I think it’s important for small business owners and entrepreneurs to think “local” in order to grow your business. One of the most underestimated aspects of growing your business in today’s technology driven era is the power of your local community. Business owners often overlook the opportunity to grow their brand locally and jump right into putting forth all of their marketing efforts into social media. Social media IS a powerful tool for building your business however, growing your business LOCALLY is just as effective.
Did you know that you can build a business, establish relationships, and lend yourself as an expert by sharing information? Here's a few tips to get you started:
Consider starting a local news website to help you grow your business while building a reputable brand. Your website should focus on local news, industry tips, the hottest restaurants, neighborhoods and local events. You can partner with local business owners to help with providing content so that the burden of creating content doesn’t fall on you entirely. Network with organizations, associations, and businesses for content, guest speaking and contributors. Use social media to “spread the word”, word of mouth and your existing network to promote your new website. Incorporate a “barter system” where you offer to promote other businesses for free in exchange of them doing so for your website.
Sponsor an Organization
Here’s a little marketing tactic with a hint of “networking” to add into the mix! Sponsor an organization (something local). The object is to connect with local organizations that have access to your target audience. For example, a local business network for women or your local realtor association meetings. Typically, there’s a reasonable fee associated with sponsoring an event but often times the benefits of doing so are huge! First, it’s a great way to meet new clients, offer your expertise and get your business in front of people. Create marketing material such as flyers brochures and bring tons of business cards to pass out to the attendees. Remember, "think local" in order to grow your business.
Create your own Networking Event
I’ve touched on networking events plenty of times, in hopes of encouraging business owners to attend them. The goal is to meet business owners, customers, referral partners and build relationships to grow your business.
"I'm not really feeling the events I'm attending". If you don’t like the networking events that you’re attending, create your own. True story, I attended a networking event several years ago when I was a Mortgage Loan Officer. I was invited by a friend of mine who knew one of the hosts of the event. The venue was great, there was a nice mix of people from various industries, and then...the music came on. Once I heard Too Short blazing from the speaker, I knew I had to high-tail it out of there. No offense to Too Short but the number of “b—“ blazing out of the speakers sort of changed the atmosphere for me. Moral of the story: create your own event and set the tone that's fitting for you and your attendees. How do I create my own event? Start here:
Decide what type of event you want to have. A large networking event or something intimate
Reach out to local business owners, your social media following, anyone you may do business with and ask if they're interested in attending an event.
Partner with other businesses or entrepreneurs to help host the event.
Choose a venue. Talk to local businesses about hosting an event at their venue. They may opt to have it for free considering the traffic that the event will bring. Find a place that’s centrally located, with easy parking or along city transportation lines.
Market and or promote the event on social media and sites like Event Brite.
Hosting your own networking event is a great way to introduce your business to new customers.
Co Working Spaces
Co Working Spaces are the most intimate entrepreneurial settings trending today. It’s a dedicated work space specifically designed for entrepreneurs to thrive in their businesses but can also be used as a way to network with like-minded individuals. Use your time at your co working space to build relationships with fellow entrepreneurs, you never know who will be your next client. Here are 3 ways to use local co working spaces for your business:
Make Small Talk
Start off by making small talk with other entrepreneurs. Ask them what projects are they working on. Listen for any “pain points” in their business and offer tips for solutions to their problems. Another benefit of building relationships with entrepreneurs in a co working space is that they know other entrepreneurs who they can possibly introduce you to.
“Silently” Market your brand
One “sneaky” marketing tactic you can use at a co working space is to leave office supplies such as staplers with your company name on them by a copy machine, or pens with your company name in a conference room.
Attend an event
Many local co working spaces offer training sessions and various events. Try to attend at least one a month. Ask the operators of the events if you can possible host a training.
Get out there and meet the community! Introduce your brand! Show up and get involved in community related activities. Here's 4 ways to engage, build relationships and connect with your community:
Sponsor a children's sports league event by providing snacks, drinks or deserts. Make sure that you have some gluten free and vegan options. Ask the coaches if its okay to bring snacks to give away at the games or practices. Pass them out or set up a stand for people to come up and say hi. Don’t forget to either attach a label with your business logo on your items or, add your business cards in a nice decorative way.
Host a victory lunch after the game for the winners. Pass out gift bags with a little note inside congratulating the team. It’s a great way to introduce your business to potential clients, giving the impression that you’re a business who supports the community.
Children's after school camp
Find a children’s after school camp and ask if you can host an ice cream day. For dietary restrictions, find gluten free ice cream, low sugar products for children with diabetes. I would suggest researching the best products available, so that you can provide an assortment of flavors and cater to those who have dietary restrictions.
Outdoor Boot camp for adults
Once the weather permits, reach out to a fitness instructor or a yoga instructor who holds outdoor boot camps and ask them if you can bring water, fruits, or post work out snacks with your business logo and or cards attached. Either research the best post work out snacks or ask the instructor for suggestions. Yoga: Here’s a tip, print out a nice card with 5 yoga mantras listed with your business information on it.
Partner with organizations and fellow entrepreneurs on community initiatives such as helping the homeless, sponsor a classroom where you donate school supplies to a local school, or a women's shelter to empower women to get back on their feet.
Don't discount the ability to grow your business locally. Get out there and build relationships with business owners in your local community. You never know, it may lead to joint ventures, client leads and partnership opportunities