5 Productive ways to grow local business relationships
As you look for ways to be productive and boost your business, “going big” often starts right in your own village. One of the many advantages small businesses have over the big guys is the ability to build trust and grow relationships one-on-one in their own communities. The good news is – it doesn’t require a lot of legwork. So, where to begin? Here are a few easy, productive ways to get more bang for your buck, without much time or effort:
1. Use your local news – it’s easier than you think. You may be surprised to find out how easy it is to get your business covered on local TV news. Weekday morning shows and weekend newscasts tend to have a magazine-type feel that makes room for ‘lighter’ happenings and events. For example, if you have a karate or dance studio offering summer camp for kids, invite your local news team (often a weather personality or feature reporter) to cover a few hours of camp “live” on their show. Be sure to have lots of happy kids and visual opportunities to highlight, something the reporter can have fun with. Contact the morning or weekend news producer or news ‘desk’ to talk about the upcoming event and be sure to follow up with a makeshift press release, including time, place, visual opportunities and anything else relevant. If you have a small restaurant, boutique or med spa, ask to be included on an upcoming cooking, fashion or wellness segment. News producers are often happy to have good, local businesses fill their empty segments.
2. Join your local chamber of commerce. In the days of social media and websites, this “old fashioned” form of networking is often overlooked. But the fact is, joining your local chamber can still boost your business and help you to be more productive. How? Online, surprisingly! Search engines like Bing and Google look for legitimacy in a business before displaying it in search results. A chamber membership, online connections to a local non-profit organization, or an upcoming event, are solid signs to search engines that your business is legit. Sure, there are costs involved with membership and it may take a while to pay off, but consider not only the search benefits, but the opportunity for low-cost, B2B advertising, a chance to network with other small businesses, as well as an increase in visibility via local events, like fundraisers and awards ceremonies.
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3. Get a website. It’s not all about kissing babies and shaking hands. Did you know that less than two-thirds of small businesses have a website? So, if you have one already, you’re ahead of the game. That’s because about half of all searches on Google and Bing have local intent. In other words, people want to find stuff nearby. But don’t stop there, because those searches also drive up to 96% of mobile search traffic, which means having a mobile-friendly website can translate into big revenue for a local business like yours. So, be sure to spend a little time doing basic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tactics, by adding local search terms like the city/state where your business is (e.g. photographer in Miami, Florida) and a mobile friendly design so your business is “found”. Not sure where to begin? Check out other easy tips here.
4. Get out there. Whether your community is large or small, chances are there are plenty of opportunities to see and be seen. Sponsoring local youth sports, for example, in exchange for your company name being emblazed across their jerseys (or just as a charitable contribution) can be money well spent, as it’s a great way to build lasting bonds in the community. Also consider having a booth at a local event to boost business. This can get pricey, so but be sure to choose events that are likely to bring in your target customers. Do some research. Get attendance and audience information. Find out about costs and requirements, etc. Most importantly, talk to other business owners who have participated and find out if they’d recommend it.
5. Use social media to connect with customers the right way. Chances are, you’re already using social media as a major marketing tool. In fact, a recent survey found that 96% of small businesses use some form of it as part of their marketing strategy. After all, it’s a great way to offer deals, promote upcoming events, create content that can be “found” by search engines, build connections and, perhaps most importantly, learn more about your customers. But with the good comes the bad. Social media is also a place for dissatisfied customers to vent and, in the worst-case scenarios, troll. Sure, it’s tough to hold your tongue when a customer unfairly (or, sometimes, fairly) leaves a nasty review on Twitter, Yelp or your Facebook page. After all, it’s your reputation at stake. But responding negatively, even if you feel justified, is bad for business. Always take the high road. Here are some step-by-step tips for dealing with bad reviews.
Boosting business, learning how to be productive and going the extra mile to be part of the community can sometimes feel like a juggling act. But, in the end, it all comes down to good old-fashioned family, friends, community and relationship building. So, roll up your sleeves. After all – it takes a village.
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