Local marketing presents unique challenges, but it also comes with advantages for savvy business owners. If you take the right steps to make sure you're not wasting money by reaching people beyond your geographic scope, the relatively small target market opens up significant opportunities for customer segmentation and creative promotions.

Perhaps the worst mistake business owners make is relying entirely on SEO for their local marketing efforts. Optimizing your website for local search is useful, but it's just one of many effective tools available to marketers. Here's how you can push past an unnecessary SEO focus, get back to basics and decide what strategy is best for your company.

Change Your Attitude About Marketing Spending

I get it, many small businesses don't have that much money to spend on marketing. In fact, less than a quarter of small businesses spend more than $500 on marketing each month. Most local marketers are looking to get a lot of bang out of a relatively small amount of buck.

The problem is that most business owners think of marketing as an expense, and so by cutting that expense they're earning more profit. While that's how marketing expenses are treated on financial statements, in practice they're more of an investment.

Think of the marketing budget as an investment in your company's most valuable assets: Its brand and its customer relationships. By treating it as an investment, the focus shifts from how to slim down marketing as much as possible to how to get the maximum ROI out of it.

Create Useful And Realistic Goals

The two biggest reasons marketing campaigns fail is that they have unrealistic goals, or they chase after targets that don't tangibly lead to improvement in the bottom line. Starting out with the idea that you want to create a 100 percent increase in revenue is not feasible if you haven't done the work to see where your addressable market for growth is or how you're going to engage and bring in new or old customers.

Goals should be tied to tangible steps that lead to sales. Tracking things like Twitter followers can give you a false impression, as up to 23 million Twitter accounts are fake, so paying for new followers can leave you with a nice high number but no actual improvement in your business.

Similarly, just aiming for high web traffic misses the point of your website entirely. A total of 38 percent of all visitors will bounce right away, and the longer your content goes on the more people will leave without finishing. Effective local marketing means bringing in people to your site that are interested in your company, might actually become customers and are willing to engage with your brand. It's about quality, not quantity. "The more traffic, the better" is usually a marketing myth.

Decide Which Channels To Use

Modern businesses are awash with ways to reach consumers. You have e-mail, SMS, social media, display ads, blogs and native advertising, and that's before we even get into the non-digital options like TV and radio ads, billboards, newspapers, radio and magazines.

Ideally, you'll want to utilize some combination of several different channels. Each tool has its own strengths and weaknesses, so by coordinating your marketing activities and reaching consumers through multiple channels, you can boost the overall impact of your message.

Take, for instance, the example of Boston-area Dunkin Donuts, which ran an SMS promotion that it advertised over the radio. By combining the wide reach of the morning rush hour radio audience with the immediate engagement of a text promotion, Dunkin Donuts in the area saw a 21 percent increase in store traffic.

Of course, picking the right channels to advertise on will depend in large part upon having already established a budget and realistic goals. Without first establishing these important components, your marketing efforts will lack the proper focus and results.

Published on: Feb 4, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.