Whether you have plans to keep your business local or grow it globally, promoting it locally is the best way to start.
There are so many benefits to selling your handmade products locally.
Sure, a local audience is smaller, but it’s also less competitive. And many people understand the importance of supporting local businesses to help stimulate their local economy.
Shipping within your city is a lot cheaper than shipping across the country, to another country, or even overseas. And low shipping fees encourage more people to buy.
Promoting your business locally also gives you an opportunity to test the market before investing more time and money. You can gather feedback and watch sales stats to determine if you have a viable business idea.
Here are 10 ways to promote your business locally, plus a few key tips.
1) Local Press
If you have a unique business or products, you can pitch story ideas to the local media, such as:
- Television shows
They constantly need stories to report on, so you really are helping them out by offering ideas.
The key to a press release that gets picked up is pitching an interesting story.
When people pick up a newspaper or turn on the news, they want to be entertained.
The fact that you started a business is not news. Nor is it interesting to readers who don’t know you.
How does your business’s story benefit readers/listeners/viewers?
For example, a business reusing materials and reducing waste makes people feel good about purchasing products from that business. It’s also interesting for readers to learn about the creative ways “trash” is turned into “treasure”.
A business selling city/province/state-themed products may pitch a story idea to the local media during the holidays, suggesting the products make the perfect gifts for that hard-to-buy-for person. That’s a benefit to readers/listeners/viewers because it makes their gift buying easier.
If you want a local newspaper to cover your business, grab a copy of the paper and get an idea of the stories they cover. Which section of the newspaper might you be featured in? What type of headlines are in that section? What are the key points covered in each article?
Looking at the stories local media commonly cover will give you a good idea of the type of story you’ll need to pitch if you want to get a response.
2) Local Influencers
Head to Instagram and search hashtags that are related to your city and your target market’s interest.
For example, in Edmonton, people use the airport code (YEG) to tag their location on social media. If I was selling jewelry, I might look for local fashion influencers. So I would search Instagram for #yegfashion or #yegfashionblogger or #yegfashionblog, etc. to see if I could find local fashion influencers.
I may also Google “fashion bloggers in Edmonton”.
When you find influencers who seem to reach your target market, visit their website’s “contact” page. They may have information on their contact page detailing the different ways you can work with them.
Otherwise, you can email them. In the email, introduce yourself and your business, explain what you love about their brand and why you think your brand would be a good fit for them to promote.
Then ask for information on how you can collaborate.
If the influencer doesn’t have a website, they may have details on their Instagram profile for how to get in touch. You’ll likely need to send a direct message to them on Instagram.
Explore the different influencers and bloggers who are reaching a local audience that’s a fit for your products.
3) Craft Shows / Trade Shows
Craft shows, trade shows, festivals, farmers’ markets, and other events are not just a way to sell your products, they’re also a great way to promote your business.
You should always focus on marketing at craft shows (and other events).
Over 90% of the people who visit a craft show are unlikely to buy from you…that day.
People often visit craft shows, farmers’ markets, festivals, etc. not knowing what type of vendors or products will be there. So they’re unprepared to buy.
Also, they may not have much cash on them or want to carry around a shopping bag for the rest of their time at the event.
However, if you market to the people who aren’t prepared to buy that day, you have an opportunity to sell to them in the future.
Make sure you create a branded craft show display that shoppers will remember. Try the free 5-day challenge: 5 DAYS TO A STANDOUT CRAFT SHOW DISPLAY
You should also have marketing material at the event:
- Business cards
- Coupons / flyers
- Newsletter signup form
And if you’re hoping to sell your products through local shops, check out: How to Attract Wholesale Orders at Craft Shows (or on Etsy)
Help shoppers remember you, and ideally, find a way to stay in touch or get in contact with them after the event.
4) Start a Blog
Your business needs a website if you want to grow locally. Not only does a website give you an opportunity to work on SEO (search engine optimization), it also allows you to start a blog.
Blogging is an important part of SEO because it allows you to add hundreds of keywords to your website in a natural way.
For example, let’s say I make and sell diaper bags and my target market is new moms. When my website is simply an online store, I have limited ways to add keywords to my site (product listings, the home page, about page).
It’s only likely to be found when someone searches “diaper bag Edmonton” (or variations of that).
But if I add a blog to my website, I can start adding articles, each with 500 – 1000 words (or more).
If I write an article about “Best Activities for Mom & Baby in Edmonton”, then my website has the opportunity to be found even when someone isn’t shopping for a diaper bag.
I’m getting my business in front of new people and still reaching my target market.
You can fill your blog with any type of article you think your local target market would be interested in reading about.
Try to include topics specific to your city, so you can add several keywords related to your city.
When you use your city’s name, landmarks, events, locations, businesses, etc. it creates more opportunities for your website to be found when someone Googles them.
For example, I may write an article titled “5 Mom & Baby Activities To Do at Kinsmen Activity Center”. When a mom Googles the term “Kinsmen activities” (or a variation of it), my article has a good chance of appearing on the first page of Google.
When moms visit my article to get activity ideas to sign up for, they’ll also see pictures of my diaper bags filled with the items they’ll need for each activity. The text will share links to the diaper bags shown in the photos.
The article acts as a marketing Trojan Horse. I’m giving readers a gift of a helpful article, but within that article/gift is a marketing message (learn more about how to use the Trojan Horse technique here).
When you start blogging, you can also reach out to other local bloggers and offer to guest post. You write a quality article for their website (which helps lighten their workload) and in return, you get to add a bio to the end of the article, or a mention in the article, linking back to your website.
Find other small businesses in your city that you can cross-promote with.
Cross promotion is different than a wholesale or consignment agreement. Instead of trying to sell your products through the other business, you’re simply trying to promote your business/products, and are also offering to help promote their business/products.
Instead of giving the other business your products to display, you’re giving them promotional material (and also taking their promotional material).
For example, you may exchange business cards; they keep a stack of your cards at their cash desk and you hand their cards out at craft shows and put one in each shopping bag.
Or, depending on the type of business, they may agree to hang your poster in their window or post it on their bulletin board.
It’s beneficial if you can track how many customers they’re sending your way, and vice versa.
An easy way to do this is to offer a unique promo code or coupon that’s only given to the other business’s shoppers.
For example, I may add a sticker to a stack of my business cards that reads: Use promo code: garrysgym to receive a 20% discount when shopping on my website.
I would give those business cards to Garry’s Gym and when an order comes through my website that has used the promo code “garrysgym”, I know the gym has sent that customer my way.
As with all marketing, you must be sure you choose to work with businesses that are reaching your target market. Cross promoting with a coffee shop won’t be effective if your products have nothing to do with coffee/tea/snacks or have a strong connection to the coffee shop’s target market.
6) Social Media
You’re probably already using social media to promote your business. To reach a local audience, be sure you’re familiar with, and using, location-specific hashtags, tags, and content.
Social media should not be used to sell.
Share content that will be interesting to a local audience.
For example, if I’m selling diaper bags, instead of every post being a picture of my bags with a link to my Etsy shop, I’d want to mix it up with some non-promotional posts.
I might share a link to a local event my target market would be interested in, such as the opening of a local splash park. I would also tag the organizers, as they may return the favor in one of their social media posts. The post may be purely non-promotional, or I may be able to add a subtle promotional message, such as a picture of me at the splash park holding my baby and one of my diaper bags. Or a picture of splash park essentials packed in one of my diaper bags.
Another post may share my favorite mom & baby yoga class to take in the city. It might share a photo of me in my yoga gear, holding my baby, and one of my diaper bags.
This type of content is helpful to my followers and engages a local audience. It also allows me to subtly market my business/products. And when I do post promotional content, my followers are more likely to pay attention.
If your social media strategy could use some help, try the Trojan Horse method, or check out this article: 5 Steps to Viral Social Media Posts for your Handmade Business.
7) Paid Advertising
If your budget allows, consider buying ads on Google, Facebook, or other platforms. They ensure your marketing message appears at the top of search results or in your target audience’s feeds.
There is lots of flexibility in terms of which keywords you want your ad to appear for, the people you want to target, how much you want to spend, etc.
It’s important to understand how to set up your ads so you don’t waste money reaching the wrong people.
Here are a couple of helpful articles:
8) Networking Events
I’ll be honest. As an introvert, I didn’t find networking events very useful to my business. But, that’s not to say they can’t be useful to your’s.
Keep in mind, that most people are heading to networking events to promote their business. Although you can make connections that are mutually beneficial, each person you talk to is typically wondering how you can help them, not the other way around.
If your business’s target market is business owners, networking events may be the perfect place to market your business.
The events may also be beneficial if you’re looking for local businesses to cross-promote with, or even to chat with other local business owners and ask for their advice.
Google “networking events ______ (name of your city)” to find events that are a fit for you and your business.
9) Online Directories
If your business has a brick and mortar location, then you should create profiles with online directories. For example, if you create a Google Business Profile, your business will show up on Google maps and in the local section of Google search results.
Other examples of online directories are Yelp, Bing Places, Facebook Pages, etc. You’ll find a long list of directories here.
Be sure to encourage your customers to leave reviews on your preferred online directory.
Again, if you have a brick and mortar location, signage will be key. Create an eye-catching sign for the front of your store and take advantage of any signage options the shopping area offers/allows. That may be a sandwich sign outside your store, your logo on the shopping area’s marquee, your logo in the area’s directory, etc.
However, even if you don’t have a brick and mortar location, you can find ways to get your logo out there.
Be sure you’re following local laws and your signs won’t be considered an act of vandalism.
You may put posters up on designated street posts, bulletin boards, ask local businesses if they’ll hang your poster in their window, leave business cards in places your target market is likely to find them, create branded t-shirts and shopping bags so people market your business as they walk around. You may even be able to convince a group of friends to wear branded t-shirts and hand out coupons or flyers on a busy street corner one afternoon.
It’s important that this type of marketing is targeted. Otherwise, it’s not likely to be effective.
For example, leaving business cards in every coffee shop around town likely won’t result in much. Unless coffee shops attract your target market and you’re selling a product related to coffee shops (e.g. locally roasted coffee beans, or coffee scented soaps, or customized coffee tumblers).
Get creative and find ways for your target market to see your logo or branding around the city.
Here are a few other important points to keep in mind when you’re working on local promotion and making it effective.
Know your target market
Any form of marketing (local or global) is a waste of time and money if you don’t know who your products are for and who your marketing should be targeting.
My advice is to go beyond demographics when defining your target market.
Knowing that my products are for women between the ages of 20-30 is helpful, but it really doesn’t help me find places to market.
An easy way to find your target market is to uncover the label they might have.
Examples of target market labels are:
- Bird enthusiasts
- Gym rat
- Sports fan
If you’re a bookworm, where might you hang out, online and off?
Book stores, libraries, book clubs, discussing books in online forums, searching for book recommendations online, perhaps reading books in local coffee shops, etc.
Each of those provides an opportunity for a business selling products that target bookworms, to promote their business/products.
Learn more about finding a label that helps you market and sell here. You may also be interested in: How to Define a Target Market for your Handmade Business
Know your target market’s local community
Once you know the exact person you’re targeting, get to know your local target market.
>> Which local neighborhoods are they likely to live in?
>> Which local businesses do they shop with?
>> What type of local charities and causes do they support?
>> Which local activities do they participate in?
>> Which local groups are they a part of?
This type of information will make your marketing much more effective.
Build a business people talk about
Word of mouth is another great way others can learn about your business/products. However, you can’t force people to talk about your business 😉
But you can build a business that’s worth talking about.
When you create a unique product, brand, and business, people want to mention it to others.
They want to be the person who “discovered” an amazing business, and they want to offer valuable recommendations to friends and family.
Nobody talks about mediocre products or businesses.
Find ways to be exceptional in your target market’s eyes.
If you’re not sure whether you have a unique business or not, check out this article to make sure you’re not making these common mistakes.
As with any marketing, be patient and consistent. One marketing push won’t create immediate or lasting results.
You may also be interested in: Marketing Mistakes most Handmade Businesses Make
Hey, I’m Erin 🙂 I write about small business and craft show techniques I’ve learned from being a small business owner for almost 2 decades, selling at dozens of craft shows, and earning a diploma in Visual Communication Design. I hope you find my advice helpful!