Advertising can be overwhelming. Especially for local small business owners. The constant seems to be “build a Facebook business page.” Or “start a Facebook group.” “It’s free!” they say (whoever ‘they’ are).
Marketing strategy always starts by asking and answering: “who is my customer?” Look at your market – who buys your product or service? If they’re on Facebook, then by all means create a Facebook business page. But understand we’re not talking the “Field of Dreams” here. If you build it, that doesn’t mean they’ll come.
Ditto with a Facebook group. If you struggle to put content on a Facebook business page regularly and consistently (3 times a week minimum!) then a Facebook group is just another thing to suck up your time. Don’t you have enough to do?
Facebook is not free! It may not cost anything up front, but you’ll pay for it in advertising dollars and with your time. What’s your time worth? Seriously, do the math.
If you’ve looked at your ‘market’ (aka customer) and see that most of them are local, as in actually live in your community, your strategy should include both online and offline. Start asking the question: what can I do to advertise locally? How do I expand my market here, in my own community? Without spending a bucket of money.
Number 1: Support your school.
Many small business owners I’ve worked with buy a spot on the team calendar or in the high school yearbook. Generally speaking, the spot includes your business information. You can also donate money or items for a fundraising effort. The key there is to make sure you’ve included something with your business name on it. It’s a fine line between being too pushy and not promoting yourself enough. A business card at the minimum. Or even a card that says, “Acme Widgets are proud to support Acme Speech & Debate – Go Team!” will work.
Number 2: Support a local philanthropic group.
You can join a club or donate items/money to their cause. Personally, I belong to an Optimist Club. Mostly because the Optimist Creed resonated with me. But some of the members joined initially for the networking opportunities. It doesn’t really matter what group you choose but it is important to choose one you feel confident in being involved with. This is a two-fold strategy: it’s a great way to associate your business with community support (a continuation of Number 1). And it’s a way to expand your business network. People do business with people they know and trust.
Number 3: Advertise in local newspapers.
This does depend on two things: cost and market. If your budget can afford it and it makes sense, this is a good advertising strategy because it shows support for your local paper and newspapers can be left in the café or doctor’s office so you never know who might pick it up. But having said that, another consideration must be who your customer is. Generally speaking, younger people don’t read the newspaper so if your target market is people between the ages of 18-35 (ish) then this becomes a lower priority. Then it’s based solely on how much it would cost. Some newspapers can be pretty pricey for a “never know who” attempt at marketing.
BONUS: Host an event.
If you have space, host a chamber coffee. Or meetings for a non-profit group. Or let the kids do a car wash in your parking lot. If you don’t own a building or have that kind of space, think creatively – could you donate a garden hose for the car wash? If you have an extra closet or larger warehouse area, could you donate space for storage?
Facebook isn’t a magic pill. Given time and resources, it certainly can be effective but if you’re looking for local advertising for your small business, reach your audience off-line. Local advertising doesn’t have to be cost prohibitive or anything fancy to be successful. But you do have to be doing it.
Send me an email and let me know if you’ve tried any of these. Or any other ideas I can share.