Americans are loyal supporters of small businesses. In fact, 57% of consumers say that they are willing to pay more to support local businesses. 81% say that they want to shop at more local businesses but grapple with overcoming the convenience of large retailers.

To encourage more traffic from local customers, your small business should build connections and deep relationships within its community. For example, giving back through philanthropic initiatives shows that you care about your community. Additionally, revisiting your marketing campaigns can help you connect with local audiences, reach new audiences and generations, and personalize communications.

Whether you own a restaurant, dog boarding business, or flower shop, these tips can help you foster deep, trusting connections with your customers and the broader community. Let’s get started!

Engage in corporate social responsibility.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) encompasses all of the efforts your business makes to give back to the community and promote social good. These could include corporate giving initiatives in which your company donates money to nonprofits, as well as ensuring fair labor and sound environmental practices in your operations.

Your CSR efforts can enhance your reputation, make your business more visible within your local area, and even improve employee engagement. Some ways to give back include:

  • Starting a matching gift program. As 360MatchPro’s guide to matching gifts explains, “matching gifts are a type of corporate philanthropy where companies match donations to their employees make to eligible nonprofits.” So, if one of your employees donates $50 to the local food pantry, your business would match the gift for a total donation of $100. Employees appreciate doubling their impact without having to give more out of their pockets, and nonprofits easily earn more funding.
  • Offering corporate sponsorships or partnerships to nonprofits. Reach out to local nonprofits to inquire about sponsorship opportunities. For example, you might donate money, products, or services to the organization to help them host a fundraising event in exchange for your logo being featured on marketing materials. Or, you could enter a partnership with a nonprofit and launch a cause marketing campaign together.
  • Organizing volunteer opportunities. Volunteer grants are similar programs to matching gifts, in which your business provides monetary grants to nonprofits based on the number of hours an employee volunteers with them. You can also organize company-wide volunteer days. For example, you could have your dog daycare employees spend time with dogs at a shelter and show the staff how they can track information like vaccinations, dietary restrictions, and behavioral notes within software like Gingr.

Participating in these initiatives not only improves your reputation and employee engagement but can also help you attract talented employees in the future. You’ll also inspire more customers to shop at your business over large corporations when they can see that you strive to better your community.

Refine your marketing efforts.

You may think marketing only matters to large corporations, but this is far from the truth. In reality, 72% of consumers who perform a local search on a search engine end up visiting a store of any size within five miles. By cultivating your online presence, your store could quickly become the one that local customers turn to!

To engage local customers, you’ll need to analyze your data to understand which communication channels they prefer, what kinds of messages resonate with them, and what motivates them to purchase your product or service. Here are some quick tips for appealing to more local customers:

  • Center your value proposition and ensure it matters to your customer. If you are a dog groomer, highlight that your company pays more attention to each individual dog than the big, corporate providers.
  • Optimize your website for local marketing. Make sure that your website is mobile-friendly for on-the-go users, and consider adding location-based terms to the site. For example, a bakery’s homepage could read “[Town Name]’s Best Donut Shop” below its name.
  • Set up local listings on platforms like Google and Yelp. This way, your business will appear prominently in search results when customers want to find your address, phone number, website, or customer reviews.
  • Aim to appear in local media such as the town newspaper or area-specific TV news channels. Consumers trust these local news sources to keep them up-to-date on what is going on in the community.

Infuse location-specific indicators in all of your marketing efforts, no matter which platform you use. Add terms like your city, address, or local numbers to your Google Ads. In social media posts, be sure to tag your business’s location and engage with local trends and hashtags.

Host community events.

Community events give your business a way to connect with local residents (i.e., your current and potential customers!) on a more personal level. Here are some event ideas that can bring your community together:

  • Celebrate an industry-specific holiday or occasion. Have your bakery celebrate National Donut Day by hosting a fun donut decorating event. Or, celebrate the start of Great Outdoors Month in June by teaching your outdoor shop’s customers how to set up a tent. No matter what niche you operate in, there is likely a holiday you can highlight with an engaging event.
  • Give them a taste of what you have to offer. Center your event around your products or services so your potential customers can enjoy a small sample of what you have to offer. For example, a fitness studio could hold a free sunset yoga class at a park, or a candy shop could have a fudge sampling event. Additionally, consider joining established community events like market days to spread awareness of your business and share free samples to entice customers.
  • Host a workshop or information session. Show off your expertise and skills by teaching community members something new. A dog grooming business may teach attendees the best ways to brush their pets to maintain the service while an Italian restaurant could host a workshop on making pasta. These events are fun and educational while facilitating deep relationships between your employees and customers.

To encourage more community members to join your event, consider offering special discounts or other incentives to attendees. For example, a salon might create marketing materials that say “Attend and receive 25% off your next color service!” Or, you might hold a raffle at the event and give away prizes like gift cards for local restaurants.

Your small business’ local customers can be your most loyal supporters. Make a lasting impression on them by getting established in your community, whether you’re helping a nonprofit with fundraising event planning or starting a corporate giving program. Customers will see your business as a valuable and integral part of the community and feel good about supporting their local economy.