How to promote your business locally

I know, we just said that online was for finding customers elsewhere, but search engines and social media outlets have got wise to the power of local businesses.

According to Google, 97% of consumers search for local businesses online, so it s important to have a presence online even if you only sell in one location.

All the major search engines now allow you to list your business for free, so that your geographic location and contact details appear when someone searches for your business/type of business and town or city. Sign up for Google Places, Bing and Yahoo.

Paid for search results can also be tailored so that your ads appear to people just in your town or county, meaning you don t pay for irrelevant clicks.

If you have a website, make sure it s well-optimised for local searches by using the name of your town, city or region in the page description, page title and in the content of the page.

Smart local businesses are also using social media to build a loyal customer base and keep them up to date on special offers.

Facebook pages come with a built in map, so people can find the exact location of your business and visitors to your premises can check in there, letting their friends know that they re at your business.

Public relations

Getting your business mentioned in the local newspaper is not only free publicity for you, but also helps to build your profile within the local community.

If you ve got a story that you think is worthy of a place in the paper, the best thing to do is get to know your local journalists. Read more about getting your business in the local newspaper

PR can also be about being visible in the community, so get involved in local events and charities to support the local area and raise your profile.

Business directories

Yellow pages and Thomson Local directories are updated and distributed to millions of households every year, but they also have online equivalents and offer small businesses discounts for buying advertising in both.

There are also plenty of free and paid-for local directories, plus local and trade organisations and publications may have directories you can join.


Advertising in local shop windows is the obvious choice for the business owner marketing on a shoestring, but for those with a budget you may want to consider advertising with local newspapers, magazines and radio stations to get the best reach.

Your adverts should be relevant to the title/station and preferably work with the content. Sponsoring a segment on radio or placing your ad next to a relevant feature will get the best return for your money.

Advertising also often works best when it is part of a campaign or series of adverts. Speak to the person selling the advertising to see what deal you can work out for multiple insertions.

Printed materials

It s important for your local business to be visible in the surrounding area and one way of doing this is by distributing printed materials like flyers, postcards and brochures at local information points such as libraries, pubs and cafes, hotels and tourist offices.

Outdoor promotion

Outdoor advertising like billboards are seen as prohibitively expensive for small businesses, but hiring out one strategically placed outdoor ad can cost about the same as an advert in a newspaper and last a lot longer.

Outside promotion placed in close proximity to your business or where people might need to use your service work best. There are also a number of cost-effective ways of getting seen outdoors.

Posters can either be put up at local poster sights (for a fee), you can hang banners from or near your premises, or you could ask local non-rival businesses to display your posters in return for displaying theirs.

And rather than paying for an ad van , you can turn your own vehicle into a temporary advert using vinyl stickers with the logo/name and contact details of your business.

Partner up

Collaborate with other small local businesses to offer a special deal to customers locally.

The aim is that each business involved will make an offer which benefits the other partner s customer and encourages them to take up both services. Between the businesses you can save money on promotional costs and get valuable referrals.


One of the benefits of being local is that you get to meet your customers face-to-face. One way to do this is through events, either ones you attend or host yourself.

Offer free promotional products or demonstrations of your service and be sure to collect as many details of potential customers as possible.

Offers and competitions

Promotional offers and giveaways can be a great way of bringing in new customers. To engage existing customers, introduce a loyalty scheme like a stamp card to encourage repeat visits.

Word of mouth

92% of people trust the recommendation of friends and family*, and this can work to your advantage, particularly in a local community-based setting.

Go the extra mile for your customers and they re more likely to tell people about it. Also, make it easy for them to recommend you through referral and reward schemes.

It s no secret that the internet has quite literally opened up a whole world of potential new customers for small and medium-sized businesses but many still operate on a local level. In this hot tip, discover how to go about finding new customers right on your doorstep.

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Small Business Credit Cards

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            Business credit

            For the small business owner, trying to navigate the credit and lending world can feel like a vicious Catch-22. Most commercial banks and traditional lenders are reluctant to loosen their purse strings until you’ve proven yourself with a strong credit history. But it’s difficult to develop that good record when no one will lend to you in the first place.

            Many small business owners rely on the strength of their personal credit to fund their businesses. But when you use personal credit, your mortgage, auto loan and personal credit cards all affect your ability to qualify for a business loan. Using business credit separates your personal activities from that of the business. Your business credit is dependent on your company’s payment history, assets, cash flow and other financials. It doesn’t include your personal debts or other personal financial obligations.

            A strong credit history is the foundation for success, as it can lower your interest rates and give you access to more capital when needed. To start building your business credit, here are the initial steps you should take.

            1. Set Up a Business Entity

            There’s no such thing as a business loan or business credit for a sole proprietor — that’s a personal loan. In order to receive a business loan or investment, you must separate the business from its personal owners by setting up a legal business entity — a corporation or LLC, for example. Your CPA can advise you on the best legal structure for your particular situation, as your choice in entity can have some pretty significant tax implications.

            2. Get a Tax ID Number (EIN)

            Every business must have a tax ID number, just like each individual has a social security number. The Tax ID number (or EIN) is a nine-digit number assigned by the IRS to business entities operating in the U.S. You’ll use this number to open your business bank account and build your business credit profile. Apply for your business’ EIN online through the IRS site — and don’t worry, the process is fast and simple.

            3. Establish a Business Bank Account

            Your business needs at least one bank reference. Ideally, if you need to apply for a loan, your bank account will be at least two years old (of course, there’s not much you can do to change this situation other than apply for a business bank account as early as possible). More important than your account’s lifespan, your business bank account should show a cash flow capable of taking on a business debt. Of course, the optimum average daily balance of your account will depend on your type of business and the amount of financing you’ll be seeking.

            4. Get Listed with the Business Credit Bureaus

            Dun Bradstreet is one of the main business credit bureaus and runs its own business credit score. D B gives businesses a separate credit file number (known as a D B or DUNS number) that rates your credit profile. Go to their site to find out if your business is already listed and has a score. You can also begin the process by applying for a free DUNS number once you’ve established your business entity and have your EIN. The number is how lenders will determine your business’ credit worthiness (most business credit card and lending companies will ask for your D B number during the application process).

            5. Establish Business Credit History

            Check if your trade vendors are reporting your payment history to one of the major reporting companies, like D B. Just like with your personal credit score, the more vendors that report a good payment history, the better your business credit will be. It’s common that small trade vendors won’t report your payment history to D B. In this case, you should compile a trade reference sheet with at least three references (include their name, contact information and credit limits) to augment your official business credit report. In addition, you should open a business credit card (in the name of the business) and use it wisely — meaning keep your balance low and always pay on time.

            6. Maintain a Good Personal Credit Rating

            When you’re a relatively new or small company, creditors are going to be looking at the personal credit of the person who owns the business (or any shareholders with more than 20% ownership of the company). In today’s lending environment, you should expect to be asked to sign a personal guarantee on any kind of loan or credit of the business. This isn’t always mandatory, but it has recently become common practice in the lending industry. As a result, anyone with a 20% or higher share in the company should keep a close eye on his own credit rating.

            The most important thing to remember is that you can’t build business credit overnight. Business owners should think about their business credit from day one. Even if you’re self-funded now, you never know what challenges or growth opportunities will develop down the road. Having access to credit can only help you adapt to changing conditions and position yourself for success.