Marketing doesn’t always have to involve expensive campaigns and professional consulting. It is entirely possible to use your relationship with your community to help build your business’ brand. Learn how to connect with other businesses and local fixtures to create a mutually beneficial relationship.
Reaching Out to Your Community
Even if you aren’t a resident of the town in which you operate your business, you and your shop are still a part of that community. One of the easiest, and cheapest, ways to market your business is to become an active and valued member of the community. Simple things like going to the local coffee shop instead of a chain, maintaining an attractive and pleasant store front, or even sponsoring a Little League team can help build your reputation and that of your shop. More ambitious measures such as joining the Chamber of Commerce or other local commerce organizations could be even more effective. By becoming a visible figure in the community, you can advocate for your business and work to build relationships with other business owners. Once these connections have been made, you can start to get creative about ways to work together with these businesses.
Building Reciprocal Relationships
Once you’ve made some friends with other local merchants, or at least swapped business cards, it’s time to start helping each other. The easiest way to do this is through referrals. Meet the local dentist at the diner? Offer to refer them to any customers looking for a dentist, while they refer any patients with car trouble to you. While this sounds like a strategy that only works in an idyllic small town stuck in the 1950’s, it can be adapted for every type of community. When you patronize businesses near your shop, you can discover those that provide excellent products and service. Demonstrate to that business owner that your shop can provide a similar level of service and form an ally. Then you can promote that business to your customers honestly, and take care of them in yet another way.
Going the Extra Mile
A verbal referral is just one way to leverage a partnership with another company. Another way to develop this relationship is through cross-promotion. This can work well with businesses that have compatible services and customer bases to your own. For example, a car wash that offers detailing services. Displaying their information in your shop and vice versa makes you both better off. You can extend this even further by working together on promotional events or offering discounts to customers of the other business. Another way to work together would be to trade services. Is there a local printer that could help you with direct mail? Offer free oil changes for their delivery vehicles in exchange for a few hundred printed mailers. If a long-term, integrated partnerships isn’t entirely possible, a little altruism may be necessary. Sponsor a random act of kindness: the first 100 visitors to a coffee shop get free coffee on you, along with a flyer for your business. Give out popsicles on a hot summer day, as long as they have your shop’s name and number on them. Think of this not as charity, but as an investment.
When you start seeing your shop as a part of a larger picture, as a part of the fabric of a community, you start to see the profound positive impact you and your business can have. You also see many opportunities for promotion and growth; a win-win situation.