As a business coach I talk often of Acres of Diamonds, an old story of an African farmer who sold his farm and wandered the countryside searching for diamonds. It later turned out that the land that he sold was full of diamonds and eventually became the site of a large mine.
Similarly, many small businesses seek their customers far afield when they might find acres of diamonds in their own backyard. Despite globalisation and the trend towards working at greater distances, it’s worth taking a serious look at promoting your small business in your local area. There are advantages to finding new customers close to home - the cost of communicating with and meeting these customers will be lower. By working with local customers you will lower your environmental impact by not having to travel so far for meetings and making deliveries.
Here are six ways you can expand your local market with minimal cost.
Get out and meet your neighbours. Most communities offer a number of local networking events. These might be organised by your chamber of commerce, Rotary club, city council or by business referral groups such as Business Network International (BNI). Check your local newspaper and government websites for information on these events.
Share your expertise. Present a workshop or seminar that is of interest to current and potential customers in your area. This is a way to share your knowledge, enhance your reputation and get your name out in a friendly and informal way.
Speak up. If your topic or expertise is of general interest, volunteer to speak to business and community groups. These groups are always looking for interesting speakers, so you have a good chance of getting on the programme if you have a topic that appeals to their interests.
If you choose the workshop or public speaking options, don’t turn them into blatant sales presentations. As a business coach, I have seen this far too often. By sharing your organisation’s knowledge on a topic of interest to the audience, whether it’s business people or consumers, you are indirectly promoting your business. Of course, when speaking at public events there’s nothing wrong with mentioning the name of your business and what it does so long as it’s relevant to the topic. Information about your company can also be included in the written introduction you submit to the master of ceremonies.
Attend trade fairs. Businesses and consumers like to purchase from their neighbours. Local trade fairs are an ideal place to meet local business people and consumers who are looking for new suppliers. Contact your local chamber of commerce to find out what events are planned in your area.
Open your doors. Hold an open house at your place of business and invite local business people along. You can use a direct mailout to deliver targeted invitations or advertise the event in your local newspaper if you want a broader audience. A guided tour of your premises with a short presentation during the tour will help people understand what you do and how you can help them.
Get found online. If you search online using keywords for your type of product and service by location, does your business come up in the search engine results? If not, there are several things you can do to improve your ranking in the search results list. One is to register with Google Maps. Using this free service will increase your chances of coming up on search results when people are looking online for your product or service by location. When signing up for your listing, be sure to include the relevant keywords that customers would use to search for you.
There are also many free-to-list online business directories where potential customers can search by location. Type the phrase <online business directory> in your preferred search engine and you will find several of these. Most offer a free basic listing, with the option to pay for an enhanced one that includes more detailed information about your business. Again, it’s important to use the right keywords in your company description to ensure that you will come up in the search results list.
Like the African farmer, you may be missing acres of diamonds in your own backyard. Applying all, or just a few of the strategies covered, will help you to cost effectively promote your business close to home.