Running a local business is no easy task, which is why more than half of all small businesses have gone out of business prior to reaching their five year anniversary. That’s a very short shelf life for most.

In order to succeed, a local business must learn how to master marketing within their local community. The internet can be leveraged even on the local level, as it’s the main information source for all information. It doesn’t matter if someone is looking for information on a national retailer or a small local mom and pop shop. Everyone turns to the internet for answers.

Big companies that are 100 percent internet based, like Amazon, are putting local businesses under every day. You don’t have to be part of that statistic though. You just need to know how to get creative and drive customers through your doors.

To help the little guys, I decided to put together a list of eleven ways you can market a local business without spending any money. So, if business is slow and your marketing budget is low, dive right in. Even if business is booming, you can still use these tips, as I’m sure there are a couple you aren’t taking advantage of.

Here’s how you can market your local business without spending any money.


1. Launch a blog on your website.

This is one of the easiest ways to constantly attract organic search traffic to your website. For local businesses, the location specific keywords and phrases that will bring targeted visitors will often have very low competition, making them relatively easy to rank for.

If you publish good content and optimize it correctly, you can typically get it to start receiving impression in the search results. If you aren’t very versed in SEO, there are some plugins you can install that guide you through the necessary on-site optimization. Yoast SEO, which is the most popular WordPress SEO plugin has great tutorials that teach you the basics.

Once you understand the fundamentals on on-site SEO, you will be able to write your content in a way that will make it more search engine friendly while still providing value to your readers. Make it a habit of writing as much content as you can during down times.


2. Release a discount code.

Want to draw attention to your business and get the cash register signing? Release discount codes online. Most consumers will do a Google search for coupon codes before they shop anywhere, both online and offline. There are literally hundreds of different coupon sites that you can submit codes to and they will host them and show them in the categories you specify.

It can get a bit tedious, but they key is to create evergreen coupon codes that never expire, so you don’t have to submit again. Something like a 10% off all purchases or free shipping tend to be well received.

There are even Fiverr gigs that you can buy where they will submit your codes to all the coupon sites for you if you are strapped for time and don’t mind spending a few dollars to do so. Hit the big ones first, but don’t ignore the smaller sites. The more coverage you receive the better.


3. Post more frequently on social media.

The more you are able to post on social media, the more opportunities you create for your business to connect with potential customers. Now, you don’t want to fire off a post every 45 minutes, because that will just clog your followers feed and annoy them, but you also want to post enough that you stay relevant in their mind.

It’s the psychological effect. The more they see your business, the more likely they are going to patronize it when they are needing or looking for what it is that you sell or provide. A local pizza place that is constantly posting amazing pictures of pizza is going to get into the minds of their followers and when it comes time for them to order a pizza, who do you think they will order from?

Another thing you should do is target local hashtags. For example, if you are a local business in Baltimore, you would want to use city hashtags to help your content be discovered by residents searching their feeds for local content.



4. Create your listings on all the popular online local business directories.

This is one of the first things a business does when they open, but so many local businesses have unclaimed listings or can’t be found on certain directories. It doesn’t matter what kind of business you own, but if you have a local presence, you need to be found on the big guys like Google, Facebook, Yelp, Foursquare, Yahoo, Bing, and the Yellow Pages.

These are all high authority directories that will show up in the search results near the top, and they are also the resources most consumers visit when they are looking for a local business. Not being found on these means you are definitely giving business to your competitors without even the slightest fight.

Once you have the main directories covered, start to target the smaller local ones. While the traffic volume might not be the same, they still help with your SEO and acquiring local and regional links from these sites can help push your ranking up in the SERPs.


5. Hold a contest.

One of the easiest ways to create buzz and get people into your business is by announcing a contest. First, you need to come up with a clever way to have people enter. Requiring them to post on Facebook or share your contest announcement post on Facebook is a good place to start, because it will quickly spread throughout the local community and help fuel the buzz.

Second, you need a prize that will entice people enough to want to participate. You can even source this locally and partner up with the prize provider to plug them as well for a discount. Or you could just buy an iPhone, MacBook, Apple Watch, or GoPro and use a prize that everyone will want.

I’ve seen some local businesses partner with radio stations also, and work in free air time to promote it, which really spreads the offer fast.


6. Launch an affiliate program.

How great would it be if you had an army of local residents constantly bringing you sales without you having to spend a single dollar on marketing or advertising? Sounds great, right?

Set up an affiliate program that pays an attractive cut of sales or a flat fee per client, and then find people that either want to work hard to find them or have a network they can leverage to send customers.

While you do have to payout on each sale, you need to understand that it’s only on sales, so there is no wasted spend. You could pump money into an advertising campaign and not see a single sale as a result. Paying for performance only is very appealing to many small local businesses.



7. Develop a customer loyalty and referral program.

Similar in a sense to an affiliate program, a loyalty program rewards your customers with discounts or point to be used for purchases when they purchases specified products or spend certain amounts of money and reach different tiers that you specify.

Not only does this keep your customers loyal, but it can get them to spend more money each time than they would without the program in place. You have to figure out a sweet spot, in terms of what they receive for what they have to spend. You don’t want to kill your margins, but you want to reward your most loyal customers for their business.

I would suggest creating several different levels, with the first one easily attainable, so they get a taste. They are going to naturally want to reach the highest level, causing them to spend more. This is the same logic airlines use with their loyalty programs and credit cards with their points system. In the end they are all designed to make the customer spend more money, and they work great at accomplishing that.


8. Start an email newsletter.

The most attractive part about an email newsletter from a business owner standpoint is that once you have the email address you now have a customer to market to at any time at no additional cost. Also, you are more than likely to have your message at least viewed, since everyone is connected to their email via their mobile devices.

You will want to create an angle for your newsletter that will trigger your recipients to open it. You want to avoid just blasting out discount codes and ads. Instead, find a way to make the newsletter about local news or community events, and then slip in an occasional promo. This way your readers will want to read it for the value it provides, and if there is a discount or special offer here and there they won’t get turned off, and many will even bite.


9. Create relationships with local influencers.

Every community has local “influencers” in a sense. This could be anything from an ex-professional athlete or someone who is just very popular and involved in the social circles you would want to target as customers.

Sometimes just offering a discount is enough to turn them into a brand ambassador, and if they truly do have influence it will result in more locals turning to your business, simply because someone they look up to and admire suggested it.

You don’t need someone who is famous on a national level. Instead, look for people that have the most say in your town. Some of your regular customers are also a good source, as they are already supporters. A little discount here and there can sometimes get them talking about your business to anyone who will listen. When you are able to snowball the number of raving supporters you will see business increase.



10. Deploy a customer service campaign to attract reviews.

The reviews that your business receive on Facebook, Google, Yelp, etc. can really help your business stand out from the competition and they can also help your SEO. A search engine’s job is to show the most accurate information to its users.

So, if someone is in your area and you happen to be a pizza shop, and they do a voice search on their mobile phone asking for the best pizza place, the AI software is going to suggest a few close locations, but what one are they going to show as the top choice? That one with the best reviews of course. It’s the piece of data that AI can pull, which directly answers the question. Naturally a pizza place with 25 five-star reviews is going to be perceived as better than one with no reviews.

You don’t want to bribe or force reviews, because that can be a very gray area. But, what you can do is call customers and ask, “How did you like doing business with my company?” If they answer favorably, simply ask them if they would mind leaving you a review. That is all you have to do. Just simply ask.

If you receive feedback from an unhappy customer, use it as information to help improve your business and try to make it right, because if you do you might regain a customer.


11. Join local SMB networking groups.

Local business owners need to stick together and work together if they want to stay alive. One of the best things you can do is join as many local meetup and networking groups as you can. Talking to other business owners in the same community on a regular basis is a great way to learn what is working and not working for different industries.

This type of information can help you spot trends or changes in the consumer behavior among the locals. Don’t think of all other business owners as competition. There are more collaboration and partnership opportunities available than you might think, and you will never uncover these unless you are out networking and speaking with the other local business owners in your community.

The local Chamber of Commerce is a great place to start, or if your stateside your local Better Business Bureau chapter, they often hold monthly events where you can meet members. From there, you can learn about additional clubs and meetups.



As a local business, you need to take advantage of every opportunity you can to attract customers. It’s wise to use as many resources available, especially when they don’t cost any money, to help attract potential customers.

These tips are so easy to get started with. You don’t need money. You just need to be committed to putting in the work. With a little bit of effort and elbow grease you can start to see business increase.

Are there any other ways you have been marketing your local business for free? If so, please tell me about it in the comments below. I’m always curious as to how small business owners from all over the world and marketing their businesses.

Tommy McDonald

Tommy is an SEO professional with years of experience running highly successful SEO companies, founded SerpLogic after noticing there was a major void when it came to options for SEO agencies needing a reliable and professional one-stop outsource solution.You can read all about me in the “About” page here on our blog!

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