I want to be clear on the purpose of this guide. I’m not going to give you tips on what colour schemes to choose, or whether or not you should put maple leaves or Parliament Hill in your advertisements.
What we’re going to discuss are the mediums through which you can advertise, and which of those mediums can specifically improve lead generation and sales for small businesses in Ottawa.
Marketing to Ottawa
The first step in choosing your marketing strategy is understanding the demographics of Ottawa. For starters, the city is incredibly bilingual – about 37% of the city’s population can speak both English and French. When advertising in neighbourhoods like Vanier and Lower Town, French marketing is particularly important.
Next, we can look at immigration. Ottawa has a particularly high rate of immigration, with about a quarter of the city’s population being foreign-born. Recent immigrants won’t necessarily be as tapped into the local infrastructure as Ottawans who have lived here for decades – traditional marketing channels may be less effective at getting their attention.
Ottawa also has one of the highest average household incomes of any city in Canada, and (perhaps not coincidentally) one of the highest number of university graduates of any city in Canada. This may mean more disposable income and more discretionary spending.
Small Business Marketing
As a small business, your marketing budget is going to be smaller than that of a huge multinational. Companies like Coca-Cola have the funds to shape attitudes – small businesses should instead work on shaping behaviours – encouraging local customers to buy their wares. From there, word of mouth can spread, and you can reinvest your earnings.
Traditional and Online Marketing
Now that we’ve had a brief look at Ottawa’s demographics and the goal small businesses should have when marketing, we can put it all together.
Traditional marketing is very effective for large corporations – blast your advertisements across the globe, and suddenly when someone sees a McDonald’s in China, they know exactly what to expect. This style of marketing casts an incredibly broad net.
There are a number of reasons that traditional marketing shouldn’t make up most of the marketing spend for small businesses in Ottawa. Traditional marketing is generally:
- More expensive than online marketing
- Less effective at attracting newcomers who aren’t tapped into cable/radio
- A less targeted approach for local/niche/boutique products
- More expensive to run in two languages
Online marketing, on the flip side, is perfect for Ottawa small businesses.
While all marketing is data driven, online marketing can get hyper-specific. Pay-per-click (PPC) ads allow you to target not just demographic but psychographic data, as well. Imagine you’re selling skateboards. Demographic data might only allow you to target audiences between the ages of 12 to 26. The data provided by companies like Facebook and Google can allow you to target people who are specifically interested in skateboards.
What’s more, online marketing allows you to hone in on hyper-local trends. You might find that bilingual advertisements work particularly well in Vanier, while English-only advertisements are a boon in Centretown.
With the clever use of targeted ads and landing pages, you can get this kind of instant feedback on how effective your ads are much more easily. You’re both advertising and guiding your advertising budget in one fell swoop – efficiency is key for small business owners.
Local SEO in Ottawa
I want to hone in on one online marketing strategy Ottawa business owners may find particularly effective – local SEO.
SEO stands for search engine optimization – basically, the art and science of making your business do well in search engines.
Local SEO is a branch of SEO that aims to boost your business to the top of the results page for local searches. “Restaurants near the National Gallery”, “Things to see along the Rideau Canal”, and “Bike shops in Gloucester” are all examples of local searches.
These types of searches are exactly what you want your business to be at the top of the results page for. They catch new immigrants, who are likely to Google for services instead of tuning into traditional ads. They catch boutique shoppers who want unique, local products. They catch people in your neighbourhood who are actively looking for your services.
Instead of casting a broad net, local SEO provides a constant stream of people specifically searching for what you have to offer.
We’ve already talked about how important it is for small businesses to be efficient with their marketing. As it so happens, local SEO isn’t just great for boosting your ranking in a search – it will improve the user experience of anyone who lands on your website. Good web design and SEO go hand-in-hand.
Get Active on Social Media
Social media platforms provide one of the greatest avenues for you to interact with your customers – best of all, they’re free to use. Facebook, Instagram, and other social media channels will also provide you with a tonne of analytics – data about who is coming to your page, and how they interact with you.
That’s tremendously useful for both figuring out who is interested in your business and for increasing your reach. By posting high-quality content, you can attract users to your page, and by interacting with your followers, you can encourage them to tag you in posts and tell their friends about you.
One Last Note
Online marketing is the best way of getting data about your clients, using that data to find new clients, and actively targeting hyper-local clients or clients who want unique, boutique items. This isn’t to say traditional marketing doesn’t have value. By all means, make sure your store has excellent signage. Consider putting up billboards. If you’re a known quantity, radio and TV ads do have their place.
The point is that for most small businesses trying to attract new clients, online marketing is the way to go. It’s less expensive, and more effective at furthering your goals, and it’s particularly good for large cities with lots of neighbourhoods like Ottawa.