If you’re trying to grow your clientele and build customer loyalty for your local small business, you can start by networking locally, the very first step is talking to your existing clients, offer a discount on their next product or service with a new recommendation or referral. In small towns word of mouth will eventually gain the most referrals especially if you are exceptional in your customer service and can convey trust & reliability. If you are very new the best way is family and friends at first, and follow it up by going to your local community college to offer your specialized knowledge with mini classes or a full day seminar, if you can pair up with an already established entrepreneur the better chances you have of filling up the seats. Otherwise here is a list that will help you get recognition by your colleagues, create your brand and develop a solid reputation in your community.
1. Networking: Don’t look at your local peers in your industry as competition, there’s always more than enough clients to go around and most are very willing to refer clients your way if their schedule is full. So rub shoulders, schmooze, scratch backs and make connections. Find a way to stand out so you won’t be forgotten and by earning trust you will earn their professional referrals, just remember to return the favor.
2. Trade Shows: It does take an initial investment to purchase the space, but you are getting great exposure to thousands of people who are relatively interested in your field. Be prepared to give away little goodies so you attract potential clients. If you give special ‘show’ coupons for discounts, you can see how much business it generated by taking part in the trade show. If you have a raffle, your prospects will be filling out their information like their name and email address, make sure there’s a box to check for permission to send ‘occasional’ updates. This is an excellent way to build your email lists with local prospects.
3. Local Fairs and Fetes: Just like trade shows you can demonstrate your product or service to your community directly, a warm smile and pleasant demeanor goes a long way when face-to-face marketing. By giving out ‘fair’ discounts most clients will want to take advantage of a good deal. You can have your QR codes out and ready so you can network to get new clients. Most fair goers leave with loads of flyers and small freebies, so making a connection like having a direct link they can take immediately, will ensure they won’t forget you as soon as they walk away from your tent or table.
4. Speaking Engagements: If you’re networking with your peers and any other related business to your field, keep your ear to the ground for local events and seminars. You may need to volunteer a few times to earn your dues before the local businessmen will hand over a choice and lucrative speaking engagement, but the time you invest in your community will pay off, it shows that you are invested in your community. Depending on what your business is you can offer to speak at the local college for a particular class or even the local High School. You can offer your knowledge to young minds and if you’re a good enough orator leave a lasting impression.
5. Chamber of Commerce: If you live in the USA, just about every township and city has a Chamber of Commerce, contact them and see about being a member and getting involved. If you live outside the US, talk to your local city council-ship to see how you can register or be active in your local business activities, charities or community-lead events and or festivals. The key is to be an active and engaged member in the community.
6. Local Newspapers and Feature Stories: If you’re just opening up, call your local paper and see if they’ll write up an article featuring your business in their local interest section. Most are very willing, after all you may purchase an add in their paper anything that’s local news always intrigues readers. As long as you can tie it into how you’re looking to better serve the community or make a difference you shouldn’t have any trouble getting a local journalist to write up the article.
7. Local Radio Show: What better way to get free advertising that offering to be a guest on the local radio station. With a little research you can see who the station’s past guests were and what interesting topics you can offer to the listeners. You can share your experience, your knowledge and offer your skills, you can also promote your business or products, it’s even a good idea to offer it as a prize for the radio’s daily quiz or competition game that most have daily. You will need to sell yourself, so be prepared to be articulate and quick witted.
8. Write an Article: You can offer to write a weekly article in a local periodical that’s informational and informative to readers. This is where you can offer your specialized knowledge and plug your services or products, discreetly of course. As a contributor you can write up your bio and slide in your webpage, if you also have a blog you can plug that too.
9. Host an Event: Gather your fellow professional affiliates, any other business owners that relate to your industry and host your own event. Whether it’s centered on health like a “Spring into Health Fair”, or a charity event like a “Walkathon” or “Race to Raise” funds for a local charity, the choice is up to you. You can make your event as large or as intimate as possible. Maybe you can host a yearly appreciation day for your clients and encourage them to bring a friend, it shows that you are grateful for their patronage and value their loyalty.
10. LinkedIn Networking: This site offers the ability to link your professional profile with your professional peers, prior employers, trade schools, college clubs, and past colleagues. By networking online you can stay connected and widen your networking arena, being connected to a reputable and established local business owner gives you a bit more credence to your reputation and offers trust to potential clients.
11. Twitter Trending: To gather more local interest look to Twitter, it has listings of what is trending in your local area. Find a way to relate those trending topics back to your business by utilizing trending hashtags in your tweets to gain followers and get more mentions, especially if your followers are willing to re-tweet.