30-second summary:

  • Contrary to the “go big or go home” approach that global brands use, going small and more targeted can bring big results
  • Connecting with local markets is easier with localized messaging, imagery, and more
  • Award-winning branded content creator, Melanie Deziel shares advice on how to personalize connections as your audience grows

As a marketer, it’s really easy to get stuck in an echo chamber of “big brand marketing.” We watch what similar-sized companies are doing. We gush over the Fortune 100s pumping out big-budget ads with big names for the big game and their big sale. We admire international corporations that win awards for global campaigns, pull off outlandish PR stunts in Times Square, and land impressive celebrity spokespeople who rake in millions just for holding a product on Instagram Live.

While it’s great to get inspiration from big brands that push the envelope, it’s easy to miss out on priceless learnings from more clever marketing moments that small and local businesses do to reach new customers, increase loyalty and set themselves apart.

Working with so many local and independently owned businesses—both as a consultant in the past and now with The Convoy—I’ve really come to appreciate the ways that they approach marketing, and I think we’ve got some big lessons to learn from these small businesses.

1. Prioritize people

One of the best things about local businesses is the personal relationships that form between the customers and the owners and staff. 

When I walk in the door of my favorite coffee shop, they greet me by name, and my local pizza shop asks if I’m having “the usual” before I can even place my order. It makes me feel seen and valued as a customer and makes me more likely to go back. 

For many big brands, scale comes at the cost of personal connection, and customers can end up feeling like a number. And while email merge tags can certainly help create the illusion of personal connection, they sometimes fall flat. Don’t you agree, {First Name}?

Look for opportunities to bring personalization and human connection back into your customer experience at each stage of the customer journey. 

Here are some considerations

  1. What standardized communications could benefit from some personalization?
  2. Where can you add video or audio to make things feel more human?
  3. Where can you swap general identifiers to individuals?
    – “From the team” becomes “From Tasha”
    – Emails sent from devon@ instead of noreply@
  4. What communities have naturally formed around your products or services?
    – How can you embrace and acknowledge that community?
    – What can you do to enable members of that community to connect?
  5. How might you surprise and delight a bit more often?

2. Think local

Just because you’re a national brand, doesn’t mean that every campaign and every tactic needs to be national. 

While it might sound limiting to focus marketing on just a few of the countless markets you need to reach, local markets present big brands with an opportunity to create the kind of deep connection and perception of omnipresence that local businesses enjoy. 

One way to leverage the power of localized marketing is to unearth local search opportunities. This might mean paying attention to the opportunities hidden in localized search queries, the way Airbnb has by creating landing pages specifically for stays in major destination cities. 

Another way to put the “market” back into your marketing is to localize messaging. Each market has its own language, culture, and expectations, so personalizing your messaging for each individual area can help create a deeper connection (and better conversions) than blasting the same exact messaging and imagery to Cali surfers, Texas ranchers, Midwestern moms, and NYC fashionistas. 

Questions to ask as you embrace the power of local marketing

  1. Which markets could benefit from some more personalized attention 
    • Which markets could benefit from localized messaging?
    • Which markets could benefit from localized imagery?
    • Which markets could benefit from having a voiceover with a local accent?
  2. Which markets are bringing in enough search traffic to warrant personal attention?
  3. Which markets aren’t bringing in as much search traffic as desired?

3. Embrace analog

While much of the conversation around marketing is focused on digital marketing, there’s an entire world of engaging tactics beyond search, social, and programmatic display.

But for most local businesses, “digital marketing” and “marketing” aren’t so synonymous. These smaller brands often leverage a significant amount of analog advertising tactics to reach new consumers, retain existing customers, and improve the customer experience at all points in the funnel. 

But you can embrace analog experiences in other parts of your marketing as well.

I will never forget when I got my Starbucks Gold Card in the mail: In a world where most loyalty programs live inside apps and online accounts, I had a physical card with my name on it. 

Prompts to help you discover analog marketing opportunities

  1. What analog ad tactics have you overlooked or underestimated?
    • What local media might be worth advertising in?
    • What local sports teams or events might be worth sponsoring?
    • What out-of-home tactics could have an impact?
    • Is there an opportunity to use direct mail to connect more directly?
  2. Which customer experiences could be made more memorable with an analog touch?
    • Some examples: onboarding, celebrating, recognizing, upgrading, renewing
  3. Which digital acknowledgments could be made physical in some way?

4. Think small to win big

At the end of the day, marketers at big brands know we’re lucky to have large budgets to work with and large teams to support us. 

But we’re not the only ones throwing lots of budget into reaching and retaining our audience. 

By thinking like a small brand, we just might be able to out-think the competitors that we can’t outspend.


Melanie Deziel is the co-founder and VP of marketing at The Convoy, a B2B marketplace helping small businesses save money on everyday expenses.

She is a keynote speaker, author, award-winning branded content creator, and lifelong storyteller. Melanie is also the author of ‘The Content Fuel Framework: How to Generate Unlimited Story Ideas’.

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