We asked PR and marketing experts to provide their best tips on branding and promotional activities for local business owners. What are your best practices and tips on starting events, social media, branding, campaigns, newsletters, etc.? Which (new, digital) platforms are out there to promote local businesses? Here are their answers:
Create Video Content
Although E-commerce is rapidly taking over consumers, local businesses still have one big advantage: they can give visitors a human-to-human experience that an online business can’t. I always recommend that my clients use video content to show the inside and people behind their business, and then include a strong call-to-action for why a customer should stop by. Are you running an in-store only promotion? Is there an expert that can give them a personalized recommendation on what product is best for them? Record a video about it for social media to peak visitors. Once they visit your local business you can wow them with the in-store experience.
— Ruba Aramouny, Founder & Strategic Director at Solid Marketing
Set up Google My Business
Take advantage of the free Google My Business platform! This tool is super important for local businesses as you can monitor how your business appears in Google Search and Maps. This is a step you should take at the beginning stages of your marketing plans.
In your Google My Business listing you can showcase your business name, address, list of your services, and other important details for customers. With this same tool you can also acquire customer reviews, reply to reviews, etc.
This platform is one you definitely want to include in your Local SEO plans.
— Briana Marie, Founder at Tanzek Media
Work with, not against other small businesses
Small businesses’ ethos is all about creating a community; if you build up a loyal customer-base and good relationships with other small business, you have a good chance of succeeding, as customers will always endeavour to buy from you. To get your name out into the local community, rather than trying to compete with local businesses, look for ways to work with them. This way, you can tap into existing customer bases who you know are already interested in shopping with small businesses. You can then repay the local businesses helping you by promoting their company in some way, creating a mutually beneficial relationship that involves you in the community.
— Steve Pritchard, Managing Director of It Works Media
1. There’s strength in numbers. Start a shop crawl where several shops band together for a marketing promotion. Shoppers receive a card at their first store with a map of the area, and for every purchase they make at a store, they are closer to getting a grand prize or a good bag. This requires quite a bit of wrangling of store owners, so someone has to be the ring master. But when it is well thought out, it is a great way to generate new customers. An example of this is the Astoria Shop Crawl. They do one annually. One person is the leader, and they all work together to bring neighborhood shoppers in their stores. The one thing to think about is the rules of the crawl. These need to be clear and on the card. Things like in order to enter they have to make a certain amount of purchases, when the crawl starts and ends, etc. need to be on the card that is handed to shoppers.
2. Bring in experts to help draw in customers to your business. If you’re a restaurant, bring in a bourbon expert and do a tasting. If you’re a baby shop, have a newborn expert come and share tips. In addition to having something new and different, customers are getting a third party to recommend some of your products or services. You can also piggyback off of the social media and email list of the expert you’re hosting. This increases your chance of getting new customers.
— Lindsay Anvik, Business Coach at See Endless
Be a pioneer — Get on new platforms early!
WebTalk is a brand new platform perfect for promoting your local business.
Webtalk started with a Facebook / LinkedIn-esque idea and positively ran with it, adding functionality for a business and shopping community like Amazon or Shopify, in addition to making it a prime place for either personal or business promotion.
It IS invite only for now — I consider myself lucky to have been invited, as I wouldn’t have known about it without.
Since social networks improve exponentially as their user bases grow — here’s my invite link.
— Devin Beverage, Founder at DevBev Co., Digital Marketing Agency
GettinLocal is a new digital marketing platform that specifically helps local business owners improve their ability to compete with large chain stores by inexpensively creating their own mobile app in under 10 minutes to attract new customers and increase the frequency of visits from regular customers. Business owners can easily target potential customers on their mobile phones using geofencing and create very specific traffic-building promotions tailored to age, gender, shopping preferences and keyword searches.
— Ria Romano, Partner at RPR Public Relations, Inc.
Having a timely newsletter — by that I mean monthly or more frequent — is the best way to stay front-of-mind with customers and prospects. If you don’t think you can put out a high quality and stick to a schedule, outsource it. But a monthly reminder to your network about what it is that you do and an example of how you are doing it goes way toward keeping you front of mind.
Second, make it a point to put out a news release about your firm once a quarter. Even if that release ends up as only a post on your website and on a free PR news outlet. Get the local media used to hearing from you and get links for your social media and your newsletters.
— Joe D’Eramo, HiRoad Communications
It may seem obvious, but local businesses should advertise LOCALLY. Utilizing smaller news outlets, and more niche mediums to share a business is always the way to go for homegrown owners. Advertising through those smaller community papers, both digitally and in traditional print can go a long way towards increasing local exposure.
Utilizing new geo-targeting offerings for events and social ads will also take a business farther than blanket use ad dollars. Match your services to your demographics and pay ONLY to advertise to them.
— Britney Bouie, Founderat BGBStrategies.com
Partner with a local charity that aligns with your business values and host an activity/volunteer event
Some of these events can include — supporting a local walk/run, an outdoor gardening or landscaping project, hands-on cooking or food sorting
How does this translate to direct PR and Marketing for your team?
1. Wear your logo or company t-shirt during the event to garner awareness for your brand
2. Take plenty of action photos as a team
3. Blast the photos and content related to the activity on all social media platforms and with local media
4. Have the organization you partnered with share on their social media pages and/or internal e-blast with a link to your website
5. Link or add an email to the promotional items to track leads or ROI
—Jasmin Zamora, Communications Manager at Combined Insurance
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