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A marketing strategy will help you identify your best customers, understand their needs and implement the most effective marketing methods.

The internet has transformed business marketing. No matter what you do, the internet is likely to be at the heart of your marketing strategy.

Social media is firmly established as a marketing tool. Having a presence opens up new lines of communication with existing and potential customers.

Good advertising puts the right marketing message in front of the right people at the right time, raising awareness of your business.

Customer care is at the heart of all successful companies. It can help you develop customer loyalty and improve relationships with your customers.

Sales bring in the money that enables your business to survive and grow. Your sales strategy will be driven by your sales objectives.

Market research exists to guide your business decisions by giving you insight into your market, competitors, products, marketing and your customers.

Direct marketing can be a highly successful way to generate sales from existing and new customers. Find out how to target them in the best way.

Exhibitions and events are valuable for businesses because they allow face-to-face communication and offer opportunities for networking.

PR

Favourable media coverage can bring a range of business benefits. But how do you attract the attention of editors, broadcasters and journalists?

How to attract more local customers

If you're marketing to a local audience, there are more tools available than ever to help you. Naomi Marks finds out how you can use online services as well as traditional marketing techniques to attract local customers

Appealing to local customers is easier than ever. And it's not just about flyers and local ads; technology can also be used to market at town or even postcode level.

"It's just easier to market within a defined geography," says Sarah Orchard, founder of Orchard Marketing Associates. "For example, in theory I can consult across the whole of Europe, but in practice I keep to my home town and neighbouring counties.

"I can network locally, I can use local marketing techniques, and there are enough customers in the catchment area to keep me busy," she explains. "It's about fishing where the fish are."

Get listed in local directories

The internet is an increasingly powerful local marketing tool. As a first step, you can get listed with Google My Business so customers searching Google and Google Maps find your contact details.

Free Index is another free online directory. "With FreeIndex, your local customers can add reviews. The more positive reviews you get, the higher up the index you go," explains Orchard. "Basic listings on sites such as Thomsonlocal.com and Yell.com are also free."

Location-based social networking

Another easy step to ensure local customers find you online is to optimise your website for local searches. At its most basic, this means including your operating area in the keywords of all pages and page title fields, and adding as many relevant backlinks (links from other local websites) as possible.

Increasingly, social media is also lending itself to local marketing. Restaurants, bars and shops, for example, might consider listing on Foursquare, a free location-based mobile app that uses global positioning data to allow people to share information about places to eat, drink, shop or visit. Users can pick up automatic suggestions on where to go from within their vicinity.

Traditional marketing for local businesses

Face-to-face networking can be an extremely effective way of building local custom, particularly for business-to-business customers. "If someone has met you, they are much more likely to want to use your firm or refer you," points out Orchard.

Networking can also help you develop marketing partnerships with local, complementary businesses. For example, a high-street wedding dress designer and florist may find it valuable to promote each other in their marketing.

Other traditional marketing techniques you could use to attract local custom include targeted leaflet drops, press releases to local media and local sponsorship.

Evaluating response to your local marketing

To ensure you're spending your time wisely, measure the effectiveness of your marketing strategy. "Put in tracking mechanisms so you can measure how successful each technique is," advises Orchard.

"Evaluating web-based marketing can be easy using Google Analytics, which is free," she adds. "But if you do only one thing, ask all new customers how they heard of your firm."

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