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I live and do business in Montana, where small business is the lifeblood of almost every community. The vast majority of my local clients are solopreneurs or small businesses with less than 10 employees. When meeting with a client for the first time, we often discuss what role marketing has played in their business. The answers are often the same: “my marketing budget is limited,” “I don’t have many marketing and advertising options in a small community,” and “I don’t know what I should be doing to market my business.” Very typical challenges marketing a small business in a community.
Your business may be small, you may be located in a small community, and you may have a limited budget, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t options out there to market your business effectively and affordably. Here are six keys to marketing a small business in a small community.
1. Identify your target market
When determining your target market, try avoiding the phrase, “anyone and everyone.” You may do business in a small town, but your customers may not necessarily be limited to local folks or businesses. It’s a common mistake in any business or organization to think that everyone is a potential customer. Why? Because marketing to anyone and everyone just isn’t feasible from a time or cost standpoint. Narrowing your target to those that will truly benefit from your product or service will allow you focus your marketing and maximize your marketing ROI.
2. Develop a strategy
As a small business owner, you are pulled in a million different directions every day. One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is that they just don’t have time to focus on marketing or business development because they are so caught up in the day to day of running their business. Sound familiar? Developing a clear marketing strategy and plotting out your plan and budget will help you maximize your marketing dollars and your time so you can focus on running your business.
3. Build your brand
Just because you are small, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t think of your business as a brand. Investing in your company’s identity is crucial to creating awareness, building a following, and growing your business. Developing your brand should consist of a professional logo, colors, and typography at a minimum. Additional elements including a tagline, imagery, voice, and personality will assist you in maintaining brand consistency throughout your marketing efforts.
4. Differentiate yourself
It’s rare when a company has zero competition. You may be first to market, but competitors will quickly follow. In a small community, you may not have direct competition, but indirect competitors are likely lurking around the street corner. Conducting a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) is an excellent way to identify how to differentiate yourself from your competitors and will play a vital role in how you decide to market yourself to your target audience.
5. Engage with your customers
Inviting your customers and potential clients to interact with your business is one of the most important tools in your marketing toolbox. Engagement is not selling. It is developing a relationship and growing loyalty through teaching, being a resource, providing valuable or entertaining content, listening and responding, and sharing your business’s personality. Social media, surveys, videos, and contests are a few of the ways to open your business’ doors and welcome your customers to become part of your brand.
6. Get involved in your community
Show that you are committed to the community you do business in. This can take shape in many ways: sponsoring an event, donating to a local non-profit, teaching classes in your area of expertise at local adult education or community education programs, or joining a non-profit board. Whatever you decide to do, ensure that it aligns with your mission, vision and values. There can be a lot of need in smaller communities and you may get asked to contribute often, but allocating a set portion of your budget and identifying what makes sense for you to be involved in can help you make the right decision for your organization.
If you utilize these key elements, you will be well on your way to marketing a small business like a pro.
TIP: Remember, diversity is the key to any good marketing strategy. If you aren’t sure what you should be doing to effectively market your business, enlisting the help of a marketing professional might make sense for you. Just like you rely on your accountant to assist you with the financial aspects of your business, a marketing professional can help set you on the right track for marketing your business. They’ll help you explore your options and identify which will be most effective for you. They can help you create a strategy, set a budget, and measure and track your efforts.