All business is local….
Is that still true in today’s online world? Yes and no. It’s true that consumers shop with companies all over the world without a second thought. But it’s also true that people value local businesses and often choose them over other options. Take me, for example. In the past week, I bought shoes from a local shop, but also two hair clips and a coffee mug from Etsy vendors from Japan and Oklahoma respectively.
For every $100 that customers spend in a local business, $68 stays within the community. For every $100 spent at a national business, only $43 stays within the community. That’s only one of the benefits of shopping locally. Customers also are more likely to know the business owners, get personalized service, and much more.
I’m preaching to the choir here, right? As a small business owner, you already know the benefits of shopping locally. The better question to ask is how can you increase your community outreach? After all, local customers won’t buy from you if they don’t know about you.
Let’s explore a few options for marketing and/or community outreach within your community.
Participate in Local Events
Whether you live in a big city or a small town, there’s always something going on. Farmer’s markets, school carnivals, Christmas craft fairs, you name it. They’re a great place for you to market your business.
Set up a booth. Sell your wares, if you have wares to sell. What if your company is Christie’s Closets where you sell a service, not a product? Have no fear. Your presence at the event can still garner sales. You can “sell” your winning personality to attendees. Bring before and after photos of your work. Hand out fliers. Give away free stuff, even if it’s just a pen with your logo. Offer discounts and giveaways. Everyone loves the wheel where you can “Spin to Win.”
No matter what kind of business you have, attending local events will help expand your presence in the community. You’ll get your name out there and hopefully get some new business too.
Targeted Online Marketing
One of the best things about the Internet is that it’s like one big community. I participate in a chat group of seven women from all over the US, as well as two from Canada and The Netherlands. You’d think we live next door given how easy it is to talk to each other. Despite the lack of boundaries in the Internet, people from the same cities still find a way to gravitate towards each other.
Examine your own Internet usage. What local sites do you frequent? The town newspaper, the local TV station’s Facebook page, your favorite restaurant’s Instagram account? Most likely you (as well as everyone else in your town) have some local connections online. As a small business owner, you can take advantage of that.
Buy targeted ads on your local newspaper’s website. Buy Facebook ads targeted to area residents. Use your own social media accounts to offer giveaways or discounts. I’m much more likely to share/like a Facebook giveaway from a local business I value than I am for a larger, national company. Get on local TV to promote your company. Be sure to advertise your social media accounts in your store (if you have one) and on your business cards and website.
Don’t count the Internet out when it comes to community outreach. Your fellow townspeople spend just as much time online as you do. But we all love a local connection.
Everyone wins when it comes to volunteering. The people and organizations being helped get the benefit of whatever time and money you provide. You get the benefit of experiencing the warm, fuzzy feelings of generosity. As a small business, volunteering also works as a way to build a good local reputation and to get your name out.
There are tons of ways to volunteer. You and your employees could build houses for Habitat for Humanity or dress up in turkey costumes and collect turkeys for needy families at Thanksgiving (the turkey costumes aren’t required, but they really add to the experience). Hand out water bottles and orange slices to runners at a 5K run (try to get your name on the back of the run t-shirt as well). Sponsor the local softball team. Donate your services to a local charitable silent auction.
There are innumerable ways to volunteer. Your business will reap the benefits, both in exposure and in the happiness you get from helping others.
One of my strongest memories of TV as a child was watching Mister Rogers tour a crayon factory. People love backstage tours, whether they’re 3 or 93. Offering local customers a chance to see how you make your product can really strengthen the customer-seller bond.
Community tours can be customized to work for you. Casey’s Candles could offer a Facebook giveaway where ten winners get the chance to tour her candle making facility. Perhaps it’s not feasible to have people tour your company. Instead, Carly’s Cookies can do a demonstration at a Farmer’s Market on how she makes her cookies. What if you provide a service instead of a product? Christie’s Closets could offer a free closet renovation to a local TV or newspaper reporter who can then do a story about it.
Finding some way to give your local customers an exclusive “in” on how you create your product or service can go a long way to increase customer loyalty. Since those happy customers are likely to tell their friends, it also helps expand your customer base.
It’s hard to own a business these days without a strong Internet presence. But even if 40% of your customers are in Malaysia, it’s important not to forget your current and potential customers down the street. Community outreach is one of the best ways to create new business and also one of the most fulfilling. After all, who doesn’t want to be a valued local VIP?