7 effective ways to build a local customer base for your business

October 10, 2023

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Driving consistent revenue and growth happens at the local level. To build a local customer base of repeat local customers, you need strategic and multifaceted marketing.

In this post, we’ll explore effective local marketing strategies for hotels, restaurants, and other service businesses based on insights from hospitality expert Scot Turner.

Whether you need to improve your approach for multiple outlets or strengthen your existing community engagement, these tips will help you attract and retain more local customers. Let’s dive in to the key pillars of effective local marketing that drive real revenue!

Tailor marketing strategies to individual outlets

When it comes to local marketing for hotels and restaurants with multiple outlets, it’s crucial to tailor strategies to each individual area. As Scot Turner, Chief Ambassador at Burnt Chef Project, explains in this recent podcast episode:

“It’s really about taking each area as its own individual outlet. That’s my big advice. And it’s not a one-size-fits-all for your hotel or your operation because everyone has its own target market.”

Every outlet – whether it’s a restaurant, conference room, lounge, or bar – appeals to a different audience. Develop unique positioning and messaging for each one based on who it serves.

For example, leisure travelers looking for a nice dinner out probably aren’t the same target market as corporate clients booking a conference room. While you want them all coming to your business, the marketing approach needs to be tailored.

Turner advises: “Get a really defined strategy for each area. But I think when it comes to local marketing, certainly for restaurant, for the bar, for the meeting rooms, for lounges where you might have afternoon tea or that type of thing, I think the principles are always the same.”

The key principles of local marketing remain constant: build a local customer base that keeps coming back. But the messaging and positioning should align to each individual outlet at your location. Take the time to get strategic with your marketing so you appeal to the right local audience for each part of your business.

Avoid dependence on impact marketing

It can be tempting to rely on promotions, discounts, or “impact marketing” to quickly drive revenue. But this approach often backfires long-term.

As Scot Turner explains, “As soon as that discount drops or that promotion ends, the revenue drops again and you almost feel obliged to go there again. And you get into this really difficult cycle of paying your way out of trouble every time because that’s the only thing that you see with results.”

Impact marketing fills your location in the short-term but fails to build a local customer base. When the promotion ends, your revenue crashes. And once regulars are driven away by overcrowding or discounting, you’ve lost your foundation.

Instead, focus on engaging the local community consistently. Help nearby residents, workers, and businesses make your outlet part of their routine. Consistent local marketing creates true fans who will keep coming back and spending more over time.


Utilize LinkedIn for local B2B engagement

Many local restaurants and hotels underestimate the power of LinkedIn for engaging local businesses. But it’s an ideal platform for targeted B2B marketing to build a local customer base.

As Scot Turner shares from experience: “We got a map of the area on Google…and we put in a 1 km radius. And then we looked at all the big businesses and offices around that 1 km radius.”

From there, they developed a LinkedIn strategy to target key decision makers at nearby offices and invite them to dine or use amenities. The goal was filling weekday lunches by becoming the go-to spot for local professionals.

With a radius search, you can identify target companies near your location. Then use LinkedIn messaging and offers like free drinks to engage. Become the top choice for local offices looking for somewhere to dine, meet, or work.

Encourage authenticity in your employees’ personal brands

Want more authentic and engaging local marketing? Empower your staff to build their personal brands.

Your employees are your best brand ambassadors. They can share behind-the-scenes footage and experiences that resonate with local customers. But they need the freedom to express themselves authentically. Give your team permission to develop their own social media channels separate from your official company accounts. Let their passions and personalities shine through in bite-sized videos or posts.

With several employee personal brands circulating locally, you increase reach and frequency. Different personalities also help you appeal to diverse audiences.

Share the successes within your internal communications. Promote employee content through your local email lists and website. Boost the hard work of your team. All of these factors will play a role to build a local customer base.

So take the time to develop personal brand guidelines and resources for your team. Then set them free to market your location in their own voice. More authentic local marketing ultimately benefits your whole business.

Person taking a video at a restaurant

Explore short-form video platforms for greater engagement

The next way to build a local customer base is through short-form videos. Short-form video platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels are gaining huge engagement. Don’t ignore these new local marketing channels. Experiment with bite-sized videos showcasing your location’s personality, menu, events, or staff. The authenticity resonates with audiences.

User-generated content is also key. Run local contests encouraging customers to create their own videos. Then repost the best submissions.

Short video content spreads quickly and gets more engagement. Take advantage of trending formats to tell your brand’s local story. Lean into authenticity over polish and perfection.

Build a local customer base with Instagrammable experiences

Create experiences that encourage customer content creation

Related to short-form video, user-generated content from customers provides free and authentic local marketing. But you need to strategically design experiences that inspire it.

As Scot Turner learned when opening a bakery, small activations can make a location highly “Instagrammable.” Have visually appealing decor, products, and features specifically for photos.

Give customers sneak peeks of behind-the-scenes processes they’ll want to capture. For example, let them see your bakers at work shaping croissants. Build photo stations outside your location to encourage social shares. Offer fun props or signage that grabs attention.

Repost and highlight the best user content. Make loyal fans feel famous. It motivates more UGC.

Most importantly, focus on consistently delighting customers. A positive experience encourages organic social sharing. Surprise and delight through service that exceeds expectations.

Consistently innovate and evolve your offerings

To build a local customer base and keep them engaged over time, you need to consistently innovate and evolve. Here are some tips:

  • Avoid complacency with current offerings and marketing. Look for new ways to surprise and delight your community on an ongoing basis.
  • Regularly test new initiatives – limited-time menu items, special events, content formats, partnerships. Measure results and double down on what resonates locally.
  • Keep evolving the customer experience through feedback. Solicit local insights to improve pain points and exceed expectations.
  • Treat loyal fans like VIPs with sneak peeks, access, and personalized experiences. Turn them into raving fans.

The key is to continually give your local community fresh reasons to engage with your brand. Avoid complacency and keep innovating. It pays off with consistent customer engagement.

Build a local customer base

Building a strong local customer base takes consistent work, but pays off exponentially. Follow these proven marketing strategies to attract and retain more loyal customers in your community.

By leveraging LinkedIn, employee advocacy, short-form video, and customer content creation, you can organically build a local customer base that drives sustainable revenue and growth.

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