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26 local advertising ideas for small business

Local advertising ideas small business: entrepreneur searching for local advertising ideas on laptop

Key takeaways

  • Grow your local customer base without cutting into your budget by using free avenues, such as guest blogs, local listings, and press releases
  • Leverage low-cost local advertising channels, such as direct mail and Yelp Ads, to drive more traffic to your business over a brief period of time
  • Use social media features, like local hashtags and livestreams, to connect and build relationships with local community members

Local customers are essential to the success of your business whether you serve a specific service area or want to draw nearby shoppers to a physical store. Engaging with people in your locale to sell your products or services is imperative for achieving the client loyalty you need to thrive.

For companies like yours, a strong small business marketing plan wouldn’t be complete without local advertising tactics. When you know how to advertise locally, you can directly reach consumers using both online and offline channels—helping you achieve your marketing goals faster. Read on to uncover 26 effective local advertising ideas for small business that can take your marketing efforts to the next level.

What is local advertising?

Local advertising is the practice of promoting a brand, product, or service to customers in a specific geographic area. It increases the visibility of your small business within that local market, often through strategic placements of your marketing message.

Effective local advertising opportunities can be free or paid, online or offline, and occur on a wide variety of channels. However, local ad campaigns are always highly targeted to select cities, ZIP codes, or neighborhoods—typically within 50 miles of a business’s location or service area.

Why is local advertising for small businesses important?

Local advertising is important for small businesses because it’s designed to captivate your most likely customers: the people right in your local community. By catering your message to a local target audience, your ads can become more relevant, persuasive, and engaging to high-potential buyers—especially now that 71% of shoppers expect personalized interactions.

Targeted local ads can help you achieve better results with the time and money you invest, whether you want to:

  • Gain new customers
  • Boost your revenue
  • Generate foot traffic
  • Increase brand awareness
  • Grow your local market share
  • Improve your local brand reputation

How to advertise locally for free: 13 small business advertising ideas

Local advertising ideas small business: entrepreneurs talking at a business community event

Local ads don’t have to break the bank. While most advertising is paid for, there are still cost-effective (and no-cost) ways to promote your business. These “free advertising” ideas could even be part of your overall marketing tactics.

There are many types of advertising for small businesses that don’t include pricey ad campaigns—and they can be just as successful as paid ads at reaching local customers. Start with this list of 13 free advertising ideas, which can help you stand out to local audiences without cutting into your marketing budget.

1. Partner with local business owners

Partnering with local business owners can fuel your business growth. When two businesses have similar target markets but don’t directly compete—for example, plumbers and handymen or dog daycares and groomers—they can cross-promote each other’s businesses for mutual success. 

Whether you’re featuring each other’s businesses on a dedicated partnership page on your websites or splitting advertising costs (if you decide to spend on marketing materials), your partners can drive traffic to your company, and vice versa.

Use search engines and social media platforms to identify non-competitive yet complementary brands with audiences you want to reach. Then reach out to propose a meeting about a potential partnership, during which you can discuss the details in depth.

2. Network at local events

When your target customers are in your local community, it’s crucial to get involved in local events. There’s no better way to captivate people and build relationships than by having genuine, one-on-one conversations in person. When people see you engaging in the community, they get to see the human side of your brand—and you can make a more lasting impression.

To make your efforts count, identify events that are most likely to appeal to your target audience. For a small business lawyer, this could be local networking events for entrepreneurs. For a gift or clothing boutique, this could include arts festivals or local social events. Get out there and spark conversations with potential customers, practicing active listening to build rapport before you try to sell them on your business. Be sure to have business cards—perhaps with a “welcome” discount code—ready to give each person you speak with.

3. Claim and optimize your Yelp Business Page

Setting up a Yelp Business Page is one of the best local advertising ideas for small business owners who want to generate leads fast. In fact, 57% of users contact a business they found on Yelp within a day—and filling out your business page in full can help you earn more views than your competitors: Businesses with a photo, website, phone number, and business hours listed on their Yelp Business Page averaged 7.6x more page views per month than businesses without that content.

To start, claim or add your Yelp Page. Then, fill out your contact information—including your website, phone number, business hours, and address or service area—to ensure users can easily reach out or find key information about your company. Finally, add some visually appealing photos of your business, whether they’re images of your products, team, store, or the results of a service.

Once your Yelp Page looks great, you can create more listings on online directories such as Bing Places, Yellow Pages, and Google Business Profile (formerly Google My Business). Each local listing acts as a “reference” for search engine algorithms, which look to these platforms to confirm your name, address, and phone number (NAP). The more listings you have with a consistent NAP, the more confidence search engines have in your local business—and as a result, your website may rank higher and gain visibility on local search engine results pages.

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4. Offer discounts to new customers

Did you know that 85% of consumers are willing to provide their email addresses for a discount? Price incentives, like a 15% off deal or a free product with any purchase, can be one of the best lead generation ideas without requiring you to take a loss.

Once you decide on a deal that makes financial sense for your company, set up a contact form that shoppers can complete to receive the discount. Email marketing tools like Mailchimp and ActiveCampaign offer form-creation features to simplify this process. Then spread the word about the discount on all your online marketing channels—such as on social media or with a pop-up on your website—to start growing your list of leads.

5. Manage your online reputation

Business owner setting up email marketing campaign on laptop

Even the best local advertising ideas for small businesses are only effective if you have a good reputation in your area. According to a 2023 report from Statista, 43% of consumers find online reviews very helpful for informing their decisions when making a purchase.

Outstanding customer service is the best way to naturally increase the amount of positive feedback you get on online review platforms. You can also show that you appreciate customer reviews (and improve your reputation) by responding to all feedback—whether positive or critical—to show current and potential customers you care. When you claim your Yelp Business Page, you can get real-time notifications when you receive a review so you can promptly craft a professional response.

6. Optimize your website for local search

Another way to gain more visibility on local search is by leveraging search engine optimization (SEO) strategies on your website. Local SEO can help your website rank higher for searches with local intent—which means users are looking for answers that are relevant to a particular geographic area.

One of the simplest local SEO techniques you can use is weaving in local search terms throughout your website content. To select the best phrases, you can use a free keyword research tool to find terms that are relevant to your business, like “massage” or “body wrap” for a spa. Then, localize those terms. For instance, “massage” can become “Nashville massage,” “massage near Nashville,” or “organic massage in Davidson County.”

7. Send press releases

Your local newspaper is a highly trusted resource for many people in your area, which means positive news about your brand can quickly support your brand awareness and reputation. Sending press releases—particularly when you’re doing something big, like opening a new store, hosting an event, or giving away free products—can be a fantastic way to make local media outlets aware of news they should report on.

When writing a press release, be sure to include the following in your template:

  • A brief but compelling headline
  • Key information (who, what, where, when, and why)
  • Details that convey the importance of the event
  • A quote from you as the business owner
  • Information about your business

Also, include high-quality, eye-catching photos for the media outlet to use alongside your press release to make it easy for them to feature your brand.

8. Become a media expert

Another great way to get your brand on the news is by pitching yourself as a media expert for topics related to your industry. Media experts can be quoted in online news articles, included in live discussions about timely topics, and even featured in their own segments.

Reach out to local media outlets—such as local news stations, newspapers, magazines, and even blogs—with clear examples of how you can support them. For instance, a roofer could pitch a segment on how to prepare a house for an upcoming storm or offer ongoing availability for home maintenance topics. HARO (Help a Reporter Out) is a useful (and free) resource that can connect you with journalists seeking expert sources for their stories.

9. Host a local workshop

Small business owner hosting a local workshop event

If you want to engage potential buyers in person, consider hosting an educational workshop, which can both provide value to local customers and drive traffic to your physical space. This marketing idea gives you the chance to demonstrate your expertise while having meaningful interactions with locals for an extended period of time.

Your workshop can cover any topic that’s related to your industry. Think about processes you can demonstrate within an hour or two. For instance, a jewelry business could host a ring-making class and an accountant could host a bookkeeping workshop. Be sure to promote your workshop across your digital marketing channels, as well as to customers who walk into your store.

10. Guest blog on local websites

Even if you don’t have direct partnerships with local businesses, you can get featured on local websites by writing guest blogs. This content marketing idea can help you earn backlinks—which occur when another website links to yours. Not only does this improve your small business SEO (search engine optimization) but it also showcases your expertise to a brand-new audience.

The best local organizations for guest blogging are those with high-quality websites that are trusted by search engines. When a website with excellent domain authority (DA) links to yours, it indicates to search engines that your business can also be trusted. (You can use a free domain authority tool to identify if a site has a higher DA score than your own.) For instance, your local chamber of commerce and other professional organization websites are often good candidates for guest blogging.

Once you have a list of blogs you want to contribute to, reach out to pitch topics that are relevant to their audiences and your expertise. As you write your approved blog posts, be sure to link back to your own site and blog content to generate more website traffic.

11. Launch a referral program

Your current customers can effectively promote your business on your behalf—all you need to do is incentivize them for this word of mouth. Since friends and family consistently rank as the most trusted sources of brand information, a referral program that sparks positive conversations about your business can quickly lead to sales.

Select an enticing reward—such as a gift card, discount, or free product or service—that you can give to locals who successfully refer a new customer to your business. Then, regularly promote your program across your marketing channels, perhaps even creating a dedicated landing page on your website for customers to learn more.

Offering these incentives to thank clients for referrals can even play a role in enhancing customer loyalty, further driving sales for your business.

12. Improve your curb appeal

Small business retail signage outside shop

When you’re brainstorming where to advertise your business locally, don’t overlook the prime real estate of your own front door. Curb appeal alone can draw foot traffic from locals who are passing by your area. 

Focus on designing your store window with eye-catching product displays and digital displays, if you have TVs or monitors available for use. Create retail signage for your storefront and get crafty with chalkboard signs, potted plants, seating, and other welcoming visuals or props. The goal is to leverage any resources you already have to catch the attention of passersby and make an enticing impression.

13. Become a local podcast guest

If you’re a confident speaker with an engaging personality, becoming a guest on local podcasts can quickly drive people to your brand. Much like guest blogging on local websites, this strategy can get you in front of new audiences that fit your target demographics, while positioning you as an expert in your field.

Research podcasts hosted by other businesses, organizations, or content creators in your local area that are relevant to your line of work. Then reach out to pitch yourself as a guest, proposing appealing discussion points in your outreach.

7 paid local advertising ideas for small business owners

Small business owner creating advertising campaign on laptop

Paid ads can help you drive a lot of sales and engagement in a short period of time. But when your advertising dollars are limited, you need to be highly strategic with where you spend. Leverage low-cost small business advertising channels to help stretch your budget and prioritize channels favored by your ideal local clients to get more out of your investment. Learn how to do local advertising effectively on the following seven paid channels.

1. Sponsor local events

Sponsoring nearby events is one of the most low-effort local advertising ideas for small businesses that can lead to high-impact results. Many local festivals, conventions, fundraisers, and other events offer sponsorship packages that allow you to pay a fee in exchange for a fixed set of promotions. These promos could be in the form of social media shout-outs, email blurbs, and other event marketing materials featuring your company logo.

Make a list of events your target audience might attend, then evaluate the best sponsorship packages based on factors like price, included promotions, and expected number of attendees.

2. Invest in Yelp Ads

Digital ads are highly targeted promotions, which can make them incredibly effective yet low-cost advertising opportunities for small businesses. When you invest in Yelp Ads, your business page appears in key places, such as above or below relevant search results in the “Sponsored Results” sections—as well as on your competitors’ pages—while setting a budget as low as $5 per day. This helps you get found more by high-intent customers looking for the types of products or services you offer.

With Yelp Ads, you can target users by location and keyword, and since Yelp Ads follow a pay-per-click (PPC) model, you won’t waste your marketing dollars on uninterested audiences—only pay when someone clicks. Plus you can adjust your budget or cancel at any time.

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3. Join local professional organizations

Local professional organizations typically offer plenty of exclusive networking opportunities that can support your growth. Additionally, your membership in these trusted groups can confirm your legitimacy to your prospects, especially in organizations where members must meet minimum requirements (like continuing education credits and years of experience).

Joining professional groups—which often require a monthly or annual fee—also allows your business to appear as a recommended member on the organization’s website, where people can easily find your brand. Your features also give your business more backlinks and therefore, better SEO, which is important.

4. Send direct mail

Some of the best advertisements for small businesses still come in print. Despite the growing popularity of online ads for small businesses, direct mail remains the leading form of paid media in the U.S.

You can use the United States Postal Service’s direct mail cost calculator to build an ad campaign that fits your budget or to estimate the cost of a campaign idea you already have. If you want to cut down on costs, you can design your own direct mail ad with a simple design tool like Canva or Adobe Express and adjust the number of neighborhoods or ZIP codes you’re targeting as needed.

5. Apply for local business awards

A creative way to advertise a local business is by nominating it for industry awards. When prospective customers see that your business (or you yourself) have been recognized with a prestigious award—such as a 40 Under 40 or Business of the Year title—they’ll have more reason to trust your brand. Winning these awards will also often get your brand name blasted across a number of publications and wherever the organization has an online presence. As a result, you can get noticed by more prospects.

To make this local marketing strategy extra effective, promote each of your wins on your own marketing channels. Not only can your achievements impress anyone who visits your website, social media channels, and beyond, but they can also help you further build trust with people who already know your brand.

6. Leverage local search ads

Want to get your business on the map? Running local search ads on platforms like Google Maps and Bing Places allows your company to get featured above relevant search results for shoppers who are actively seeking local products or services like yours. Similar to Yelp Ads, these digital advertising methods allow you to set a budget and follow a PPC model so you know customers are interacting with your ad if you pay.

7. Support local charities

One of the most meaningful local advertisement ideas for businesses is supporting local charities. This is an opportunity to make a statement about and take action on your values, which are critical for attracting modern customers. In fact, a recent Harris Poll shows 82% of consumers prefer to buy from brands with shared values.

Effective ways to show your support include donating out-of-pocket, giving employees PTO for a volunteer event, and donating a percentage of your proceeds on a specific day or for a specific product or service (which can also drive sales). Once your charity event or donation is complete, promote your efforts on your social media platforms, to subscribers on your email list, and through a press release.

6 local social media advertising ideas for small business owners

Business owner checking social media on phone

Local online advertising for small businesses wouldn’t be complete without the use of social media channels. Apps like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn offer countless ways for you to engage local customers, including many chances for your brand to appear front and center on their feeds. Round out your marketing strategy with these six local advertising ideas for small business owners, which will help you make the most of social media.

1. Leverage hashtags and location tags

Local hashtags can help customers in your area find your social media content, even if they’re not directly following your account. Use a hashtag research tool—or conduct searches directly on social media apps—to identify a list of commonly used local hashtags that you can include in various posts. For instance, a food truck in Phoenix could use #phxfood, #phoenixfoodie, and #arizonaeats.

Location tags can also help searchers connect with your business. You can tag your city (like Phoenix, Arizona) to reach users who are seeking general, location-specific content—or you can tag your business location to drive users who view your post to your store or office.

Remember to include local hashtags and location tags in both on-feed social media posts and Stories.

2. Partner with local micro-influencers

Modern consumers trust social media influencers to inform their buying decisions. In fact, the Pew Research Center found that about 30% of adult social media users—and 53% of users who follow the content creator—have made a purchase after seeing an influencer post about a product or service.

Choosing the right partners is key to a great influencer marketing campaign. The content creators you select should not only get a significant amount of interactions (including likes and comments) on every post but also align with your target audience and brand values. For example, a sustainable pest control business could benefit from working with a local influencer who shares ways to go green.

Micro-influencers—those with at least 1,000 followers—can be particularly valuable for small businesses. Their audiences are often highly engaged yet their rates are typically more affordable and negotiable than influencers with larger followings. Some may even be open to trading a post for free products or services so you don’t have to dig deep into your budget.

3. Host a social media giveaway

Social media manager using his phone

Want to generate a lot of excitement for and engagement with your brand? Consider hosting a social media giveaway in which users gain entry to win an enticing prize—like a $100 gift card or a package of free products—just by tagging their friends in the comments of your post. Tools like Comment Picker and Woobox can help you select a final winner. This local advertising tactic allows you to leverage word-of-mouth marketing so you can build trust with new followers just as fast as with referrals.

4. Run video ads on social media

Social media platforms are increasingly shifting toward video content, and users are watching an average of 17 hours of videos per week. Running video ads is a smart way to take advantage of this highly engaging medium while targeting a local audience—reaching well beyond your current followers.

Your social media video ads don’t have to be highly produced either. Even a well-lit, creative video filmed on your smartphone or created through Canva can be effective. However, your video should always include a call to action (CTA) in both the caption and video so users know what steps they can take if your ad piques their interest. 

5. Post in local Facebook groups

Some local advertising ideas for small businesses can give you a major advantage over corporations. One is joining local Facebook groups and connecting with potential customers from your personal social media account. As a member of your community, you can build relationships by initiating and joining conversations in buy-sell-trade groups and local interest groups—like those for people who enjoy cars, if you’re an auto mechanic. Your ongoing participation can make you a well-recognized, trusted name in your local area, and it can be even more effective than any formal social media marketing efforts.

6. Feature local customers on your social media

Happy customers are regularly recognized by their favorite businesses. While some clients may prefer private customer appreciation efforts—like birthday discounts in their inbox or thank-you cards in their mailbox—others may be thrilled to receive a shout-out on social media. Finding ways to feature these ardent clients can turn them into loyal customers in the long term.

Be sure to ask for express permission before taking and sharing photos of any person to avoid upsetting clients. Once you have permission, here are a few ways you could include your local customers in your social media content:

  • Ask enthusiastic clients to pose with your products
  • Repost social media posts your customers tag you in
  • Reach out to loyal clients for an update on how your product or service has supported them, then share their story on your feed

Featuring your customers can also increase the odds that they’ll repost your content, helping you reach even more local audiences.

It’s time to elevate your local advertising strategy

Local advertising is the best type of advertising for small business owners. Not only can it be free and affordable—letting you stretch your budget further—but it also enables you to focus your efforts on reaching the people in your local area. In other words, it connects you with those who are most likely to buy from your brand. 

From offering discounts and boosting your curb appeal to running digital ads and supporting local charities, these marketing tips and local advertising ideas for small business owners can help you become a well-known, trusted brand in your area and reach new customers.

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.