Let’s say you run a small business in a relatively small town or suburb. You want residents of the area to know about your business and ideally buy your product/service. What are your options?
- Advertising: This is probably the most conventional approach. This can apply to billboards, print/newspaper ads, television ads, or even online ads (i.e. Google). This will, of course, cost you money — and the ROI of advertising has never been conclusively proven.
- Events: You can host a lot of different events at your physical space, or out in the community. These can be directly related to your product/service, or they can be networking mixers, potlucks, community get-togethers, etc. This also often costs money, although an event such as a potluck wouldn’t cost much.
- Word of Mouth: This is your ideal spot. Referral from friends/family tends to be the highest driver of sales for a product/service. If you have a great product/service, word of mouth will build organically over time — but it’ll take time. If you’re a small business, sometimes time isn’t on your side.
- Social Media: This is the intriguing one, as it’s only been a factor for the past 12-13 years (and some channels, such as Snapchat, have only been a factor for 2-3 years).
In smaller communities, social media is actually a strong play for small businesses. Community residents tend to care about businesses close to home (think of “eat local” movements, for example), and will take an active role in supporting them. This takes basic forms — likes and shares — but can also go one tier further.
If you’re a small business owner in a smaller community — or maybe a one-person marketing team — consider combining two of the concepts above: social media and events. If you augment your social media with meet-and-greets or “pop-ups,” this can be an effective method for the word of mouth portion above.
Here’s a quick example. Let’s say you run an ice cream shop in a town of about 30,000. Your social media feed can share items such as:
- Pictures of your ice cream
- Articles about how much people love ice cream
- Fun facts about ice cream
- Other things happening in the town (to support other businesses, which will then in turn share some of your work)
- A video with people in the town discussing their favorite ice cream
- Cute pictures of cats licking ice cream (big engager)
That would be your “content” side. That keeps people interested in your page and central idea.
Now, you bolster this content with events, such as:
- 1 hour of free ice cream giveaways
- A tour of your facility to see how the ice cream is made
- An ice cream social after work
- A happy hour-type event with ice cream and Bailey’s, etc.
When you combine the content side and the events side, you drive the word of mouth side. That keeps people locked into your shop, and once you’re capturing retained customers and referred customers, your business will start to flourish.
In bigger cities, where there might be thousands of small businesses — including hundreds offering the same type of service — it’s much easier for social media posts, and even hosted events, to get lost in the shuffle.
In smaller towns, though, social + in-person events are a great marketing mix.