Local builders’ merchants are continuously fighting to gain or maintain ground against the national chains.

Technology such as point of sale software may have narrowed the gap in recent years, but there remain significant challenges for smaller, independent builders merchants. Competing directly on price is nigh on impossible for most SME merchants. Increasingly, merchants are turning to customer service and expertise to win custom from national merchants.

In today’s blog post, we explore another factor that small merchants can use to gain a competitive edge: their local credentials.

#1 Your marketing approach

As a local business, you can choose to use this attribute as the heart of your marketing campaigns. Communicate how you’ve been serving the local community for many years, use photos of your longest serving staff members, and create copy and slogans that show how you’ve contributed to the local community. Advertise through local newspapers and classified directories, and ask local businesses (and previous happy customers) to place posters in windows for you, or keep some business cards to give out.

#2 Local and online

While e-commerce sites and social media can reach out to people anywhere in the world, there are plenty of ways to target your local area through online marketing. Firstly, join local community groups on Facebook – these could be buy or sell groups or general discussion forums. Keep track of discussions and put your company’s name forward when a group member is asking for a relevant recommendation. Participants of these groups value the opinions and endorsements of other members, so encourage family members and staff to join and contribute, too.

Additionally, search Twitter for local business groups – follow them and open a dialogue. It’s likely they’ll follow you back and occasionally retweet you when you post something interesting or valuable to their followers. It’s all about finding the right local online community to showcase your business.

#3 Partnerships, sponsorships and events

These are three more ways to get your name out there locally. Firstly, speak to other businesses with similar target markets (but who aren’t direct competitors) and discuss partnership options. Perhaps you could swap stacks of business cards and promise recommendations to any enquiring customers, or run a joint promotion.

Secondly, consider sponsoring or contributing to a local event. There are plenty of options out there: local sports teams, festivals and charity events to name but a few. This kind of sponsorship is likely to be affordable, and you’ll gain more exposure to your local target market.

Next, participate and organise local business events. Team up to rent out a local space and hold occasional events to showcase your business and build up new trade. If you can encourage a variety of businesses to take part, you’ll give locals more of a reason to attend.

Overall, the most effective way to use your local credentials to your advantage is to get involved with the local community – both offline and online. Small scale, local marketing strategies can be highly effective because they’re so well targeted.