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9 small town advertising ideas for local businesses

Small town advertising: entrepreneur selling some lemons and beetroots

Key takeaways

  • Get to know the locals in your community by taking part in events and giving back whenever you can 
  • Use small town advertising methods like direct mail and local partnerships, along with social media and digital advertising, to let people know what you offer
  • Start a referral program to encourage word-of-mouth marketing and offer a loyalty program that rewards customers for becoming regulars

The heart of a small town lies in its community—which is also the key to small town advertising. When you become part of that community, you win over customers and create partnerships that help drive sales and grow your business.

Discover how small town advertising ideas can supplement your digital marketing efforts— and which types of marketing methods work best—to attract more customers.

How is small town advertising unique?

As a business owner in a small town, many of your customers will come from your local community. To appeal to them, you must have a clear understanding of your target audience and competitors within your specific region.

In the limited marketplace of small towns, it’s especially important to know who your competitors are. If there are other businesses in the community that offer similar products or services, determine what sets your small business apart from competitors and what you can offer that would encourage potential local customers to choose your business.

Perhaps it’s great value for customers on a small budget, a fast turnaround time on repair jobs, or a value-added service like free delivery within the local area. Get people in the local community talking about what sets you apart to help attract new customers.

Unlike a big city, there’s a smaller pool of potential customers in rural areas. This means local businesses are in a unique position to build trust within a smaller community while also persuading online shoppers to do business with them from afar. To be most effective, small town advertising should blend traditional offline methods with digital marketing to entice both locals and a wider audience.

9 small town advertising ideas to reach more customers

Small town advertising: customers inside a store

Small business owners often have a limited budget—you need to make all your local marketing efforts count. This includes making your marketing strategy feel achievable so you’re more likely to follow through on it. Consider these small town marketing ideas to attract potential customers, and choose the combination that works best for you.

1. Take part in community events so people get to know you

One of the best ways to get your business name out in the community is by getting involved in local events. There are many ways to do this. For example, you could rent a stand at a local fair or weekly market to sell your products or hand out brochures and business cards to promote your services. You could also give away small freebies, like keyrings, pens, or chocolates with your business logo on them. Alternatively, you could offer some form of low-cost sponsorship, like donating one of your products or services as a prize for the community raffle.

Another form of this type of small town advertising is to host an event, like a free community workshop that provides tips on your area of expertise. For instance, if you’re a realtor, you could do a talk on how to choose a house and which pitfalls to avoid. Or, if you’re a florist, you could offer ongoing workshops on flower arranging for specific seasons or holidays.

2. Create partnerships with complementary businesses that benefit you both

Laundromat staff handing clean sheets to a customer

Connect with local small businesses that might be open to a partnership with you (hint: the local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to source partnership opportunities). They can then either make use of your services themselves or refer you to their customers. For example, if you’re an HVAC specialist, you could partner with a local realtor, who would then be able to recommend a reliable HVAC technician to new homeowners, perhaps earning a referral fee. 

If you run a lawn care company, you could work with a landscaping business owner who could offer your services as an add-on after they’ve designed a garden, making a small profit in the process. If you run a laundromat, you could partner with the local bed and breakfast (B&B) to wash their linens at a discounted bulk price, benefiting both your businesses (and guests).

3. Run a direct mail marketing campaign to let people know what you do

As old-school as it may seem, direct mail is still a highly effective method of small town advertising, especially if your potential customers don’t spend a lot of time online. Also, while an email can get lost in an inbox, flyers can sit around for days, providing many opportunities for your potential customers to read them. 

Include a personal message like, “Looking forward to meeting you!” and a coupon that encourages them to patronize your business. For example, you could offer a 20% discount on their first purchase with you. Or if you’re a startup, you could offer a substantial discount to the first five or 25 people to buy from your business, depending on the value of what you offer.

4. Add your company to online business platforms

Another powerful and free form of small town advertising is to add your company to online business platforms like Yelp—in fact, research shows that 83% of users hire or buy from a business they found on Yelp

When you add or claim your Yelp Business Page, you can enter your basic information and upload high-quality photos of your business, staff, services, products, and more. Then as potential customers are searching on Yelp and find your page, they can get a good sense of what to expect from your business—and ultimately decide if you’re the best fit for them.

Plus when you provide customers with a great experience, they might be inspired to leave a positive review that other potential customers can read. After claiming your page, you can also respond to customer reviews to show off your customer service.

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5. Embrace social media

While not everyone may be online, the digital divide is shrinking, which means your online presence matters. Pick one or two social media platforms you’re comfortable with and set up a business profile that tells people about what you do and how to contact you. Then post regularly as part of your social media marketing efforts. Share pictures of your products or services, publicize any specials you’re offering, and post testimonials from happy customers. You could even run a competition with a small giveaway to generate excitement in your community. 

6. Attract a wider (yet still local) audience with digital advertising

Paid online advertising—like cost-per-click (CPC) ads—helps local customers, as well as others from further afield, find out about your products or services. 

In general, these types of ads are based on keywords potential customers might type into a search engine to find your business. To attract local customers, include relevant local keywords in your ads like, “cleaning services Sedona,” “Monterey California car wash,” or “Portland Oregon daycare.”

When you invest in Yelp Ads in particular, your business listing shows up in a number of key places on the website and app, including above relevant search results and on your competitors’ pages—and you’re only charged when a customer clicks on your ad. Users are led to your business page and can then engage with you further by requesting a quote, an appointment, or a call.

Also, remember that small town advertising doesn’t have to be limited to your local area. Online marketing helps to attract people from outside the immediate community who might be interested in your products or services. If you’ve ever sent fresh flowers or a cake to someone in a different town or state, you’ll know how much easier it is to do so when a local business makes itself apparent.

Tip: Local search engine optimization (SEO) also uses keywords, so you can repurpose these same key phrases when creating content for your website. 

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7. Do good in the local community to generate positive publicity

Volunteers happily playing with kids

People buy from businesses that align with their values, so show you care about the community by taking every opportunity to make a positive difference. Volunteer to help at charity events or other community efforts, like planting trees at an elementary school or repairing the local community center. 

For example, if you run a small hardware store, you could donate tools along with your services. If you’re a painter, you could offer to paint the walls for free, or if you own a bakery, you could deliver a fresh batch of cupcakes to the event for everyone who’s helping out. And if you can persuade the local newspaper to write a low-key article that mentions everyone who contributed, even better.

8. Start a referral program to boost word-of-mouth about your business

Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful forms of small town advertising because small communities can be very closely knit. Whenever you make a sale, ask your customer to recommend you to their family and friends. Starting a referral program could further incentivize them to promote your brand. For example, if someone they refer becomes a customer, you could give both the original customer and the new customer a gift voucher or a discount on their next purchase.

9. Run a loyalty program to keep customers coming back

People love to feel special and save money. If you help them do that, you’ll be able to build long-lasting brand loyalty. If you offer the kind of product or service that generates repeat business—like a coffee shop, nail salon, or garden services—reward your customers for buying regularly from you. For example, give them a discount on every fifth purchase or a free item on every tenth purchase. You could even advertise your loyalty program in the local paper to attract people to your store.

Build your local business with small town advertising ideas that work

Successful small town advertising taps into the local community and highlights the value your business adds to it. When you understand your target audience and your competitors, you can put together an effective marketing campaign that includes advertising strategies that boost business.

Start by getting to know people at local events and doing good in the community. Then advertise your business with a direct mail campaign, social media, and paid ads, and list it on online business platforms to gain maximum exposure. 

Also, take advantage of word-of-mouth marketing by connecting to complementary businesses and starting a referral campaign. Then keep people coming back with a loyalty program that rewards people for their purchases. Build relationships and partnerships within the community and watch your small business grow.

When you’re ready to take the next step and expand your customer base further, explore more ideas for promoting your business locally.

The information above is provided for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice and may not be suitable for your circumstances. Unless stated otherwise, references to third-party links, services, or products do not constitute endorsement by Yelp.