Although the pandemic is still very much a reality around the world, hopeful signs are starting to emerge. As vaccine distribution increases, many countries are easing public restrictions and allowing more businesses and organisations to reopen. In fact, one report found that as of April 2021, nearly 57% of small businesses in the US have fully reopened — a vast difference from this time last year.
Whether your business has reopened or is still in the planning stages, now is the time to vigorously re-engage your local community and increase your brand awareness. Of course, there are many ways you can reconnect with customers, community partners, and other businesses, but here are five easy marketing ideas for reaching out to your local community starting today.
1. Keep customers informed and excited!
If your social media pages, website, blog, webinars and other content marketing efforts have taken a back seat to maintaining business operations during the pandemic, you’re not alone. But now’s the time to refresh your online presence and re-engage with customers you haven’t heard from in a while as well as connect with new customers.
Don’t hold back — update your marketing plan to ensure you’re using all of your channels to communicate important reopening announcements, new products and services, hours or location changes, events, and more. If you haven’t sent an email newsletter in a while (or ever) consider putting one together — even a brief one — that reaches out to your whole database or a target audience. Let existing and potential customers know where you’ve been, and most importantly, share exciting news about your reopening plans and other future announcements!
2. Optimise your business for “near me” and voice-activated searches.
Voice-activated devices such as Google Home and Amazon Alexa, as well as mapping apps such as Google Maps, have become an essential part of the local shopping experience. One study predicts that mobile devices alone will drive US$1.4 trillion in local sales this year. In addition, “_____ near me” or local searches have increased by more than 900% in just a few years, along with searches for curbside pickup, local product availability, and other location-specific queries. These types of searches can be a profound business driver for local businesses, and you want to do everything possible to ensure customers can find you at the exact moment they most want your product or service.
To help improve your search rankings, first make sure your business is listed and optimised with a Google My Business account. Be sure to include as many details about your business as possible, such as address, phone number, and operating hours. Also make sure these details are accurate if your business has multiple locations. This is one of the easiest and most impactful marketing efforts you can do today, because your listing will appear every time someone searches for your type of business.
3. Use video to stay connected.
Video is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to connect with customers. With today’s user-friendly digital technology, you can quickly shoot and share high-quality smartphone videos on any social media platform including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You don’t even need a detailed script or professional video editing because authenticity and relevance are far more important these days than expensively produced videos. In fact, live video streaming on platforms like Facebook and Instagram boast nearly twice the engagement rate (4.3%) compared to non-live videos at just 2.2%.
With videos, the possibilities are nearly endless. You can stream a short Q&A with customers on Facebook Live, produce a quick how-to video for YouTube, spotlight an employee, offer a video tour of a new location, or create fun TikTok videos. Whatever you do, make sure your videos are conversational, relevant, succinct, and, of course, convey your brand values without being overly salesy.
Interested in learning more about videos? Read the Six reasons why video content is more important that ever.
4. Ask for local customer reviews — and respond to them.
Many small business owners do a great job of enticing customers to leave reviews on Yelp, Google, and various social media platforms. However, fewer small businesses actually respond to these reviews, either good or bad, which can actually diminish the value of gathering reviews in the first place. For instance, Harvard Business School found that when businesses respond to reviews, they actually improve their overall star rating. In addition, customers may be less likely to leave negative comments when they see that the business owner actually responds to reviews. Local customers may be even more reluctant to leave negative reviews, especially if they plan to return to the business and want to avoid an awkward encounter.
Responding to positive customer reviews has benefits as well. The simple act of showing appreciation for customers goes a long way toward building customer loyalty and goodwill. From a marketing perspective, responding to reviews can improve search engine optimisation (SEO), which helps your business to rank higher in Google searches. And, asking for referrals or testimonials not only reinforces positive relationships, it also creates opportunities for new content that you can share on social media and increases the likelihood of word-of-mouth marketing.
This is why it’s important to give customers many ways to offer feedback — whether through polls shared through your social media pages, online reviews, anonymous surveys, email, and, of course, asking for reviews on Yelp, Google, and other review sites. Not only does customer feedback give you better insight into what you’re doing well and what you can improve, it can help your online searchability as well.
5. Volunteer in your community.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to connect with your community, and there are always plenty of opportunities to get involved. For instance, a chef could raffle free cooking classes to support a fundraiser, or a fitness studio could provide free exercise classes as part of a health fair. Volunteering is more important than ever as local governments start to ease pandemic restrictions and charitable organisations try to rebuild after a particularly challenging year. Plus, volunteering is a great way for your business to reconnect with community partners and other businesses. Also be sure to promote the good things these organisations are doing — and how your company is pitching in to help — across all of your social media channels, website, blog, and more.
Additional Local Marketing Ideas
As mentioned above, there are numerous local area marketing tactics that small businesses and marketers can add to their marketing plans to reach local audiences and increase foot traffic right away. Some of these additional marketing tools and tactics include:
- Local industry and trade events including tradeshows and conferences provide great opportunities for you to showcase your expertise and presence at local events. You can provide lectures, offer how-to demonstrations, and leverage sponsorship offerings. Don’t forget to bring along your company-branded giveaways and business cards!
- StartupNation is an online, free community for entrepreneurs looking for advice on how to run a small business. This could be an opportunity to demonstrate your unique subject matter expertise to other small business owners.
- The Small Business Administration provides events and learning center programs. Use this to position yourself as a thought leader or share your small business expertise to others in your community. Plus, you can attend local exhibits and networking events.
- Your local Chamber of Commerce often offers a directory of other local, small businesses, numerous monthly networking and teaching events, and the opportunity to hear about new businesses coming to your area. In addition, the Chamber of Commerce often encourages advertising on their websites, through their social media channels, and in their regular newsletters and sponsorship opportunities. When joining, be sure to keep your business page and business listing current with your contact information!
- Meetup.com is a social networking site with a section devoted entirely to small businesses. You can use this platform to connect with entrepreneurs who might also be potential customers.
- Business Network International, commonly referred to as BNIs, are organisations of non-competitive businesses in your area in which members agree to cross-promote one another’s businesses. BNIs often provide regular meetings for networking within numerous specialised verticals via referrals.
- Local Rotary Clubs provide networking sessions, events related to community initiatives, local government forums, and events with other community stakeholders including keynote speakers. This provides a great environment for networking and increasing brand awareness through volunteer opportunities and community events.
- Host an event or class and advertise in local forums. You can work with local accreditations to see if your expertise qualifies as continued learning education for specific verticals. If so, you can likely offer CLE credits to prospects that attend your seminars or events.