As a small business, one of the best ways to position yourself for growth is by aligning yourself with, connecting to, and leveraging your local community. When you are able to successfully do this, you gain new opportunities and have access to the most trusted promotion of your business - positive word of mouth.
While it's easy to understand why the connection to your community is important, it may be difficult to determine how you can achieve this. This blog will get you started, with 6 proven tactics to take advantage of your local community as a small business.
1. Meet Your Neighbors
Introduce yourself to the other local businesses in your area! A quick drop-in to say hello and leave your business card is not only an opportunity to promote your products or services, but it is also the neighborly thing to do. Even if the business owners you speak to are not in the market for what you offer, a friendly first impression may stick with them when they are asked for a reference by someone who is.
The likelihood of this tactic benefiting your business increases if you choose to be a customer of your community's local businesses. Get your morning coffee from the coffee shop next door, or your oil changed by the mechanic who shares your street.
2. Join a Local Business Organization
Your community probably has various organizations or networks comprised of local businesses. These networks, often formed by business owners, are built to advocate on behalf of the business community. A chamber of commerce is a common example of one of these business networks, but with more expansive efforts and benefits. They aim to provide great networking opportunities through their online directories, special programs, and events. Joining your local chamber of commerce, or any local networking organization, is a great way to meet potential business partners or clients while also increasing your brand awareness.
Some chambers also offer workshops for business management and development, provide access to business grants, and more. Check your local chamber of commerce website for costs and benefits.
3. Participate in a Local Event
A local event can come in many different forms, such as food festivals, parades, concerts, and more. Many of these events rely on the involvement or sponsorship of local businesses. Events draw in large crowds, and you can take advantage of this increased customer volume by setting up a tent or hosting a sale. Just being an event sponsor will gain you valuable exposure to those who live in your community and beyond.
Typically, a business association will manage the development of these events, but it will be the job of the businesses to promote it.
4. Hold a Contest or Giveaway
The word "free" is one of the most attention-grabbing words in the English language. While it is important to first measure the cost to your business, choosing to give away a product or service in exchange for the attention of qualified buyers often delivers a return on your investment. Businesses often can justify an "ask" when they host a giveaway or contest.
An "ask" would require participants to perform an action or give their information to qualify for participation. Examples include submitting their email address, or sharing your Facebook post.
5. Teach a Class or Workshop
Teaching potential customers how to best take advantage of your products or services builds value for the eventual sale, and as mentioned, consumers love to get things for free - including new knowledge and skill-sets! If you sell gourmet foods, host a cooking class. If you're a financial assistant, teach a class on personal budgeting or tax-filing basics.
These classes don't need to be free - the important thing is that the class is valuable to the participant, positions you as a resource, and creates more excitement and reason to invest in what your business provides.
6. Get Found with Local SEO / Directory Listings
We're living in a digital world, which means existing online and appearing where your potential customers are searching is extremely important. Most people aren't inclined to take a drive to see what local options they have. Instead when someone is hungry for pizza, they'll conduct an internet search for "pizza", and they'll be shown the listed pizza shops in their area. If your business isn't properly listed, your out of luck!
Consumers will also search directory or review platforms to determine what their best options are, often based on average rating. Making sure you have great reviews, and properly managing poor reviews, is called Reputation Management, and is another initiative that merits specific attention.
It can seem daunting to be a small business in a world of large corporations, but connecting with your community can provide you with a competitive edge, while also strengthening your local small business community as a whole. As a small business, you should operate with consideration to two truths: The human aspect of your business is your silver bullet, and as with most things, there is power in numbers.