For any local business — a neigbourhood quick service restaurant, an optometrist, or even a community church — the goal is to reach more people in your geographic area and grow your business. To grow a business you need more revenue. And to make more revenue there are three levers you can pull:

New patients/customers x Spend per visit x Frequency of visits = Revenue

Any kind of marketing you do should pull at least one of these levers. Let’s do the math:

  • If you get 20 new customers or patients per month who spend $100 per visit and avail of it 2x a year, your revenue grows by $48,000 per year.
  • If you get 20 new customers or patients per month who spend $300 per visit for a specialized service or premium product and avail of it 2x a year, your revenue grows by $144,000 per year.
  • If you get 20 new patients per month who spend $300 per visit for a specialized service or premium product and avail of it 3x a year, your revenue grows by $216,000 per year.

Your job is to figure out which of these levers is your biggest bottleneck right now, and then how you can ease that bottleneck.

Local Business Marketing Lever 1: How to get more customers or patients for local businesses

Marketing is simple: It’s about getting people’s attention then earning their trust. That’s it.

When you’re the new restaurant/doc/boutique in town, how do you get their attention? How do you notify people about your presence?

You reach out to the community. You figure out your target audience — who the people you want to reach are, and you add value to their lives.

For example, if you’re an optometrist who specializes in myopic control, the target audience you want to reach are the parents — mostly moms — of near-sighted school-age children.

You could try running a catered dinner workshop for these moms, teaching them best-practices to do at home to keep their kids’ prescriptions down. If you make it a bring-your-kids event, you solve another problem for them: they don’t have to think about dinner for that night! Then during the workshop, ask them to write down their emails to receive your slides and additional resources. This way, you can send them email follow-up’s about how your practice can help them.

Notice that I didn’t say run a promotion to discount your services. I’m not a fan of running Groupons because they might bring in new folks, but they’re not the folks who are looking for long-term value. They’re just looking for cheap services.

Local Business Marketing Lever 2: How to get people to spend more per visit

The second lever you can pull to increase revenue is to get people to spend more per visit. The easiest way to do this is to add upsells that supplement or complement your customer’s purchase. Upsells are when you suggest a product or service that complements what your customer already bought from you.

Maybe you’re thinking, “OK, getting people to spend more per visit is great if you’re in healthcare. You can curate and recommend toothbrushes, lens cleaning solutions, or supplements that your patients actually need. But I own a restaurant. People come in, order what they want, and leave. I can’t just shove more food at them!”

I disagree.

For example, when I go for Japanese food, I never know if I want rice or noodles. But at one of my favourite ramen places here in Toronto, I can get both. At Kinton, a bowl of ramen costs $12 - $16. A combo that has the noodles I want, plus a choice of side — either a filling plate of dumplings or a small rice dish — is an extra $4.

I hardly ever order appetizers (the typical upsell you’d think of). But I almost always go for the combo. Instead of being a totally separate purchase decision, ordering a “combo” feels like it’s part of the same sales process. (Notice they even call each upsell a “Step”!)

Take a look at how they’ve formatted their menu:

Kinton Ramen menu

Marketing is about helping people make a positive change in their lives. In this case, I wanted more food. I just needed the restaurant to help me feel better about paying more! Their marketing allowed me to order the side that I wanted without feeling like I paid extra for an appetizer.

Local Business Marketing Lever 3: How to get people to visit more often

Thanks to the Internet, a “visit” doesn’t have to be a physical visit to your brick-and-mortar location.

It can be a visit to your Instagram page, your website, or even your Yelp page. They might not spend money on those places. But each time a person checks out your online store, website, or page, you earn a bit more trust. And once you have the trust, you can eventually ask for the sale.

For example, Adamson Barbecue is hands down the most popular Texas-style barbecue place here in Toronto. People (i.e. me) drive 40 kilometers roundtrip to spend over a hundred dollars on frozen and cooked meat there. Their midtown location sells out within a couple of hours in the summer. And even in the Toronto winter, people fight for parking spots and queue up outside its doors to get some ribs, sausages, and brisket.

And these guys know what they’re doing marketing-wise. Their Instagram isn’t just a dusty no-man’s land. They’ve build an avid community of almost 50,000 non-vegan, non-vegetarian followers.

But here’s something that no one talks about: their website. It’s great. The best of any restaurant I’ve seen.

Why? Because it’s not just a place where they list their hours and post their menu. Their website has a robust online store. It offers pre-orders for pick up, frozen meats, and even sign-up’s for barbecue classes (that sell out via Instagram).

It’s a separate income stream in and of itself. And while they make decent revenue off of their physical locations, I suspect they make a pretty decent amount off of their online sales, too.

For local healthcare professionals, though, you might not want people to visit you often.

Especially if you’re, let’s say, a physiotherapist who normally treats people only when they’ve hurt something. You just want them to come on an as-needed basis.

But here’s what I realized after many rounds of physiotherapy: no matter how skilled the physio is, a single 30-minute session isn’t enough to fully address an injury, especially if it’s caused by underlying issues. When I go to my physio, the surface problem is, “There’s pain here. How do I fix it so I can play ultimate again?” But the longer term problem for me is, “What can I do to prevent future injuries from happening?”

Here’s how physiotherapy and Crossfit owner, Dr. Kelly Starrett addressed the latter: He made The Ready State, his virtual coaching app. It has guided physiotherapy exercises for every part of the body, including maintenance and sports-specific exercises. I recently bought a subscription to and I love that I’ve learned to figure out and address the real issues behind my pain. I happily pay Dr. Starrett $15 a month without costing him any more of his time.

Whether you serve products or services, here’s the general principle to get more people to visit more often: Solve progressively more painful, more expensive problems for your customers and patients.

  • Like all popular restaurants, Adamson serves top-notch food. But they also solve the problem of how to help barbecue enthusiasts roast their own meat better.
  • Like any good healthcare practitioner, Dr. Kelly Starrett helps people feel better. But he also solves the problem of how to help them prevent and alleviate pain on their own.

Great marketing should never be sleazy

As with any social interaction, your intentions behind growing your business and your marketing will determine if it’s scammy or honest.

  • If you focus on earning — not demanding! — your prospects’ attention and trust
  • If you focus on helping “making things better by making change happen” for your prospect (as Seth Godin puts it in his book This is Marketing)

… Your marketing will always be honest and never scammy.

For example, Adamson Barbecue and Dr. Starrett give their people the tools to take ownership of their lives, and their businesses grow accordingly. Help your friends discover Adamson and you’ll be known as the go-to person for food recommendations (and great barbecue!). Subscribe to Dr. Starrett’s virtual coaching program and you can Mr. Miyagi yourself to health — and never let your teammates down again.

In fact, I’d go as far as to say that if you’re solving real problems for your patients and customer, then you’re doing them a gross disservice by not doing more marketing!