Retail marketing in a small town

How are you marketing your retail business?

Small town retailers often fit into two marketing categories: old school way and idea friendly way. Old school way is doing things the way you’ve always done them, hoping it will continue to work. Idea Friendly marketing is using all the tools you can that are available to you, depending on who your market is.

If you’re product is only for locals, then get on the matching Social Media channel.

If it’s over 55 women go to Facebook, young kids are on Snapchat. Are your locals on twitter? Have you looked for them on Instagram? Both of those channels work well for retailers. Don’t forget the newspaper, but ask them also to promote on their website and Facebook pages! Don’t forget how to teach your locals ways to remember you. Have you got Alexa? You can train her to reorder products from local companies too. Why not teach your customers how to do that?

If your market is found in visitors coming to town, then you want to find them BEFORE they come to town.

Utilize the online tools, but more importantly, find out what your market is first. Develop a persona for your ideal customer.  Why should they visit your area? For recreation, shopping, activities – what are the reasons people come to town? Or COULD come to town? What kind of people are you looking to attract? Young, old, women, men, retirees, working people? Then work on marketing to that customer. Remember, online tools are simply that, tools. It’s up to you to make people want to shop with you. Is your website current? Can I order online? Can I at least email or call you for a product? Are you listed with Google Business?

Have you partnered with your local and state tourism folks? In Iowa, you can post events at and you can also list your business there. You can buy into media ads with them, saving you lots of money. Does your local community have a Tourism booklet? Advertise in it!

I think it’s important to support your local newspaper and radio, but not just in a willy nilly kind of way.

Ask them what they are doing to utilize online tools. Can you advertise on their website, or will they post about you on Social Media? It behooves them to be found where their customers are as well. And not everyone reads things in print or listens to the radio. If your market includes newspaper readers, run an ad. Ask the paper if you can write an article for them too. If you’re a hardware store, you can write about the correct way to set up your Christmas tree, for example.

Why not host retail events in your small town?

Webster City, Iowa does Ladies Night Out the third Thursday in October. Of course, they appeal to the local people, but they also promote it year round to visitors. Social media is a great tool for this. Again, who is your market? Answer that and then you can match up the right online tools for your business.

Just because we live and work in small towns doesn’t mean we don’t know tech!

Current and future tech are important to us too. In store tech ideas include:

  • an iPad that you can show a video about a product someone is looking at,
  • Alexa or Dot, and teach your customers how to use it to reorder items,
  • a smart tv that loops video about your community, your products, your events, just interesting things,
  • a charging station for retailers to charge their phone while they are shopping,
  • and any applicable tech tools for the products you sell.
It seems like a lot of work, and it is. The end result is worth it! Without customers, you have no business.