We live, work and play in two worlds today – in person and online. They are equally important, inter-dependent and mutually beneficial. I have built my current business and brand from ground zero engaged in these two worlds. The importance of consistent, qualified, dedicated networking can never be stressed enough as a requirement. Some of you know of my family business background in Spain. For those who do not, I was raised to become either CEO of one of my family businesses or to create my own company to bring forward the entrepreneurial mindset and legacy I so admire from both sides of my family. I’ve also had the honor to work in Corporate America and to build a successful professional career. I pretty much feel blessed for having experienced and practiced different business mindsets. This dual proficiency helps me come up with creative and attuned ways to support business growth for small-medium business owners and entrepreneurs across platforms. This is my passion.
Small businesses often feel they can’t compete against large companies with their unlimited marketing resources. But the smaller entities often overlook the potential marketing opportunities that come from reaching out to the community in which they’re located. Building a successful business takes a lot of time and drive, so it’s good to surround yourself with people who share a similar drive and ambition; we are more likely to move forward as a group. Last night I had the opportunity to discuss this with multiple small business owners at a networking event. I had a really good time meeting business owners and entrepreneurs from different industries. Take a look at the beautiful pictures I took to share with you the priceless memories of the gathering. (There is a slider at the end of the article.)
A wide range of marketing strategies can help you connect with would-be customers in your local community. Here are tips to localize your marketing campaigns and boost your small-business profile in unexpected ways:
- Start thinking "community." Take a look around your neighborhood to uncover new ways to network, collaborate and participate. Forge relationships with local businesses that you can cross-promote with. It’s easy to get caught up in online marketing strategies at the expense of making your brand felt in your community. A quick look around can spark fresh ideas about how to achieve your marketing objectives through networking, collaboration and taking part in community causes.
- Build a user-friendly website optimized for mobile customers. Ensuring your online presence is in order might seem counterintuitive for a local marketing strategy aimed at driving brand awareness, but what many don't realize is that an informative website is the starting point for any marketing effort.
- Make use of the numerous location-based directories, mapping services and review sites available that cater to users in search of local goods and services. Being represented on YellowPages.com, MerchantCircle, Google Maps, Google + Business, Angie’s List, Yelp, Yahoo!, Facebook and elsewhere strengthens brand awareness and boosts your standing in search engine rankings.
- Double-check that every online business listing is displaying the correct contact information for your organization. Look for brand consistency to strengthen your reputation. Any discrepancies in the name, address, phone number and URL will cause confusion in a prospective customer’s mind and prompt him/her to look to a competitor for reliable information.
- Cultivate a vibrant social media presence. Every opportunity you have to syndicate your products and services through content marketing increases your visibility, improves brand loyalty and gets you more opportunities to convert online readers into clients. Using your online presence wisely is valuable. Social media networks are channels for your brand’s voice and content. This is important because it simultaneously makes you more accessible for your customers, new clients, and reminds wandering customers who may already be a little familiar with you but not yet devoted. For example, a frequent Twitter, Facebook or Instagram user could hear about your company/products/services for the first time only after stumbling upon it in a newsfeed. Or, an otherwise apathetic customer might become better acquainted with your brand after seeing you on multiple networks. Other ways to leverage social media networking with other small business owners is by collecting business cards from network event attendees to connect with them online later.
- Cross-promote with fellow local businesses. Forge a relationship with a business that has roughly the same target audience or is otherwise complementary with your products or services. Consider having local businesses offer their customers a special discount on your products or services (and do the same for them) or work out a mutually beneficial customer-referral system.
- Sponsor or host a local event. Small businesses can reap great brand-building rewards by affiliating with a community charity or fundraising organization. You could donate an in-store gift certificate to a charity raffle, sponsor an event, and/or create a workshop for charity. Sponsors receive prominent billing on charity event signage and advertising, not to mention the community goodwill that comes from actively helping people in need.
- Look into what your local chamber of commerce is doing. Many offer new residents a “welcome wagon service” with helpful information about area medical providers, home repair services, exercise facilities, etc. If there’s a good fit, offer to include a brief description of your business as well. Some welcome wagon services invite people to opt-in to emails and share this information with participating businesses — a valuable way to generate leads.
There are unlimited benefits that come from simply meeting people in person. Have you thought about setting up a goal of meeting at least five people every week? I find great connections by doing it. Try it! Whether you are at a gas station, grocery store, bank, cafe, or in the subway, personal contact makes an impression. Hand your new acquaintance a business card with “a special freebie offer on the back” and invite the person to stop by your website, store or office.
I invite you to join me tomorrow at a Yelp panel organized by Townsquared in the Financial District where I will be sharing tips on how to manage a healthy online reputation. There will be two more people in the panel, Ruggy Joesten, Sr. Community Director who has worked for Yelp for over 8 years. Ruggy helps local small business owners better understand how to use Yelp and has a passion for communities and creating connections. And, Tony Matura, Manager at The Copy Specialist NYC who has been in the printing business for over 14 years. Tony and his team are well-versed in taking advantage of Yelp features, like "check-in offers," to generate new business. Come join us! Make sure to RSVP below: