You know your keywords, your SEO efforts are paying off and your online conversions are stellar. But, you notice that all of your sales are coming from miles away. You know that you have a product or service to offer that the local community can benefit from, but they don't seem to know you even exist.
So, how do you create awareness for your product in your local community?
Although her brand Stick-e Products specializes in the design and marketing of fitness accessories they sell either online or to big-name sporting goods retailers like Dick's Sporting Goods, founder Libby Andrews knew she could increase her direct and overall sales by aligning herself better with her local community.
So, instead of finding a small office off the beaten path, she set up shop in a large empty downtown storefront. Instead of just setting up displays of her products, she created a fitness center where locals could actually use her products.
Win-Win With Integrating Local Marketing
The set-up was win-win. Not only was she increasing her customer base, but she was getting live, honest feedback that she could use to better her products. Additionally, her fitness center brought a new stream of people to the downtown shopping district, providing a small boost to the local economy.
Andrews found a unique way to build the bridge between her online business and the local community, but there are a number of other ways to include your local community in your business plan, even if you don't have a local brick-and-mortar business.
Sponsorships. Consider sponsoring a local Little League or youth soccer team, or other recognizable organization, to build brand recognition during their activities. Your name and logo may be plastered on event signage, uniforms and hats, helping people remember your business when they are in need of your services.
Perform outreach. If you have a product or service that can be beneficial to a service group, share it with them through outreach programs. It can be as easy as spending the afternoon at a senior-center or, like Suzy Alman, founder of Charliedog and Friends, bringing your business to the dogs.
As the force behind a new line of pet toys, Alman helps capture the journey of rescued cats and dogs from death-row to their forever homes, meeting new customers along the way and sharing the happy stories on Facebook.
Join networking organizations. Most communities have small business associations or chambers of commerce that hold regular networking events and opportunities. These associations are designed to bring businesses together to help further the interests of their business members.
According to Christina Zila, director of communications for Textbroker.com, an online writing company, local business owners tend to gather at these types of functions seeking opportunities to find new clients and expand their reach. "We use these events to build personal relationships with potential clients," she says. "This type of relationship building has led to speaking engagements, press opportunities and direct client acquisitions."
Special promotions for locals. Online companies can offer exclusive promotions for local customers. For example, Haralee Cool Garments for Hot Women, an online boutique selling specialty nightwear for women, offers local pick up at designated spots throughout owner Haralee Weintraub's community, saving customers the cost of shipping.
Advertise locally. Local print and radio advertising is still an ideal way to reach out to local customers, but with a little out-of-the-box thinking you may find alternative mediums to promote your products.
For example, Mary Babiez, owner of Thoughtful Presence, an online gift shop, advertises in church bulletins throughout her community and posts fliers at local businesses in order to create awareness of her brand with her target market.
Go big (with content). A robust content campaign is a great way to build thought leadership with your local community as well as your online customer base. Having a content campaign built around the interests and concerns of the local community will help boost your reputation as a leader within the industry. Chances are the content will be appropriate not only for your local customers but for the broad audience as well.
Go local. Be sure to register your business with Google Places so that your company name registers when someone nearby searches for relevant keywords.
Local Customers Increase Reach
Each customer is as important as the next. Where they're located may not be as important to provide a solution to their needs, but bridging the digital divide between your online business and the real world is a great way to not only establish yourself as an industry thought leader, but to make network connections that could prove beneficial over the years.
How have you transitioned your online business into your local community? Has it helped increase your sales?
Angela Stringfellow is a PR and MarComm Consultant and Social Media Strategist offering full-circle marketing solutions to businesses. Angela blogs via Contently.com.
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