One of the reasons it’s so difficult for small businesses to compete with national chains is the sheer amount of advertising resources big brands have in their pocket. Whether you’re a restaurant competing with a national fast-food chain, or a salon trying to get customers in your door, you probably don’t have the budget to advertise during the Super Bowl.
The good news is there are plenty of hacks to get you where you want to go. Instead of shelling out millions of dollars for celebrity endorsements, try to identify who or what is important to your community. Your biggest asset as a small business is your understanding of your community. The closer you keep your ear to the ground, the better you’ll know your customers and be able to anticipate the best moves for your business.
Sure, securing an NFL player for your next Instagram video would be pretty awesome — but there are plenty of other ways to get attention. Try to look at your competition to identify what community bloggers, influencers, or leaders they’ve paired up with in the past. For restaurants, it’s always nice to have a food blogger on deck. As they’ve already marketed themselves as “experts,” getting them in the door can mean securing a quality seal for your business. Whether they’re reviewing your newest product or visiting your restaurant for the first time, their opinion matters. Even if you find yourself questioning their credentials, remember that this partnership is most importantly a way to reach their followers. When you impress them, you can also impress thousands of their fans.
If there are other “local celebrities” that would pair well with your brand, reach out to them! Most people will be flattered that you thought of them, and with the promise of a free dinner or service, even the biggest names will come running. It’s just a matter of matching your business with a figure whose social media following seems like your appropriate demographic. After one “influencer” posts content with your business tagged, a sea of response content will come flooding in, and fans will start tagging your business left and right.
Of course, another way to tie your business to your community is to offer a “locals only” deal. These specials don’t have to be exclusive per se but can rather piggyback on a community event. For example, the night after a big sports game you can offer fans who present a ticket a discount. Word will spread, and hopefully, fans will bring their friends, and the promotional night could end up being a huge sell for your business.
If there’s a popular renaissance festival or gala coming up, your salon could advertise a look-book of different styles for the event. Many people might not even know what “look” they want to go for until they see it, so this could be the perfect way to secure a little extra business. If you can anticipate your customers’ needs before they even have them, you’ll jump ahead in your sales cycle and keep your finger on the pulse.
Generate Word of Mouth Publicity
One of the best ways to advertise is simply through word of mouth. Because this method relies on building a brand through personal recommendations, it instills an extra level of trust in your brand. Presenting your small business as an integral part of the community can eventually lead to this kind of “press,” and it’s something any good advertiser aims for.
The key is to find authentic ways into these conversations. By hosting “locals only” promotions like those mentioned above, you can create authentic moments for your business that will hopefully create lasting memories in your customers.
Host an Event
Of course, you can always try to fast forward and create these moments before your community’s next “event” by hosting one yourself. If your company is interested in hosting a charity night, you can partner with different stores around your area to hold a raffle at your store. Throughout the event, you can offer mini salon services or items from your restaurant’s menu to get customers in the door.
Try to reach out to your competitors to get them to join in as well. Whatever they can donate to the cause will only help your event, and they’ll probably want to get their name on the bill once word about your big night starts to spread. Don’t hesitate to share the spotlight. The more businesses you get involved, the bigger your consumer base will become. Ten different businesses mean at least ten different groups of regulars and a ton of new customers for your business.
Try Unconventional Print Advertising
Okay, so your business isn’t booking a commercial during the Super Bowl — thankfully, you still have options. While many companies are experimenting with online advertising, it’s difficult to say where your results are coming from, and the method doesn’t play well with branding yourself in your community. Instead, try to focus on targeting your preferred audience by figuring out where your current customers live, work, and play. Once you have a sense of the places they already frequent, you can situate your brand in new conversations.
For example, many small businesses choose grocery store advertising over any other medium because it allows for hyper-local targeting. As grocery stores pull the majority of their customers from a three-mile radius of the store, you know that you’re going to reach local customers by pairing with the right store. Some methods, like coupon-receipt advertising, go one step further by ensuring that your supermarket advertisement goes home in the pocket of every single shopper. This medium allows small businesses to print their coupons on the backs of grocery store register tape, so every person who purchases an item is then handed your supermarket advertisement. This ensures hundreds — if not thousands — of daily impressions for your campaign and is part of why so many people choose to go with grocery store advertising.