will fall on deaf ears.
For local marketing, this can look a bit different, because you also have to consider the location of your audience.
But before you start surveying your audience, you need to answer some core questions in regards to your business structure and goals. These include:
How large of a geographical area do you serve?
If you have a brick-and-mortar office, how far are people willing to physically travel to get your services?
How large is your local market?
How many competitors do you have? What are their unique selling points?
Answering these questions will lay the foundation for conducting market research because you will know where to set your sites. Starting too broad will be a waste of your time, and you will spend energy focusing on people and competitors that aren’t relevant to your business.
Got these questions covered? Good. Now you can dive into conducting market research by creating a profile of your ideal client.
Creating a Profile of Your Ideal Client
Understanding your audience is the best way to create a branding strategy that resonates with them.
To do this, you can create an “Ideal Client” profile to figure out who they are, what they want, what they need, and where they are searching for services like yours. This is an avatar of the perfect client that you want to attract to your business.
Refer to the questions below to survey your audience (you can turn to social media or survey templates for this) and gain insights that will inform your local branding strategy.
These questions include:
What are their top three pain points?
What solutions have they tried already?
What did they like about those solutions? What did they dislike?
How old are they?
What is their income level?
What values are they looking for in the business they work with?
What is the #1 factor in them deciding to work with a brand?
What online platforms do they spend the most time on?
Where do they go to find brands like yours? (i.e., Google, social media, referrals)
This information will help you determine:
What unique selling point (USP) should be used to make your brand stand out.
What services you should offer that your audience will be most interested in.
What tone to use in your marketing and website content.
What platforms you should market on.
Having this market research on hand will only set you up for success.
Once you have your market research, it’s time to master your brand messaging and engage on the right platforms in order to get in front of your audience’s eyes.
2. Master Your Brand Message
Your market research should tell you what it is that your audience values and needs most.
Knowing this, you can position your brand to appeal directly to them saying, “Hey. We get you. This is why you should work with us.”
Bigger brands do this by creating a brand style guide that they refer to whenever they create marketing or website content. This ensures that the message is consistent and that your audience always knows what to expect.
Your brand message will include:
Brand Values: What do you stand for?
Your Unique Selling Point: What makes you better than your competitors?
Tone: Is your audience looking for professionalism? Humor? Direct? Quirky?
Benefits: What benefits do your services provide?
Calls-to-Action: What actions do you want people to take when they see your brand?
Address all of these bullet points and keep this on hand whenever you go to create website content or launch a new campaign.
That way, you will know that you are always addressing the right audience with the right message in the right way at the right time.
The Brand Messaging Formula
Many brands and marketers think that branding comes down to brand colors, a logo, and a catchy tagline. Unfortunately, they focus too much on what they (the brand) want and not enough on what their audience is looking for.
Therefore, if you are going to create a brand message or tagline, it should put your audience front and center.
A local brand messaging formula can then be broken down like this:
“We help [ audience ] in [area] [ achieve benefit ] through [ services ] that [features].”
For example; if you are a personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, your brand message could be:
“We help victims of workplace injury in Los Angeles get the justice and compensation they deserve through legal services that focus on aggressive yet compassionate representation.”
Here, it’s clearly stated who your audience is, what benefits you provide to them, and what service is relevant to them.
This can be replicated for any brand and can even be applied to individual service pages. Further, when it comes to SEO, the [area] field can be changed for local targeting.
Next, it’s time to put your brand message to good use through strategic marketing.
3. Implement Local SEO
Local SEO is huge for local brands due to the precision in local targeting. It’s truly the best way to generate targeted, sustainable traffic to your website.
What better way to get traffic than to rank for terms that users are actively searching for in their local area?
With local SEO, most of the SEO best practices still apply, but with an added focus on targeting a certain geographical location. This is typically done through the use of localized keywords, local citations, and link building.
Your local SEO strategy should include:
While an entire guide could be (and has been) written on local SEO, the above steps and resources should be enough to get you started. Remember that SEO is a long game and will involve testing and further optimization over time.
What’s important is that you stay focused on what your local market wants and what they are searching for in search engines.
4. Build Strategic Partnerships
Local marketing can be especially difficult if your audience isn’t highly engaged online. That is, they could be turning to traditional methods such as newspapers or relying on referrals from family and friends.
So, how do you tap into that market if they aren’t online?
By building strategic partnerships with local businesses.
Say your client is a building material manufacturer in Denver. They could build partnerships with local contractors that could be incentivized to use their materials and send business their way.
In return, they could offer discounts on building materials and refer customers to contractors for their projects.
Focus on Mutual Benefit
These kinds of relationships can work in person and online. The goal is to build relationships that mutually beneficial and funnel leads to each brand for different (yet related) services.
As a marketer, you can help your clients build these partnerships through outreach and content marketing. Some great platforms for this are LinkedIn and email marketing.
Just be sure to communicate the value that’s provided to the partner and that brand values align.
5. Share Targeted Content on Social Media
If your market research determined that your audience is active on social media – and you know what those primary platforms are – it’s time to create content that works to grab their attention.
Many brands worry too much about “hacking” the algorithm and sharing content across all social media platforms. You don’t have to do that. This is where your brand message comes into play.
You simply want to share content that makes your audience say, “Wow – that sounds like me!” and entices them to read more.
You want to focus on content that’s:
On-Brand (tone, values, style).
Using the personal injury attorney example again, some effective social media content ideas could be:
A client video testimonial saying how working with a lawyer helped them get the compensation they deserve.
A blog post of the “Top 10 Things You Should Know Before Filing an Injury Claim.”
An infographic about navigating the legal process.
A public opinion poll about the latest workplace-related legislation.
A meme about what it’s like working with difficult bosses.
Here are some types of content that are not as effective:
Sharing your latest blog post without a caption.
Stock images of people with a callout to “Contact us for help today!”
An update about what’s happened in your office this week.
A rant about current events and politics.
A trending video of a cat.
You should test different content types and then focus on what works and ditch what doesn’t. Look to see what your competitors are sharing and whether that would be effective for your audience as well.
Social media marketing is more about sharing value than it is about consistency or mastering the algorithm. Share what your audience wants to see to keep them coming back for more.
6. Attend Networking Events
Even online it can be easy to stay in our own little “bubble”. Though the truth remains that people still value human connection, making networking and in-person marketing highly effective.
Not only will attending local networking events help you build those strategic partnerships, but you may also brush shoulders with some big players in your industry. With an introduction and shared interests, they may turn into a potential client.
Being active in your local area can be a competitive advantage in and of itself. If you are able to host workshops and speak at events, even better. These can be a great source of lead generation.
7. Run PPC Ad Campaigns
If you want to up your search engine marketing efforts further, launching a pay per click (PPC) ad campaign could be the way to go.
The primary platforms for this are Google Ads and Facebook ads, and both allow you to target a certain audience based on interested and geographical location. Your market research will help you determine what the targeting parameters will be.
Google Ads vs. Facebook Ads
With Google Ads, you will bid on keywords that will trigger your ads to be shown whenever a user searches for the term in Google.
For example; to target users that are looking for a personal injury attorney in Los Angeles, you may want to target terms like “LA personal injury attorney”, “Los Angeles PI lawyer”, “personal injury lawyer in LA”, and the like.
For Facebook ads, you can add a tracking pixel to your website in order to remarket to users that have already visited your site.
You can also create custom audiences to be targeted with specific campaigns and funnel them to a set landing page. The stronger your brand message is – and the better your targeting is – the more likely they are to convert.
PPC is one of the fastest ways to generate more leads for your business or for your clients. If the budget is there, this could become an important part of your local branding strategy.
While some components of local marketing can make it more difficult than other markets, there are still plenty of effective methods you can use to generate traffic for a local brand.
But, before focusing on the techniques, you need to gain a solid understanding of what their local market wants and where they are searching for the services that they want.
Without market research and a strong brand message, local brands will waste time and money focusing on the wrong demographic. Further, their marketing campaigns simply won’t be effective.
Work through the seven steps above to cultivate a local branding strategy that works and keeps your clients coming back for more.
Featured Image: Shutterstock, modified by author, February 2019
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our daily newsletter from SEJ’s Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!