This will be part one of a 6 part series that will cover online marketing for businesses and organizations in a very small town. I'm not even talking Bradford, PA small town (and believe me, we have a small town)...I'm talking really small towns. For the sake of these posts, let's say your town consists of less than 4,000 people and most of your potential customers come from surrounding areas. This will series will primarily be focused on local online marketing, meaning your customers will be looking for a local solution, not something from across the country or world.
Before starting, remove yourself from the small town "everybody already knows me" mindset. While it may be true, that doesn't mean that everyone will become your customer. The internet has made the world a small place and people don't always look to their local XYZ shop first.
Part 1: Planning Your Online Marketing Strategy
This is the best place to start and without a sufficient plan or strategy, chances are your marketing efforts won't be awesome. If you haven't read the post "10 Questions To Answer Before Starting Your Web Marketing Strategy", please take some time to read that. It will help!
First, start by defining your objectives/goals/outcomes.
Everything you do within this strategy should be geared towards achieving those goals. Try to avoid tackling the unnecessary. I like to follow the SMART goal outline.
S - Specific: Define your goal, using specifics. (i.e. Increase online conversions for ABC service by 30% compared to 2013)
M - Measurable: Ensure this is something you can track. If you want to track an increase in online conversions, utilize Google Analytics to track those conversions.
A - Attainable: This should be a goal that is actually achievable. Shoot for the stars, but don't go crazy.
R - Relevant: Your goal should be realistic/relevant. Don't say we want to sell $100,000 worth of car tires if your primary business is auto detailing.
T - Time Based: Set a time frame in which you want to achieve your goals.
By working towards these goals you'll get some unexpected benefits, but these will be the goals used to build your strategy.
Second. Define your buyer persona.
Have a good understanding of you will be targeting with your marketing strategy. You can even give these fake people names. Include gender, age, location, education level, relationship status, income level, etc. The more specific you can be, the better you'll be able to target those people.
Third. Further define your locations.
I want to come back to the fact that we are marketing for businesses in a very small town. Let's take a small town like Eldred, PA for example. This town has less than 1,000 people living in it, which doesn't give you a huge audience. While technically your town is your local area, you'll probably want to focus on reaching the larger populations outside if that area. If I were a service business in Eldred I would consider likely use Bradford, PA and Olean, NY as my main objectives for local marketing. Obviously there are going to be some exceptions here, but you get the point. If you try to target every small town in 50 mile radius by name, your return may not exceed your effort. Even people in these really small towns would start there search using a close larger town name. Sure it's possible to market everyone of these small towns, but your website will turn out looking like a black hat SEO content farm...this is bad.
Fourth. Do a SWOT Analysis.
A SWOT is old fashioned, but still effective. In a SWOT you'll layout your Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. When looking at this be completely honest even if it is scary to point out your businesses weaknesses. Also, don't forget this is local, but that doesn't mean national brands shouldn't be included in some of the areas.
Fifth. Define your buyer's buying criteria.
Why do your customers buy your product or service? Do they buy it because they have to have it or because it is a luxury? If they are buying merely on price and you aren't the cheapest, how can you shift the buying criteria? Knowing why people buy or how you can convince people to buy will be used throughout this strategy, so take this step seriously.
This is a super important one, but remember we're only in the planning stages here so you don't have to get into too much detail here. What we are looking at are things like do I have a website already or do I need one, and if you do have one can it do the job? Also start thinking about things like social media. Remember you are part of a very small community, but just because everyone around you isn't using Twitter it doesn't mean you should automatically exclude it. Research what the population is doing in your local region, not only your small town. Going back to the Eldred example I would assume that roughly 1% of the poplulation is on Twitter, but it will be much higher in Bradford and Olean. Don't forget your buyer personas though.
Additionally you need to consider who at your organization can tackle these items or if you need to hire some third party help. You might be limited on what you can actually do if you have limited resources.
I'd like you to also consider budget in the how planning. Do you have a realistic marketing budget? Many businesses in a small town are still advertising in the newspapers and Yellow Pages. These funds should be considered as part of your marketing budget. We aren't saying that you should pull out of these marketing avenues, but that is part of your overall marketing budget. How can you spend your marketing dollars wisely for them to actually get a measurable return on your investment.
We're going to get into specifics in the later parts of this series. Each of the specifics will reference your planning.
Here's what else will be included in the Small Town Online Marketing series:
Part 2: Your Website
Part 3: SEO
Part 4: Sponsored Advertising, Pay-per-click
Part 5: Social Media & Google Maps
Part 6: Email Marketing
If you're eager to get started and don't want to wait for the remaining parts of the series, you can contact us today.