If you’re a small business, it can be easy to get caught up in the difficulty of keeping up with larger competitors. Instead, think about your advantages. One major way you can have an impact is to focus on your role in your local community.
Here are a few ways that you can get involved.
1. Sponsor a Local Organization
This strategy is tried and true for a reason. Sponsoring a local organization can pay big dividends for your reputation in the community.
As Claudia Cruz writes for Moz, “Local sponsorships remain the most-overlooked and opportunity-rich channel, and they build real local connections for both large brands and small businesses alike.” The key takeaway here is that, along with your usual channels like content, reviews, social media, etc., local sponsorships are a channel in and of themselves.
Local sponsorship opportunities are unique because they’re not limited to a single platform. There are all sorts of benefits to sponsorship, from ad placements on the baseball field or on signage at an event to blog posts, mentions in a press release, guest posts for your organization, and much more.
On the other hand, partnerships are a two-way street, and you shouldn’t expect a fast turnaround or some sort of one-size-fits-all solution. These kinds of campaigns take real investment on the part of your small business, and that means solid research and starting a lot of conversations before you settle on what’s right for you.
When you’re looking for the right sponsorship opportunity, make sure that you have your brand identity in mind. Give careful thought to the mindset of your customers and what might catch their interest.
Remember that a sponsorship is as much about reinforcing the feelings of loyalty your customers already have as it is about attracting new business. Is there a particular cause that makes sense? A segment of customers that you want to target (age, gender, industry, etc.)? What’s your budget? Setting clear goals can help you narrow down your options and seek out opportunities that are right for you.
2. Host an Event Around Your Product or Service
Hosting an event is a great way to introduce yourself in a different context, organized around enthusiasm for your product. Think of something like a listening party at a record shop or a wine tasting. You’re giving away something for free in exchange for marketing in the form of shared excitement about your product. Guests will feel like they have an insider’s view into what you do, especially if you use the opportunity to share your expertise and teach them a little something about the business.
3. Host a Meetup
Another spin on hosting an event is providing space for a group related to what you do. Maybe you’re a bookstore, and there’s a reading group that needs space. Maybe it’s people united around a shared interest in coding.
Meetup has made organizing groups around shared interests that much easier—just make sure there’s some sort of intersection between what they do and what you do. Even if you don’t regularly play host to customers, it’s important to realize that something as simple as a conference room can be a valuable resource to offer someone. It also gives people a chance to get to know you more personally and put a face to a name.
4. Offer Workshops Related to Your Expertise
Depending on what you do for your small business, you may have a ton of skills you can share with other people. Offering a workshop is a great way to connect personally with your customers while showing your expertise in your industry.
Workshops offer the same kind of value as the educational videos you create as part of a video marketing strategy. Yes, maybe showing someone how to unclog their drain will mean you get less routine business, but that is easily trumped by the boost in brand recognition, customer loyalty, and valuable referrals when a big problem hits.
5. Create an Internship
Many local high schools and colleges encourage their students to get internships. Offering one is a great way to involve yourself in your local community.
Before you start thinking about adding an intern as a way to add an extra member to your team without paying them, keep in mind that there are specific legal requirements for what constitutes a paid versus an unpaid internship. You’ll need to be able to prove that the intern is the “primary beneficiary” of the experience, not your business. More importantly, paying your intern greatly broadens the potential pool of applicants, giving you the chance to find someone really great.
What You Can Do Right Now
As a small business, it can often feel like you’re struggling to make the case for why customers should be invested in your success. Reinvesting in how you serve your local community can make that difference and help you stand out.
- Look at sponsorship opportunities, but be prepared to spend time finding the right one.
- Host an event around your product or service to give customers a behind-the-scenes glimpse at your business.
- Host a meetup to connect like-minded people.
- Offer workshops to show off your expertise and generate powerful word-of-mouth marketing.
- Create an internship to get involved in the local community.
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