Admit it: you trust brand names more than you trust the other guys.
You’re not alone.
A simple review of sales data tells us that we skip the “Dr. Generic” and head straight for the Dr. Pepper. Oftentimes our unconscious shopping choices are fixed in advance, simply because of the level of trust we attach with familiar names.
But you don’t have to be Coca-Cola or Nike to have success as a local business. And name recognition built on a reputation of quality and consistency doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Here’s how your own business can capitalize on the “household” name advantage in your own neck of the woods.
Building Trust: Why the Household Name Matters
It’s a simple question of familiarity. In fact, the idea is so well-known that it even has a name: the Mere-exposure effect.
The Mere-exposure effect states that consistent experience with something is enough to promote trust and preference. All things being equal, we tend to value the familiar stimuli over the unfamiliar.
There is a reason companies like My Pillow spend millions on repeated TV ads each year: repetition works. You might look at one individual commercial and wonder how it could ever be worth the company’s hard-earned money to air an unconvincing 15-second ad.
But companies that understand the Mere-exposure effect realize it’s not about the 15-second ad. Ultimately, it’s about that split-second decision you make in the shopping mall when you’re comparing Company A — the familiar brand — with a less expensive brand you haven’t heard of, Company B.
“It’s just fifty cents more,” you reason — but your decision to splurge isn’t necessarily because you’re feeling generous. The decision was really made months ago when Company A bought consistent airtime during that show you watch every week.
That’s the power of familiarity.
The Case for Building Local Trust
Maybe you don’t have the advertising budget of Nike, or My Pillow, for that matter. But that doesn’t mean you can’t acquire yourself some trust and familiarity with your target audience, either.
Why focus on building familiarity? Because it really and truly influences the buying decisions of your potential customers.
You might remember that in the 1990s and early 2000s, buying a computer with an Intel processor was the hip thing to do. Intel started this trend by building high-quality processors, to be sure, but it also came down to two very important words: “Intel Inside.”
That memorable, alliterative phrase stuck. Very few of us knew exactly what made one processor better than the other, but we knew the Intel name.
For a local business like yours, that same effect can be the difference between a major potential client calling you before they call your competitor.
This is especially important if you run a local business that works on customer loyalty, including:
Restaurants. If “Where should we eat tonight?” is the trigger, brand familiarity is the answer.
Retail. There’s a reason retail franchisees will pay a lot of money to use a name with brand recognition. If you don’t have it, local recognition is the only way to level the playing field.
High-trust professions like health care and other services rely heavily on familiarity.
How to Target Your Ads Locally
If you don’t have a long-established presence in your own neighborhood, you’re going to have to start from scratch. But that doesn’t mean your efforts will be any less effective. Here are a few ways to build recognition even if you have to start from the bottom:
Build an extensive local SEO profile. Company name, address, hours of operation — if you don’t have this information up, then a potential customer is going to take 0.2 seconds to move on to the next listing. Use Google’s My Business and Bing’s Place for Businesses to get squared away.
Go for consistency in every detail. If you can find a domain name that matches your business precisely, great. If you can match the colors of your logo to the colors you use in business and on letterhead, great. The more consistent you stay with your brand, the less you ask people to remember.
Make a splash in local publications. Newspapers, bulletins — whatever it is, build that recognition by getting your business in front of as many eyes as possible. You might even consider having a presence in local phone listings, even if you doubt their efficacy for boosting your customer base.
Make an effort to have people review you. The more you can show up in Yelp and TripAdvisor, the more likely you are to build a higher profile in local circles.
Have a noticeable physical presence. A business yard sign, a digital sign, a sandblasted sign — whatever it takes to get your name noticed in the community. A quality sign is a worthwhile investment because you can keep using it for years after you purchase it.
Even if you don’t notice the strategies paying dividends right away, remember that consistency is key. There is no name recognition without consistency — and if there is, it’s usually fleeting.
How to Become a Familiar Name in Your Neighborhood
Your first goal here should be getting the Mere-exposure effect in your favor. If you want to be “heard of,” you have to start talking — as soon as possible.
But you don’t want to get a reputation for being that local business that always spams the market with advertisement while failing to deliver the goods.
If you combine a dedicated and consistent local marketing strategy with a process in place to provide quality service and products every single time, you’ll develop a name for yourself more quickly than you might imagine.
Familiarity and trust are about exposure, sure — but they’re also about quality. Earning quality reviews on Yelp requires a consistent dedication to providing the very best. That same principle applies no matter what business you’re in.
Build a local presence, offer consistent quality, and build a simple brand that reaches out to local customers. Not only will you become a household name in your neighborhood — but you might just expand beyond that.