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Effective Marketing Strategies for Small Communities

11 July 2023

We have spent many columns discussing how small businesses can market and brand themselves more effectively. Let’s look at ways that entire communities can effectively market and brand themselves as well.  Marketing plays a crucial role in promoting communities and attracting visitors, even in small local communities. However, due to limited resources and unique challenges, a small community marketing initiative requires a tailored approach.


Small communities thrive on strong community relationships and a sense of belonging. By actively engaging with the community, they can build trust, loyalty, and generate positive word-of-mouth. Community engagement activities can include sponsoring local events, volunteering, participating in fundraisers, or collaborating with other businesses. According to a survey by Cone Communications, 85% of consumers have a more positive image of a product, company, or community when it supports a cause they care about.


Social media platforms have become indispensable marketing tools, even for small communities. A study conducted by Pew Research Center revealed that 72% of U.S. adults use social media, indicating a vast potential audience. Maintaining an active and engaging social media presence helps communities connect with their local audience, their potential audience, share updates, promote what they have to offer, and respond to various queries. A study by Retail Touchpoints found that 41% of consumers discover new brands on social media.


Collaborating with your local businesses can be mutually beneficial. By forming partnerships, communities can increase their exposure, tap into their local business and customer base, and share marketing resources. For instance, a coffee shop may partner with a bookstore to host joint events or offer cross-promotions. Such alliances not only enhance visibility for the business, but also create a sense of community cohesion. A study published in the Journal of Marketing found that partnerships between local businesses within a community increased sales and customer satisfaction.


Word-of-mouth marketing remains a powerful tool for small communities. By implementing customer referral programs, communities can incentivize their residents and visitors to recommend their community or services to friends and family. Referral programs not only generate new customers but also strengthen customer loyalty. According to a study conducted by Texas Tech University, customers acquired through referrals have a 16% higher lifetime value compared to those acquired through other means.


Every community needs a strong local SEO optimization presence for local search which is crucial for communities to be easily discovered by potential visitors. By incorporating local keywords and phrases on websites, blogs, and online directories, communities can improve their visibility in search engine results. According to Google, "near me" searches have increased by 150% in recent years. Local SEO techniques, such as claiming and optimizing Google My Business listings, can significantly boost a community’s visibility within the region.


Small communities offer the advantage of building personal connections with visitors. By tailoring their marketing efforts to deliver a personalized experience, communities can create a loyal visitor base. Personalization can range from addressing customers by their names in email marketing campaigns to offering customized recommendations based on previous purchases. A study by Epsilon found that 80% of consumers are more likely to do business with communities and companies that offer personalized experiences.


Organizing or participating in community events and workshops can help local communities showcase their expertise, generate goodwill, and attract new visitors. For example, a bakery could host a baking class or participate in a local food festival. By actively contributing to the community's enrichment, businesses can establish themselves as trusted resources and increase brand awareness.


Marketing strategies tailored to small communities require a mix of community engagement, digital presence, partnerships, and personalized experiences. By implementing these strategies, communities can effectively reach their target audience, foster community connections, and drive growth. As small communities thrive on relationships and local support, it is crucial for communities to invest in these strategies to stand out and succeed.


John Newby is a nationally recognized Columnist, Speaker, & Publisher. He consults with Chambers, Communities, Business & Media. His “Building Main Street, not Wall Street,” column appears in 60+ newspapers and media outlets. As founder of Truly-Local, he assists chambers, communities, media, and businesses in creating synergies that build vibrant communities. He can be reached at: John@Truly-Local.org.