When engaging in retail marketing online, brick and mortar businesses must first learn how far customers are willing to travel for their services. Your customer base will necessarily be limited to a certain radius around your location. Do you know what that distance is?

This will depend on a number of factors, including how specialized your offerings are, how strong your brand is, and what competition is in the area. While you can’t control the last factor, there are many things you can do to improve the first two, allowing you to expand that radius. I’ve worked with many businesses that were surprised to find how much further people were willing to travel once they focused on certain strengths and USPs (unique selling propositions) that their business could offer and competitors couldn’t (or weren’t advertising).

One of the best ways to determine how far customers are willing to travel is to find out more about where your current customers are coming from. It’s as simple as this: ask your clients for their zip code when they make a purchase.

Mapping CustomersOnce you’ve collected enough data, you can create a map to see exactly where people are coming from. Now you can use this information to better reach customers within these areas for your internet and print marketing. This process is called Geo-Targeting.

Competing on a National Level

A successful geo-targeting campaign can help spread brand awareness for smaller regional businesses and let them compete even against larger national chains. Consider this example: someone living in Princeton, New Jersey types “window cleaning services” into the Google search bar, and instead of getting results for window cleaning services all over the country, the first few results are from businesses in Princeton that have employed a geo-targeting campaign.

Geographically targeted campaigns can lead to a much better return on investment than the more scattershot approach of “blind advertising” campaigns. By knowing the location of your target customers, you can tailor your advertising to appeal to them more than generic national chains. Studies have shown that click-through rates for location-based campaigns are significantly better than campaigns that don’t take location into account. After all, consumers are more likely to show interest if they feel like a product or service is aimed specifically at them.

It’s All about Location: How to Maximize your Geo-Targeting Campaign

So what steps can you take to make sure that your geo-targeting campaign works? Below are a few ideas to help you make the best use of geo-targeting.

Deliver Different Content to Consumers Based on Location

You probably wouldn’t aim an advertising campaign at women over 60 if your target customers were men ages 18 to 24, and it’s the same deal with geographically targeted campaigns. You don’t want to aim an ad at a group that’s not going to be willing to travel the distance to your physical location, because that would just be a waste of marketing resources.

Let’s say you own a regional chain of theaters. By producing different ads for specific theaters and then targeting them at the people who are closest to that particular theater, you’ll avoid wasting your ads.

Improve Your PPC Campaigns

You can get a better ROI for your PPC campaign if you adjust some of the parameters to make it location-based. In Google Adwords, you can go to Advanced Settings and choose options like “people in, searching for, or viewing pages about my targeted location.”

This means that your ad won’t just show up for people who live in or around the area that you’re targeting, but also people who have used your location as a search term or have viewed other pages about that location. This can be useful in attracting people who might be researching an area they are moving to or will be visiting in the future, thus giving you more qualified leads from your PPC campaign.

Engage in SEO for Location-Specific Keywords

When writing web copy for your site or content for your blog, make sure that you’re using the name of your location or other phrases related to your location frequently. The name of your location should be located on every page of your site.

Not only does this serve the practical purpose of making sure that site visitors will know where to find you, it also means you’ll appear higher in the search engine rankings when consumers search for products and services in your area.

Target the Nearby Mobile Audience

Your consumers probably aren’t just sitting in one place all day. But thanks to mobile targeting, you can aim specific ads to potential customers who are using their mobile phones to perform web searches in your nearby area. This can be a great way to increase in-store traffic, especially if you have a specific promotion or deal.

Think about someone who is on a road trip driving to Houston and wants to stop somewhere to eat. If they see a targeted ad for a nearby restaurant that is offering a good deal, they’ll be more likely to visit the restaurant than if they never saw the ad and didn’t know the restaurant existed.

Plan Content Marketing Campaigns within Geo-Targeted Locations

Producing content that is specific to a region will build awareness of and trust for your brand within that community. Websites like Patch allow users to blog about their industry and post on pages specifically aimed at people who live in certain towns and cities, but even your own internal blog should make mention of local events and issues to attract the right audience.

Help Search Engines Know What Audience You Want

By setting specific parameters for your website, you can make sure that it is targeted to exactly the audience you want. For example, Bing will let you define a single country audience for your entire website, or go page by page to set different target countries (a feature that could be useful for businesses hoping to increase international brand awareness).

Using Mailing Lists within that Area

There’s no sense in wasting your resources mailing or emailing materials to people outside of the radius of people who are likely to visit your location. Use the data you compiled about most common zip codes to determine who you should actually be mailing information to.

Geo-targeting is an extremely effective way to personalize your ad campaign for customers in your target region, thus driving more traffic to your physical location. In my next post, I’ll focus on how to use other traditional and digital mediums to further increase that in-store traffic.

Read more: The Growing Importance of Local AdWords and What to Do About It