Local marketing strategy 101: Getting started

Russ Garcia

For most businesses, it’s wise to allocate at least some marketing efforts to local initiatives. Whether you own an individual brick-and-mortar store or operate a business that spans multiple markets, homing in on your target audience based on what’s unique to where they live will help to increase engagement with potential customers. There are a few distinct ways to go about this.

One of the most direct tactics to reach these individuals is to run pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns that will increase visibility for your business to a very specific, custom audience. This, however, requires a budget to continuously pay for these advertisements and at least some level of expertise to manage campaigns. A more holistic way to focus on local marketing involves creating a hyper-local content plan for organic — that is, unpaid — social media.

Local social media is moving from a “one feed fits all” mentality at the national or global level to one with local social media accounts on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Companies ripe for a local social strategy include those with product differentiation at the local level, a desire to drive in-store traffic, and/or competitive franchises. This strategy has been successfully deployed by news organizations, grocery stores, auto dealers, and more.

Benefits of a local marketing strategy

Local social media accounts and local-focused content enable local stores to connect with their community more deeply than national or global corporate social media often do.

Build loyalty with real-time marketing

Regional outfits take advantage of real-time, localized trends and then customize content specific to their market. Apples are in season and the local grocery store publishes a recipe for apple tarts to their Facebook community. An auto dealer highlights community events to past buyers subscribed to their Instagram – from high school car washes to little league games. “Going local” enables brands to build a deeper connection with their community and stand out despite information overload.

Boost sales with exclusive offers

Promote discounts or limited edition products only available in a few stores – from specific cars to local produce and city news highlights to your local audience. Social media is a great (and often less expensive & targeted option) for testing discounts and offers.

What should brands consider before launching a local social media strategy?

Local social media strategies can be hard to execute. Even projects started with enthusiasm can end up forgotten, ignored, and abandoned if they aren’t prioritized and given appropriate resources. Here’s what to remember to make sure this doesn’t happen to your local campaign.

Start with a social media audit before you launch a single new account

Companies with lots of regions, brands, and stores may discover that franchises or store owners have already started “rogue” social media accounts on their own long before the company started considering a local strategy. It’s all too common for a store manager’s teenager to launch a Facebook page or Instagram account that ends up languishing once the teen heads to college. But while these accounts often won’t align with branding, don’t make the mistake of shutting them down immediately once you discover them. Brands can learn a lot from these early accounts: what content resonates, where there’s duplication, and which regions already have an engaged audience.

Go from big to small — and learn along the way

Consider starting at the regional level before moving to the store level. Roll out a local strategy in phases to give your staff time to manage the additional workload of handling dozens of new social media pages. It’s also a fantastic test to see if your customers are interested. Once the campaign has proven successful, then consider rolling out to individual stores or dealers.

Know that local store personnel usually don’t have marketing experience – especially not in social media marketing

Managers struggle with finding content and taking the time to post it. Because they are often new to this process, they don't know what to post, or how often to do it. Even worse, they may not see the benefits of a strong social media presence, making it seem more like a burden than an opportunity. And with many demands on their time, it’s easy to push the task they don’t love or understand to the bottom of their list. Good training, best practices playbooks, and clear expectations can help local teams succeed.

Determine how to handle customer service issues before you launch

Set up clear “rules of engagement” for how and when to handle care issues at the local level. No individual team should be left to figure out how to handle contentious interactions or legal issues without suggested responses, or at least detailed guidance, from the primary social media team. Make it abundantly clear when a local team should manage an issue and when to escalate it to a different team. (And don’t forget to check state or province regulations to ensure you’re in compliance with the law.) Having all teams on one social media management platform can streamline the escalation process and shorten the time to issue resolution for customers.

Four ideas to get started with hyper-local content

Once you’ve considered all these factors, it’s time to get started on your content. However, more social media presence means more content than your team might be used to, and that can lead to more challenges. If you’re considering hyper-local content, here are four ideas to help get you started:

1. Build local campaigns locally

Too many programs fail because they did not get buy-in from the local branch. When you start going from one voice to many local voices, make sure you include them in the planning process. Get their input on how their customers connect, what stories will resonate, and what process could look like. If the store manager is invested in the planning, they will be more likely to participate in the execution.

2. Start small

To borrow from a common approach to engineering, get a minimum viable product out the door. If you expect 400 franchisees around the world to produce amazing content right out of the gate, think again. Identify a small number of initial contributors — ideally the people involved in planning — and create a pilot group. As you roll out a playbook, work out the bugs together and build momentum for the next waves of deployment.

3. Practice, practice, practice

Both a playbook and training programs are essential for hyper-local content success. Creating organizational habits will make it stick. Some brands use a daily checklist, others hold regional managers accountable for dealer activity, and some reinforce behavior with weekly reporting. Find existing habits and build on them!

4. Create a culture of sharing

Share content and success stories to reinforce the value of hyper-local content. Empower your regional colleagues to share with each other. Consider creating a centralized content library where regional team members can easily find and use evergreen, brand-approved content.

A caveat about going local

With all of these additional contributors and content comes more potential risk. In addition to planning, playbooks, and sharing, make sure you have some guardrails in place. Monitor what's happening in the field. Conduct regular coaching sessions. Hold people accountable to real goals and deadlines.

Creating quality content in a distributed organization presents its own unique challenges. It also presents opportunities to make customers feel more connected to your brand. With the right plan and process in place, your brand can confidently join the local mix.

Khoros’ comprehensive marketing and care platform helps enterprise-level brands manage customer engagement in one place. Request a free demo today to learn more about how you can reach your local audience with Khoros.

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