What To Do When Customers Don’t Shop in Town

Things work a little differently for businesses in small towns. They often offer unique products with service that can’t be beat. But increasingly, their customers don’t shop in town. Instead, they hop online or they head to the big-box store down the highway. So the challenge for business owners is to maintain that small-town appeal while competing with those other options. If you market in a smaller town, here are some tips to keep customers shopping in your store.

Go with the Flow

If customers are already online, then use it to your advantage. Be sure your online marketing efforts draw them to your store. Focus on these areas to increase your visibility:

  • Be mobile-friendly – According to Statista, 43 percent of U.S. web traffic in the second quarter of 2019 originated from mobile devices. That’s especially important in rural areas where customers access the internet on their cellphone when high-speed internet isn’t available. Not sure if your website is mobile friendly? Find out using Google’s mobile-friendly test. You’ll also find tips to look your best on mobile devices.
  • Register in online directories – Remember the yellow pages? Online directories are set up the same way, but customers access them on a website (like Google+) or on an app (like Yelp). Besides listing businesses by category, they can also include customer reviews or side-by-side comparisons. That can help you get noticed by locals and people driving through the area. The best part is, many are free for a basic listing.
  • Target ads online – Reach potential customers with online advertising. Social media sites, like Facebook, let you create ads targeted to specific locations and individuals. You set your own budget and decide where to run them, like on a local farm cooperative’s page.

Build Your Brand Locally

Everybody knows everyone in smaller towns. It’s what makes small-town life so inviting. So spend time building your business’ reputation in the community. Consider partnering with other local businesses, faith-based organizations and non-profits. Perhaps you sponsor refreshments at the Independence Day parade or add a new piece of equipment to the community recreation center. Here are some additional ideas.

Your participation in these projects marks your business as a trusted member of the community. That’s an important quality when it comes to word-of-mouth referrals. It also makes your town a better place to live in, and that’s good for business too.

Say All the Right Things

There are good reasons for customers to shop in town at your store, so focus on messaging that promotes the value of in-store purchases. Integrate these points into your social media posts and other promotions:

  • There’s no shipping fee.
  • You can check out the quality of an item immediately.
  • You don’t have to wait to get your item.
  • You can try several options to see what’s right for you.
  • You can ask someone else what they think.

Drive more customers to shop in town by reminding them what makes your small business unique. Start with these tips to raise your visibility and leverage your small-town advantage.

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