“No man is an island”
The same goes for businesses, especially solo-owned and mom and pop stores. Many small business owners only operate in one location. So they rely on the community around them for income and labor, and in turn the community relies on it for quality goods and services. It’s a give and take relationship. Unfortunately, not all small businesses look at it this way.
But giving back to the people—the community—that fuels your business’s operations is an incredibly powerful marketing tool capable of giving you returns so much more than you invested. With giving, you reap the benefits of a stronger and more loyal customer base faster than a catchy jingle.
You might think you have nothing to give, being a small business and all. You can play an active part in helping your community without spending thousands doing so. Here’s how:
1. Party with Your Neighbors: Attend or Sponsor Local Events
What’s an amazing way to have fun and rack up tons of free brand exposure in your community? Participate in local events, such as parades, holidays, festivals, seasonal fairs, and pop-up markets.
You have three options for participating:
For example, Whole Foods Market in Morris New Jersey and Cleaners Advantage are sponsoring the Easter Fun Fest event organized by Madison Chamber of Commerce on March 19. Cleaners Advantage will use their delivery trucks to distribute Easter goodies for the event, while I think Whole Foods will support by providing part of the goodies that will be given away.
2. Donate to Local Charities
Donating money has long been recognized as the most common way businesses engage with their local community. Even before ‘cause marketing’ and social responsibility become the buzzwords they are now, American Express used this strategy to increase their brand recognition.
In 1983, Amex ran a funding campaign for Lady Liberty, donating 1 cent toward its restoration, for every dollar spent using their credit card. All in all, they donated about $1.7 million during the campaign. And what did they get out of this donation?
Only a 47% increase in new card holders, and a 27% increase in card usage. So yes, they gave a lot of money, but they earned a lot more in return.
3. Hold a Contest for a School
Many school districts don’t have enough budgets to fund arts, music, and educational activities for students. Some don’t even have enough funds to buy new equipment for their lab and other facilities. Then there are gifted students who can go far in life, but have to work because they don’t have money to pay for their education.
You can help them.
Contact the school nearest you and ask how you can help. I’m sure the principal can help you brainstorm ways to promote your business while helping the school at the same time.
Hold an essay contest and reward the winning student, offer internship programs to help students find out what’s it like to work in a business like yours, give away a small scholarship fund, or reward a team for designing a new artwork for your business. A small portion of your surplus income, time, and inventory, can go a long way in helping students have a better school year.
What does this give you? Kids will tell their parents about your contest at school. Your logo will be posted in their bulletins, and your name will probably be announced throughout the school. Aside from new leads in the form of parents and students who’ve never heard about your business, you can also get free press from local newspapers and websites that feature feel-good stories.
4. Volunteer as a Team
The Texas Heart institute, lead by Dr. Doris Taylor during their “Texas Heart Has Heart” project to collect donations they’ll give to the Houston Food Bank.
Don’t have funds or extra inventory to donate? That’s okay! You can always donate your time.
Take one day off from work to head over to a local charity of your choosing. You can cook food at the nursing home, feed the homeless, read to kids, clean up the park, and so much more.
Workload permitting, you can even take your team with you. Working together outside of the office can strengthen your bonds with each other. It’s a great team building and philanthropic activity, and it shows them that you’re not all about profits and productivity.
Here are 5 organizations that accept individual and corporate volunteers:
5. Sponsor a Local Sports Team
You can sponsor a team’s uniform or gear for a small amount of money. What do you get in return? Free adverts in the form of a local sports team, a part in helping a kid’s athletic dream come true, bigger brand exposure during the championships (if you’re the sponsor of a finalist team), and positive press. You’ll meet interesting people who might be potential customers, too.
Below are examples of small businesses sponsoring their local teams.
Taylor Homes sponsoring Team SMASH, their local baseball team:
Crossfit Kennett Square sponsoring two local traveling baseball teams, Kennett Knights and the Piedmont Predators:
Supporting your local community will increase your businesses’ local brand recognition. It will also widen your network and help you develop partnerships with other businesses doing the same thing.
Do you have any experience giving back to your community? How did it turn out?
You live in a small town – maybe even a township or a hamlet – that doesn’t support a chain store, a franchise, or any kind of big venture. After all, there aren’t enough people to support a large endeavor, and there isn’t enough money to support a franchise. There’s also a shortage of real estate, and possibly land, unless you’re planning on getting your own land rezoned and building from the ground up, which can be expensive. What’s a small business owner to do?
Not to worry – this doesn’t mean that you have to relocate to a bigger city to realize your dream of owning your own business.
Rural businesses are on the rise, and while new business owners in rural towns aren’t taking on franchises, they are instead tapping into their entrepreneurial sides, exploring different options and new way of doing things. All it takes is a vision, some ingenuity, some creativity, and a little bit of elbow grease to get started.
First, take a look at your town. What’s missing? How many people live there? What do they need? Talk to them.
What do people leave town to buy, or what service do they say is missing? What would make the people’s lives easier?
Once you’ve figured that out, check out our list of great small business ideas with a good chance of succeeding in a small town:
1. Join or Set up a Multi-Purpose
If you can’t afford the rent for office or storefront space on your own, consider joining up with one, or several other retailers to share the rent – and the customers. This could work in your favor in another way as well – customers may be more likely to visit if they know there are several businesses at their destination rather than just one. If they can have a snack and do their groceries at the same time, it’s worth the trip, right?
A common example of this is a boutique store, where several artisans display and sell their handmade goods so that one store carries several brands.
2. Pop-up Shops are all the Rage
You may have heard of pop-up shops – temporary shops that open up in temporary locations – which can last from a few hours to several months.
This is a trendy store idea that got their start in the big city, when craftsmen, home cooks, and indie entrepreneurs wanted a temporary venue to sell. Locations can be anywhere from a school, park, mall grounds, or the local art gallery.
In most cases, all you have to do is get permission from the land or building owner, set up your shop, and bring your goods in along with a big sign. After that, it’s just a matter of selling your stocks. Play music, sing a jingle, or offer a free sample, sometimes you need to get creative to grab people’s attention.
Pop-up shops provide small business owners a simple way to test the demand for their idea.
Examples: Farmyard Darlings, a specialty collectible pop-up shop for vintage and country collectibles turned full-fledged retail store. Another example is the pop-up shop HND students set up at Birmingham City University.
3. Keep on Truckin’
Talk about food-to-go – the food truck industry has been hot for years, traditionally selling fast foods like burgers, hot dogs, fries, and coffee. But lately foodies are finding their favorites on board, like sushi, tacos, burrito, churros, and even pancakes.
Trucks are easy to care for, and easy to relocate if the owner finds that one location isn’t working out. Is the weather bad? It’s easy to close up shop, too. Food trucks can make a lot of money at summer festivals, town events, and outside office buildings.
Example: Who knew a food truck selling Crème Brulée would be such a hit in Australia? Well, it is and The Brulee Cart is rapidly building a huge fan base wherever they go.
4. It Takes a Village
Little business villages are a shopping destination, where a single store is less likely to get people to stop and browse but a collection of them is sure to attract even the most hurried traveler. Shopping villages are often quirky, small, and located in historic areas or old downtown areas.
Souvenir shops, family-owned wineries, organic farmers selling produce, and other specialty stores are perfect for tiny business villages.
5. Set up an Online Store
Who says your customer should be limited to the folks in your neighborhood? With an internet connection, you can easily set-up can online store to help you reach more customers. Choose from tons of delivery and fulfilment companies to ship your products, so you don’t have to worry about logistics. You can even set-up a subscription box that includes a wide variety of your products.
Online stores are perfect for brick-and-mortar businesses that don’t deal in fragile or perishable goods. If you sell food, seasonings, wine, or other ingredients, just choose a delivery method that ensures your products get to the buyer well before it spoils.
Example: Taylor Stitch, a clothing store specializing in well-fitting day to night clothes, has two retail stores in San Francisco. But they also accept online orders from in and out of the U.S.
Remember, a standalone store isn’t your only option. Go explore other options possible given your location and business, or try one of the ideas here.
So many types of advertising media exist. There’s print advertising in the form of magazine and newspaper ads, direct mailing, TV and radio commercials, and then there’s billboards and digital signage. All these can be used for nationwide campaigns, regional marketing campaigns, or local advertising campaigns, depending on your goals.
Local advertising simply means you’re targeting a specific area, such as a city, town, or even a small neighborhood, in your marketing campaign. For instance, a restaurant may want to target consumers living within 20 miles of his location. It won’t make sense for this restaurant to target consumers 50 to 100 miles farther, unless they have other branches. In this case, local advertising in the form of billboards, digital signage, flyers, newspaper ads and direct mail coupons would do well.
That depends on your target demographic and your business. But it’s more effective in specific scenarios, compared to national advertising. Aside from mom and pop stores and restaurants, local advertising also works for brands that cater to a specific local’s events or celebrations.
Jackie and Marie are sisters with a similar demographic. They’re both working moms with two kids about the same age, and their income levels are both within $40,000 a year. Jackie and Marie might be part of your target market for kids and household products.
So you’ll plan your marketing campaign to both of them, hoping to hit two birds with one stone. But what you don’t know is, despite the similarities, Jackie and Marie live more than 2,000 miles apart. Marie lives in a small suburban town, while Jackie lives in a thriving metropolis.
Marie’s experience as a consumer spans a 15-mile radius, with a small grocery and a couple of restaurants within walking distance, or a short ride away. Jackie, on the other hand drives a lot—she drives her kids to school, drives to the grocery, to play dates, to work, and to soccer and dance classes.
As you might have guessed, local advertising works for both of them. But it’s not possible to hit them both with the exact same ads, unless your business operates in both locales and have the same products and offers. With Marie, you might have smaller competition, but Jackie has more choices.
According to Gartner, businesses that focus on connected processes or multi-channel for local marketing can boost their revenues by 10% to 15%.
Several studies already show that personalizing ads according to people’s location increases your ad’s relevancy (Tweet this), and therefore its effectiveness. For small business owners, there’s just no point in spending on huge advertising campaigns that make blanket offers to a huge audience that may or may not be willing to drive hours to visit your store.
What do you think? Would your business be better served with online advertising, national advertising or local advertising?