Last Updated: November 22, 2020

When was the last time you saw a small, local store advertise in another country?

Chances are, you never have. National businesses might use expensive advertisements on network television shows and in popular magazines to reach a huge number of potential consumers, but such options aren’t as available to local business owners.

Not only are there financial considerations, but few local stores draw in consumers who live further than a comfortable drive away. Instead, these smaller businesses engage in more targeted solutions, seeking out those in surrounding neighborhoods who might be swayed to visit by persuasive advertising and word-of-mouth.

What is local marketing?

Local marketing—also referred to as local store marketing or neighborhood marketing—specifically targets the community around a physical store or restaurant. Promotional messages are directed to the local population, rather than the mass market (See also Community Marketing).

In practice, local marketing can take several forms. Many local businesses directly contact consumers through mail, in-town events, local team sponsorships, or advertisements in the town paper. Hoping to not only attract new customers but to drive repeat business, a successful local marketing push allows a store to stake out a significant presence in local consumers’ mental maps of their communities.

Who implements local marketing?

Local Marketing: General Specifications

  • Customers: the population within 10 miles or 10 minutes of your door
  • Competition: those businesses within 10 miles or 10 minutes of the above customers’ doors
  • Store characteristics: location, size, atmosphere, immediate neighbors, ease and type of access, etc.

Local marketing is used primarily by small businesses—stores and restaurants with a single location or outlet. Owners of franchised businesses may also employ local marketing to promote their specific locations, supplementing the larger franchise’s regional or national marketing campaigns (which promote the franchise’s name and products, but not specific locations).

For what kinds of customers is local marketing effective?

Local marketing allows a company to develop a repeat customer base in the immediate vicinity of the business’s location. The standard radius of influence is about 10 miles, but could be even less than that in more urban areas, where local traffic and neighborhood density is much higher. (See also Close-Range Marketing)

People like to shop and eat near their homes; it saves time and is more convenient. Residents create their own “mental maps” of the surrounding area, with favorite restaurants and particular stores quickly and easily remembered. They develop shopping and eating habits based upon these maps, engaging in a great deal of repeat business.

Yet at the same time, new businesses are always moving in (and other businesses are closing), so these maps are constantly updated. Therefore, any store or restaurant—and particularly new ones—has to work to advertise its presence even in its own surrounding neighborhood, in order to get onto these mental maps.

Businesses in different neighborhoods will apply local marketing tactics to different consumer segments, as identified by socio-economic standing, demographic composition, and purchasing values—but assuming that a business’ location was planned as opposed to random, the consumers who live in the neighborhood are already the types of consumers who are interested in that business.

How is a local marketing campaign developed?

Local marketing campaigns may use a number of different strategies in order to build awareness within a neighborhood, often beginning with simple direct mailings featuring coupons or upcoming sales (See also Direct Mail Marketing).

Local Marketing Options

  • customized direct mail announcing openings, sales, and promotions, or containing coupons
  • promotion through the local chamber of commerce
  • hosting events
  • sponsoring local sport teams (school or league teams) and clubs (biking, book, etc.)
  • purchasing local ad space (such as at bus stops and other outdoor spaces)
  • participating in community fairs and social gatherings

As with any marketing campaign, information is key. Businesses should identify local organizations (including sports leagues, clubs, and homeowners’ organizations), schools, and living centers (such as senior apartment complexes, which often host community events). They must understand the various schedules of these organizations, and reach out to groups to support local events.

Sponsoring a little-league team, running a booth at a local fair, participating in a local ministry—every event and activity increases visible presence in the community, and a business’s prominence in the mental maps of those living within it. Furthermore, such participation raises a business’s reputation, making people more likely to consider additional business relationships and offerings.

This knowledge will also enable a local business to make specific offers to the various groups in its community. Restaurants, for example, can extend special lunch-time deals to employees of local organizations or businesses. Restaurants and stores can provide particular incentives for local students with good grades, or who participate in community service. Stores can partner with other stores in their shopping centers—for example, offering a 10-percent discount to surrounding employees (who walk right past your doors every day on the way to work). (See also Promotional Marketing)

Local marketing is about knowing and interacting with neighbors. It is not just about investing money, but about investing time and developing relationships. It can’t be done purely from an office chair and computer—although that’s yet another tool to be utilized—but rather, requires getting out there and connecting with customers face to face.

What career titles work with local marketing strategies?

Marketing Managers

Marketing Managers may run consulting firms that can be contracted by a number of different small businesses without their own marketing departments, in order to develop campaigns geared specifically to that business’ neighborhood and/or audience.

What do they do?

What type of salary should I expect?

  • Marketing Manager
    Median annual pay: $116,010
    Top 10%: $187,199+
  • Advertising Account Manager
    Median annual pay: $87,650
    Top 10%: $186,630+

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

  • evaluate their client’s position in their market, and establish measurable goals for improving that position in the local community
  • select multiple strategies for promoting the local business, at an investment (cost) level appropriate to the small business client
  • develop advertising, incentives, and communications customized for the local market
Education and Skills

Marketing managers typically have at least a bachelor’s degree in marketing, with a related minor such as advertising or business management. Those who manage their own firms will have substantial successful experience running single accounts, and may specialize in a particular kind or size of business (such as start-up businesses). Education preparing them for this career includes classes in marketing, market research, statistics, consumer behavior, and business management. In between school semesters they will likely participate in some internship work, to establish initial experience.

Advertising Account Managers

Advertising Account Managers run advertising campaigns for multiple clients, including small and medium-sized businesses.

What do they do?
  • identify advertising need/goals for launching a new business, and establish a schedule for promotions before, during, and after the business’s grand opening
  • design advertisements, flyers, mailers, and in-store advertising tailored for the local community
  • purchase space for local advertisements, such as in local print and radio, and at outdoor locations like bus stops
Education and Skills

Advertising account managers typically require a bachelor’s degree in marketing, advertising, or journalism. Other important college courses will include visual art and graphic design, persuasive communication, market research, and consumer behavior. Before managing accounts, managers will have several years experience in researching, designing and purchasing ads, often getting their initial experience as an intern between (or during) semesters in school.

Entrepreneurs and Franchise Owners

Entrepreneurs and franchise owners launch businesses and manage their operation. They may be the entire marketing force in their small business.

What do they do?
  • make decisions about their business’ pricing, product, placement, and promotion
  • commonly act as their own marketing and adverting managers, often working in conjunction with outside marketing firms to produce pieces that reflect both that firm’s marketing expertise and the entrepreneur/franchiser’s personal vision.
  • participate in community events, and develop business relationships with leaders, organizations, and other businesses within their local communities
Education and Skills

Entrepreneurs can have all sorts of backgrounds, with any amount of education—but in today’s complex legal environment, many choose to first get a degree in business management. Courses in marketing, communications, economics and law all help to increase the chances of a successful business launch. Experience among entrepreneurs varies a great deal; many start with small business ventures even before finishing high school.

How can a marketing school help you succeed?

Our Recommended Schools

  1. Grand Canyon University (GCU)

    GCU's Colangelo College of Business offers leading edge degrees that address the demands of contemporary business environments.

  2. Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU)

    Explore the bond between business and consumer behavior with a degree in marketing.

Effective local marketing requires identifying and leveraging multiple communications channels, and making business adjustments that will meet the needs of the neighborhood. A good marketing program develops both the communications and management skills you’ll need to do that.

In addition to taking specific classes on various communication forms (including print, audio, and video), a marketing school will require you to practice and develop your communications and presentation skills. You’ll learn how to identify the communications channels that different market segments and communities respond to best, so that you use the most effective methods to reach your target customers.

A marketing program will also train you how to better understand your customers and their needs. Economics courses will teach you about identifying and responding to supply and demand, while courses in market research will teach you how to segment consumers and identify market opportunities. Courses in consumer behavior will train you to predict how customers will respond to different strategies, as you seek to promote your (or your client’s) business. (See also Consumer Psychology)

Additional classes at a marketing school teach about aspects of business organization and management, including how to drive both sales and profits, and how to measure return on investment—a major consideration for a small business with a limited marketing budget. You’ll also learn basic skills required to coordinate and manage teams in an organizational structure, as well as how to network with other leaders, businesses, and organizations.

To learn more about what a marketing school can do for you, request information from schools with degrees in marketing. An exciting and lucrative career just may be in the neighborhood of your future.