The people that live and work in your business’ immediate vicinity are your most valuable asset. Ken Burgin shares nine pointers on how you can nurture your nearest and dearest.

In most places, all the customers you ever need are within walking distance of your business. But we’re so busy promoting far and wide, that we forget the simple and effective neighbourhood promotions that work every time.

1.Talk about local produce and suppliers

Feature at least two items on your menu and beverage list that are sourced locally or known for local connections. For example, say ‘Our potatoes are the best from Kooweerup’; ‘Our icecream is churned by local producers, Rocky & Co.’ or ‘Fish sourced daily from Sydney Fish Markets.’ There’s a growing debate on ‘food miles’ – some customers don’t care, but many are interested. Frame it as local pride rather than politics.

2.Talk about what locals love to eat or drink

‘This is the favourite beer with locals in Manly.’ ‘Locals up this way love these oysters.’ Or ‘Would you like to try one of our local wines?’ Make sure they’re on the menu and in the server’s recommendations.

3.Support local causes

Whether it’s fundraising for a school gym or protecting a heritage area, take part in mainstream local issues. Mention it in your newsletter, on your Facebook page, and on the ‘What’s New’ or blog section of your website.

4.Host local meetings

If there are times during the week when you’ve got empty space, this is when local meetings can take place on your premises. They may not buy more than a coffee or beer, but the appreciation will come back in many other ways. And if you’ve got free WiFi available, you suddenly become a much more desirable location.

5.List local events

An up-to-date local diary on your website is easy to organise and keep fresh. Focus on events that are important to your customers. Alternatively, you can put them on the Event listings on Facebook, especially if you’re a sponsor of an event – ask supporters to like and share these to their friends.

6.Show off the locals

Keep your photo gallery up-to-date with pictures of happy customers and local events – on the cafe wall or the website, and in albums on your Facebook page. Encourage people to email or SMS photos when they go travelling. If your area doesn’t have its own Facebook page, create one, like the great example at Think of yourself as the local Mayor – why not?!

7.Mention local employment

You hire local workers, and many staff live nearby – it’s another way to show you’re embedded in the community. Local high schools are keen to place their hospitality students – have you met the teachers and said hello? Hint: take a basket of muffins when you call, it works like a charm.

8.List all the local areas on your website

It’s very important for better website ranking. Talk about the surrounding suburbs and towns specifically by name so an online search will connect your venue with that location. What do people search for? It’s generally something like ‘pizza in Cooktown’ or ‘pub in Glebe’. Have your full street address at the bottom of each page and on the side navigation bar of your website. Include a phone number with the area code, and very importantly, make sure to have each listing exactly the same, that is, don’t have ‘Street’ on one address and ‘St’ on another. This gives search engines the information they need, and avoids duplicate listings.

9.Start using local Facebook Ads

If you want to be seen regularly by your neighbours, set up a low budget local advertising campaign on Facebook (say $3 per day) to highlight the food or a special feature of your business. Without advertising, most of your posts will never be seen. Facebook can be a very powerful and targeted advertising platform – it’s worth exploring.

Ken Burgin is owner of Profitable Hospitality.

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