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Local media advertising is important for small businesses for four reasons

  • Small businesses that invest in local advertising can connect and engage with their communities.
  • Local advertising is a way small businesses can support and partner with other businesses.
  • Local advertising is a cost-effective way to promote a brand and build a loyal local customer base. 
  • This article is part of "Marketing for Small Business," a series exploring the basics of marketing strategy for SBOs to earn new customers and grow their business.

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The Little Rock, Arkansas-based florist has been in business for 137 years and has enjoyed steady popularity within the community. Leaders at the company attribute this to the continued investment in advertising through local media outlets.

Headshot of Howard Hurst

Howard Hurst, the president and CEO of Tipton & Hurst.
Courtesy of Howard Hurst

"Even though we might be a well-known name, I think it's important to stay on top of that," Howard Hurst, the company's president and CEO, told Insider. "We want to be No. 1 in the marketplace in terms of top of mind, awareness, and exposure." 

Tipton & Hurst has established decades-long relationships with local media outlets, including print, TV, and radio, where the company regularly runs ads. Hurst said local media complements its digital-marketing efforts, including Google Ads and social media. 

While digital marketing is an important strategy for small businesses, more are investing in traditional media, including newspapers, TV, and radio, Harvard Business Review reported. BIA Advisory Services estimated that local US advertising revenue would decline by 0.5% in 2023, but still have a slight edge over digital revenue. 

Headshot of Robert Walker Smith

Robert Walker-Smith, the digital-revenue director at Knight x LMA BloomLab at the Local Media Association.
Courtesy of Robert Walker Smith

"For local businesses to advertise in their local market, it gives the connection that they're involved and engaged in their local community," Robert Walker-Smith, the digital-revenue director at Knight x LMA BloomLab at the Local Media Association, told Insider.

Adding traditional, local media to a small business' marketing mix can be an effective way to reach target audiences within a specific geographical area. Here are some other potential benefits local media outlets can offer. 

1. Businesses can boost community-wide brand identity 

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Small businesses need clear understandings of their brand identities and unique value propositions, or what's different about them, to resonate with local customers, Eric Morley, a cofounder of the marketing agency Blue C, said. 

"Before we start with a client, we always want to focus on who they are, what they sell, what their message is, and who they sell it to," he told Insider. 

Katie Dufort

Katie Dufort founder of Puzzle Rides.
Courtesy of Katie Dufort

In 2020, when Katie Dufort founded Puzzle Rides, which has locations in Scottsdale and Prescott, Arizona, she knew local media was the way to spread the word about the business and attract customers. 

"We are something to do that nobody had ever heard of," Dufort told Insider, describing the company as "an escape-room-style adventure on golf carts." 

"We really have to stand out locally so that people get to know who we are," she said. Local print media, including newspapers, local lifestyle and tourism magazines, and TV and radio stations have advertised Puzzle Rides.

Local advertising has been an important way to get the company's name out into the community and build the brand, Dufort, who devotes at least a quarter of her company's ad budget to local advertising, said. "The only way to reach your locals is really through local advertising." 

2. Companies can target different customers at different times 

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Headshot of Eric Morley

Eric Morley, a cofounder of the marketing agency Blue C.
Courtesy of Eric Morley

To make local advertising work, Morley said that "it's very important to really understand where your clients come from, who they are, and why they like you." 

Having a solid brand identity, knowing who its audience is, and knowing what local media that audience consumes can help guide a business to the best advertising option, he said. 

"In our business, people say, 'Well, what's your target market?'" Hurst said. "It depends on the occasion. You have to figure out the right avenues." 

Tipton & Hurst changes its local advertising strategy to reach different groups during different seasons. For Valentine's Day, the company uses sports radio to target men, and lifestyle magazines comprise its go-to medium for reaching women for Christmas holiday decorating. 

3. Companies can help other small businesses 

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Appearing in local media outlets that have been around for generations and are known and trusted in the community can elevate local businesses, Walker-Smith said.  

He also said that many local media outlets are also small businesses themselves, so advertising is a way of supporting the business community. 

In a Borrell Associates survey of businesses that buy local newspaper ads, more than 40% of surveyed businesses said that being perceived as a part of the community and being seen as an organization that supports this community were the biggest benefits of the ads — even more than driving sales. 

"We're all in this together, and if everybody's successful, we'll all be successful," Hurst said. "We have these relationships, so we're working with them." 

Hurst said he feels lucky that central Arkansas still has a daily newspaper and many other local media outlets, which are disappearing in other communities around the country at a rate of around two per week, Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism reported. 

4. Businesses can establish relationships with media and customers 

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One challenge with local advertising is that it doesn't always offer the data insights of digital campaigns, and it can sometimes be difficult to measure the outcomes, Dufort and Hurst said. Still, they said it helps build brand awareness in the community. 

Dufort said she hears more feedback from customers from her local ads than from digital campaigns. "People say, 'Oh, I saw you in the Scottsdale Independent and kept you in mind when our family came to town.' I really like that feedback from local sources, whereas you don't get that from Google," she said. 

Advertising in traditional media can be more expensive than advertising in digital, Hurst said. But the company often trades ads for products or services, including allowing media companies to use flowers or decor for photoshoots. 

"I like that because then, I know I can keep up with my media people and know that I'm top of mind for them, too," he said. 

Even if small businesses think local advertising is too expensive, Walker-Smith urged company owners to contact local media organizations about what options are available. 

"You might find that they really want to help businesses and have solutions that are very attractive and budget-friendly," he said. "I would just say reach out and say, 'Hey, here's what I'm trying to do. Can you help me?' I think in 90% of the cases, the answers will be, 'Yeah, we can do that.'"


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