Small businesses thrive when they are able to build a loyal, local following. Here’s how your company can build a local community of engaged customers and brand advocates.
Every business can benefit from an engaged customer base, driven by a true sense of community around them. Retailers and service providers alike, whether a single location or multiple storefronts, can see increased business by putting some effort into reaching out to their community and finding creative ways to get their name and brand in front of more people. Let’s look at some specific ways to drive engagement build a community regardless of the size of your business:
PARTICIPATE IN COMMUNITY EVENTS
If you are a local retailer, staying up on area events can provide a lot of opportunities to participate and meet people from your town. As well, there may be visitors to the event that are not aware of your business. These events will create face-to-face interactions and chances to raise awareness and really make a connection.
You can start by researching popular community events in your area and get details on ways you can participate. (Sites like EventBrite can be a great source of information.) Get your business name in front of the community by setting up a booth at a summer festival or sponsoring a local sports team. Even if you have multiple locations in different areas, these opportunities exist for every site.
If there aren’t any appropriate local events, consider hosting your own. Food service businesses, such as restaurants and grocery stores, can set up a cook-out at your location. Reach out to your vendors for their participation. Businesses like car-washes and service companies can hold customer appreciation events tied to specials or seasons or significant dates. If you have recently remodeled or moved to a new space, a “Grand Opening” is a perfect opportunity for a self-promoted event. All of these event types are great opportunities to look to vendors to help make the occasion a success.
Get creative and get connected, because as the saying goes, “people buy from people they know.” You can make this true for your business.
PARTNER WITH OTHER LOCAL BUSINESSES
Forming relationships with other local businesses strengthens your ties to the greater community, but also works to grow your access to area customers. Look for businesses that provide complementary products or services to what you provide and take advantage of the synergy potential. Consider working together offering discounts when presented with proof-of-purchase from the other business, or co-sponsor local advertising.
Another great way to raise your visibility and connection to the community, is by teaming up with local charitable organizations. You can pledge a donation from some of the proceeds from your event to the chosen charity. Growing your business while supporting a good cause is a wonderful combination.
Incentives can be offered in a number of ways and can reach a wide audience. If you took the idea of sponsoring the local sports team, place an incentive on your banner in the stadium such as “Show your ticket stub from the game for 10% off” or “Mention this ad for a free children’s entree!” This can draw in new customers and regulars alike.
By calling for action through an incentive, you are reaching out to the customer base and community in a way that invites participation. For your regular customers, offer discounts on volume or frequency of visits (everybody loves a punch card!). For new customers, offer a discount for signing up for your newsletter or if they are visiting your business for the first time.
Another great option in our connected world today is to offer mobile-only deals. Offer deals via text message or even through a social platform like Snapchat and stay in touch with your customers continually. (Here’s a handy reference about SMS Marketing)
In the end, the incentives you offer should be designed to get a response and give both your current and potential customers a reason to come see you.
BE PRESENT – ALL THE TIME
What this means is that your website is out there 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s available to visit for anyone with an Internet connection. Users may surf your site at 3am on a Tuesday or at 9pm on Thanksgiving Day. If that is when they are in the mood to buy, how can you be there for them as a good member of the community and a trusted business?
This doesn’t mean you have to give up sleep, it just means you have to create solutions that work for your customers and your community.
You are physically at your business as much as you can be, which is probably quite a bit. But, customers may pick up the phone when it works for them, not for you. A great way you can “be there” no matter the time of day is by using a professional call center service provider. These dedicated teams interact with your customers in a manner designed by you. They offer customizable solutions for every requirement and budget. The end result is that you don’t have to worry about missing a potential or current customer and possibly harming your reputation. And, with a call center partner in place, you don’t have to worry about missing a potential or existing customer again, whether you are at your business or not.
Explore some options and take some providers out for “a test drive” to make sure they are the right fit and will help your business support your community just as much as you do.