If you are starting a small business, you want everyone to know about it. More importantly, you need everyone to know about it in order to start building a customer base.
Whether you are dreaming of building a worldwide empire or simply serving your neighborhood, you need to start with a creative advertising strategy. There’s no need to worry if you don’t have a billboard-sized budget. When it comes to independent, local businesses, it’s the little things that keep customers coming. If you feel stuck in the shadows of large corporations, here are five cost-effective ways to give your business a boost with local advertising:
Establish your online presence. Customers will check reviews for locations right next door. Often times, the first point of contact will be the Internet. As such, developing a website is highly recommended. If you are not quite ready for that, or if you already have a website, the next step is to make sure you are listed in online business directories. Set up accounts with the big ones like Yelp, Yahoo Local (YHOO), and Google Maps (GOOG). You should also list yourself on any local community websites.
Reach out to the local press. Send a press release to all your neighborhood news outlets. On top of that, try to contact them directly and pitch your business as a worthy news article. An up-and-coming independent business is a great story and a good sign for the local economy. If you are a brick-and-mortar business, offer the press a tour of your store. If your business is a restaurant, give reporters a sample from your menu. You can also establish a connection by purchasing advertising space online or in the print newspaper.
Advertise with swag. Give a gift that has your logo on it. This encourages customers to return and advertises your services to their friends and families. This can include anything from T-shirts and tote bags to budget-friendly options like bookmarks and keychains. If you would like to start an e-mail or postal campaign, you can offer one of these free gifts in exchange for signing up on a mailing list. Also consider distributing promotional discounts with fliers or attach them to the bottom of your receipts.
Host relationship-building events. In addition to your standard grand opening sale, you can hold community-oriented events. For example, a yarn shop can offer free knitting lessons, and an Italian restaurant can teach kids how to make pizza. Whatever sort of event you decide to do, make sure it is geared toward your target customer. The main purpose for this type of advertising is to get those customers in the door. If you show them a good time, they will want to come back.
Give back to the community. Community service puts a friendly face on your business. You can sponsor a local sports team or public event, such as a marathon or car show. Depending on the nature of your business, you could run a concession stand or simply distribute free gifts. These events are opportunities for the neighborhood residents to come together and learn more about you and your business. If you make yourself a staple in bringing the community together, they will want to support your business.