If you own a brick-and-mortar store, then you know how important it is to create a business that’s known in the community; this is the lifeblood of your business, after all. However, the idea of creating community connections sounds better in theory that it often turns out to be in practice. The key to making this happen is to get involved in activities that make your business more locally focused.
Here are some ideas on how you can go about doing that.
Connect with Other Businesses
While not all business owners can connect with the likes of the Chicago Bulls, all business owners can take advantage of the lessons provided by this Airbnb/Chicago Bulls piggyback marketing campaign. Here’s how it worked. These two powerhouses created a campaign for one lucky Airbnb winner, featuring an overnight stay in a suite, Airbnb and Chicago Bulls memorabilia, food and drinks and pictures on center court before the game. This type of campaign is powerful because it pairs two complementary but non-competing businesses in one campaign. They share ad costs, campaign responsibilities and the like, and while the cost and the amount of work involved are lessened for both parties, the advertising reach of the business grows exponentially.
On a smaller scale, here’s how to piggyback marketing could look for you. Perhaps you’re a local vet who sources your pet food from a local organic pet-food maker. The two of you could team up on newspaper or TV ads. You could also promote each other’s businesses and host events at one another’s place of business. Because you’re not directly competing with one another, you can afford to be generous, and because you’re in the same industry, it won’t be illogical to see ads that feature both of you together.
Rethink Your SEO
Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the practice of using on-page keyword strategy and off-page techniques, like link building, to drive traffic to your website. This, in turn, can bring more traffic into your brick-and-mortar store. Local SEO has different ranking factors than general SEO. It relies much more heavily on location-specific content and references. The search engines that crawl your site will look for the NAP factor, that is your business’s name, address, and phone number. Once the search engine finds this information, it catalogs your site in the local search because the NAP information is geo-specific.
The search engines also consider location-specific keywords on your blog and other areas of your site. For example, if you’re heavily involved in the community as a fundraiser, then write about your charity activities on your blog. Be sure to use keyword phrases, like “Things to do near me” or “fundraising activities in [name of your city].” Using these keywords helps the search engines to associate your business with your community, giving your website more of a presence in the local marketplace.
Host a Community Event
Many business owners rely on community events as a way to create connections in the community and to increase their business’s visibility in the community. For example, maybe you own a restaurant, and you decide to organize a street fair in order to promote your business. At this event, you’ll not only feature some of your food, but you’ll also do some piggyback marketing with other businesses, like local craft stores, escape room companies, and dance companies (for the entertainment). The nice thing about these events is that they are inherently engaging, which creates relationships with people in the community who could eventually become customers.
Participate in Local Groups
Not all of your local business activities have to involve a huge time commitment. Getting involved with the Chamber of Commerce or a local Meetup group will introduce you to like-minded people in town. Sometimes, the only thing that you have to do is to put some information about your business on the organization’s website. This type of marketing continues to work even when you’re sleeping.
Use Traditional Advertising Methods
It’s tempting to think that traditional advertising methods, like newspapers and TV, are dead. However, if you own a business in a small to medium-sized town, then you shouldn’t discount these methods of advertising. Here’s why. Some advertising methods, like bench or billboard ads, directly engage your community in the moment. For example, maybe you’ve opened a new coffee shop, and you want to attract people who stop for coffee on their way to work as customers. Placing an ad on a bench at a stoplight that’s located near your business lets the coffee drinkers at the light know that coffee’s just around the corner. If you want to take advantage of local advertising, then think about the different types of local advertising outlets in your town. Maybe there is an arts newspaper or a place to advertise on a bus. This type of advertising is powerful because it can directly affect the amount of foot traffic you get.
Give Back/ Donate
Promoting a local charity is good for your heart and your business. It’s a way for your business to be involved in the community in a way that’s not overly sales-y. Doing this can be easy, too. Some businesses will partner with an organization, like a local food bank, and sign up volunteers to serve food on a big holiday, like Thanksgiving or Christmas. The volunteers can come from the ranks of both the business’s employees and its clientele. If you do something like this, on the day of the event, have all of the volunteers show up in branded t-shirts with the name and date of the event on the shirt. This element gives your business a boost without hitting people in the face, so to speak. Later, the t-shirts will become advertising for you when the volunteers wear these shirts when they’re out and about in the community.
It’s a fact. People love to win stuff. That’s why so many business owners hold contests, and the savviest business owners leverage the power of contests in order to boost their involvement in the community. The savviest of the savviest ones know how to do this and get the attention of the local media at the same time. For example, a poster and sign company could hold an art contest that promotes a local charity. The poster and sign company would feature the winning design on a poster that it creates to promote the charity. If the business also partners up with the charity for an event, then this becomes a newsworthy event in the community. The chances of the news media covering this event increase because of the connection between you, the charitable organization and the related contest.
Localize Your Social Media
Nowadays, you really can’t escape the reach of social media, and smart local business owners won’t want to. Using social media combined with a local hashtag allows you to directly engage with potential customers in your community. You can announce contests, hold question and answer sessions or deal with customer issues via your social media platforms. One simple, yet powerful way to use social media to promote your business in your community is to ask people to post pictures of themselves using your product on social media. Request that they tag you in the post, making sure that you engage with them when they do. Sweeten the pot even further by offering coupons for money off on your product or services. This gives them a reason to connect with your brand on social media. It also ensures that you’ll get some foot traffic in your store when these customers come in to redeem the coupon.
Locally focused businesses engage with their community at charity events, street fairs and of course, at the site of their business. Business owners who engage with the members of their community develop relationships that turn into business connections down the road. The key to successfully creating locally focused marketing campaigns is to see how your business can make a difference in the community and then to create marketing campaigns that support these efforts.