When you opened the doors to your small business, you may have hoped that word of mouth would be enough to bring in customers. But it turns out getting the word out generally requires more than just word of mouth.
Building awareness about your small business may be challenging if you don’t know where to begin. Fortunately, there are many ways to go about it requiring differing levels of know-how, time, and budget. Here are five strategies to consider to help promote your business, bring in new customers, and grow brand recognition.
Reach out to local news outlets
If you’ve never done this before, it may seem intimidating to reach out to the local news to share your business story. But local news outlets, especially in smaller markets, are often interested in learning more about small businesses in their communities. Community newspapers are generally a great place to start, or business-focused regional publications, like a local business journal or economic development newsletter.
Try drafting a short press release about your business and be sure to include the five W’s: Who, What, When, Where and Why. Don't forget a hook - what makes your business unique, special or interesting? You may also want to use the hook to target specific media outlets. Send your press release to local newspapers with an invitation to visit your business for an interview and to learn more. You may also consider working with a public relations agency or consultant if your budget allows. They may already have connections in the news, which may help get your story told.
Run paid advertisements
When budget allows, a few targeted advertisements may go a long way for raising awareness of your business and what you offer. Advertising in local newspapers is generally cost-effective and, as a bonus, most have in-house designers who may be able to help you put your ad together if you need assistance. And don’t forget about online advertising, including social media. It’s typically simple and affordable to run paid advertising on Facebook®, Instagram®, and Twitter®. You may want to set a daily budget or aim for a daily number of impressions (people seeing your ad). When doing online advertising, it’s generally also a good idea to test multiple messages and images to see which ones perform the best and get you the highest return on your investment. This may help you tailor your messaging, determine your key audience, and impact your overall advertising strategy in the future.
Host a community event
One of the best ways to bring people into your business is simply to invite them in! Consider hosting a community event or open house. This may be as casual or formal as you prefer. Get the word out through social media and your current customer database. Consider incentivizing people to attend with food or drinks, a giveaway, or something special like live music or trivia. Depending on the nature of your business, you may also consider hosting an event elsewhere, like a neighborhood restaurant or park, or sponsor an existing community event, concert, or sports team.
Find unique branding opportunities
Successful brands are everywhere, and you may not even realize it. Consider looking for unique ways to elevate your brand and push it into the market. A little swag may go a long way. Even small things like stickers on packaging or custom pens are typically effective ways to reinforce your brand and get people to notice and frequent your business. Think outside the box and try to find branding opportunities and promotional items that fit your business, and provide an actual use for the customer. Quality counts too. We all have promotional items collected at various events, and picked up by our kids as treasures, that are relegated to the back of a kitchen drawer because they provide no real use to us, or because the quality of the item is lacking. If you’re going to invest in branded promotional items, be sure to choose wisely. After all, it will be your name on the item.
Encourage word of mouth referrals
Wait, didn’t we say there’s more to getting the word out than just word of mouth? Yes! But word of mouth is still important. Get to know your customers. Talk to them and find out why they are coming to your business. Follow up with them. Ask them for feedback, and don’t be shy about asking them to share their experiences. You may even consider incentivizing them to post a review online with a small discount, promotional item, or entry into a giveaway. A common and successful strategy to encourage word of mouth business is to provide a referral discount for the customer to offer their friend or family member, and then if the referral is used, the original customer is also rewarded. This is very popular in ecommerce but may also be done in brick and mortar businesses.
You know the value of your business, and now it’s up to you to make sure the rest of your community does too. Consider trying out one, two, or all five of these strategies to see what works best for you and your business.