The digital landscape has eliminated most obstacles in content creation and dissemination, but the flip side of the coin is that the amount of input we get knows no bounds. Companies are finding it harder than ever to stay on top of their customers’ minds, and the fact that small business owners have limited time and financial resources doesn’t help.

You may think you’re losing out to your bigger competitors who are able to invest more in marketing. But the truth is, local marketing is all about community and human connections. As a local business, you can build a brand image that will help you stand out from the noise and build strong ties with customers in the area. Here are five things you can do on a minimal marketing budget.

1. Audit your online presence.

Managing your online reputation is the first step to managing your local image. You probably think you’re not online because you don’t even have a website—but you are, because your customers are. You may not have claimed your own page on Yell but your customers have already written reviews about your products or services on it.

Your potential customers’ buying decisions are in large part shaped by how others think of and talk about you. According to a study commissioned by Google, 88% of smartphone users surveyed searched for local information on search engines, and 84% of computer and tablet users did the same. Make sure you’re accessible so customers can find you when they search for you, and your online image is well-managed as it could be the first point of contact they have with you.

Claim your business on Google My Business, Yell, Bing Places, TripAdvisor, and other online directories that are relevant. Make sure all the information is correct and consistent—this is crucial, as it puts your business on the map and increases local search rankings. It’s also important to monitor and respond to reviews on these sites. Show that you care about customers and their feedback, address their concerns by taking part in the conversation, and make authenticity and transparency be part of your brand.

2. Identify and test your strategy.

As a small business owner, you probably don’t have a lot of resources and time dedicated to marketing, so maximising results from your effort is your foremost priority. You may be overwhelmed with the countless digital marketing channels available. Use tools like this one from Moz to narrow down options based on your needs and goals. For example, if you’re a restaurant owner, Facebook or Instagram might be the best choice for you, depending on the customer segment you’re targeting. There will probably be some trial and error, but don’t be afraid to test the waters and see what mix of tactics works best. Tools like HootSuite or Buffer offer free pricing packages and automate content publishing for you.

Offline efforts still count. Participating in local causes, events and communities remains a great way to build connections with local people, network with fellow local entrepreneurs, and establish yourself as a local leader or expert.

3. Make your message personal.

No matter what strategy you use, the essence of local marketing is about forging bonds with people in the area. Local businesses are in a great position for this. They usually have compelling stories that will strike a chord.

Make sure your message aligns with your image that you’re building. Be consistent and don’t hesitate to show your personality. Leverage social media and online platforms to interact with customers and get feedback from them. With the aid from digital marketing tools, you can have data that will help you better understand your customers, further tailor your message, and communicate in a way that will grow your relationship with your customers.

4. Be smart about discounts and offers.

Running promotional campaigns may seem like an obvious idea to attract customers, but done wrong it will have a direct impact on your profits and harm your brand image. On the other hand, positioning incentives in the way that aligns with your brand differentiates your business, increases brand awareness, loyalty and equity, and extends your reach.

Consider how the value of the campaign will fit your customers’ preferences and interests, and the potential outcomes it will bring about. Partnerships strategically chosen can work well to enhance your brand recognition and local presence.

5. If need be, get outside help for the highest ROI.

Sometimes delegating marketing efforts to a trustworthy third party is worth the investment. A good content partner has the expertise and experience to help you craft a compelling brand message and speak to a large, loyal and targeted audience.

Curious about how you can benefit from it? Download our white paper and learn more.