Getting more out of your local marketing dollars requires understanding where your customers come from and how they engage with your company.


It’s an age-old question every small-business owner thinks about, whether the company is just starting out or whether it’s been operating for many years: “Where should we advertise to attract new customers?”

Figuring out how best to do this is key to increasing your company’s brand recognition and, ultimately, its sales. And while, in the past, it might have mostly involved some trial and error, a better approach to improving your advertising return-on-investment starts with carefully considering how your business meets the needs of customers in your community.

To begin, review your advertising options and map your customers against those channels. For example, if you’re thinking about print ads in local newspapers or magazines, consider where your clients might look. Similarly, sponsoring a local fun run versus TV or radio spots, or partnering with a community charity or nonprofit are all possibilities – the most cost effective choices are to go where your clients will find you. Your clients are unique, so understanding how they are most likely to see your presence and engage with you is paramount to answering the question of where to invest your advertising dollars.

How do you get the attention of customers in your area? Here are some tips to consider:

Target your marketing geographically. Are you casting too wide a net for your business? Pete Balik, a physical therapist with Freedom Physical Therapy in Fox Point, Wis., estimates that 90 percent of his customers come from within a five-mile radius of his business. As such, it’s much more cost-effective to use advertising aimed at the surrounding neighborhood. “We don’t do any television or radio,” Balik says. “That’s probably a little out of our price range, and it probably wouldn’t be that effective because it would be such a broad area.” A more effective method of introducing a small business to local customers is establishing a presence at nearby community events, especially those that match up well with the company’s specialty. “We’re one of the sponsors for a run that’s coming up, and we’ll try to do a booth,” Balik says, “to answer questions or just be visible.”

If you buy media ads, think repetition. Radio or TV spots can be a good way to reach new customers in your region; with this type of media, it’s often a better idea to purchase a shorter amount of airtime. Not only will shorter ads cost less, you can use the money you save to run ads more frequently. Airing two 30-second ads at different times will reach a larger audience than one 60-second ad. And it has a better chance of leaving a lasting impression. Similarly, by purchasing smaller print ads more often, you may be able to afford to purchase other small ads in other publications, thereby widening the potential exposure base of potential customers.

Tailor your direct-mail advertising to specific locations Balik has found direct mail to be an effective way to attract local customers, and he’s had a fair amount of success by using targeted coupons that get sent only to neighborhood residents. “We could choose our zip codes for that and it went to everybody,” he notes.

Track your sales back to your advertising. The direct effect of specific advertising is sometimes difficult to measure, but it’s a smart strategy to ask all your new customers how they heard about your business. Did they encounter one of the advertisements you placed? If you’re trying different approaches to gain new business, this is a great way to help determine what works and what doesn’t in terms of attracting new customers.

Remember, each new sale is not only an opportunity to develop a long-term customer relationship; it’s also a chance to gain new insight about how to better serve and advertise in your community.

Need help with direct-mail campaigns, or figuring out a smarter digital marketing plan to reach your customer base? Pitney Bowes can help with solutions like our web-based pbSmartMarketer and our email campaign management software, pbSmart Connections.