If a good chunk of your customers come from your local area, then you should be taking some steps to make your business “locally famous.”
It’s not difficult, but it does take consistency and commitment to build your company’s reputation in your local marketplace. The great news is that very few of your competitors are doing it. So, if your team decides to take this on, you’ll quickly generate an ongoing stream of local leads for your company.
Here are my top tips for getting your brand well known in your local marketplace:
1) Develop relationships with business reporters
Most cities have several business publications that realize the two actions they need to take to survive in today’s Internet-biased world are: 1) Tell more stories about local businesses and 2) Shift all of their publishing efforts to the online world.
This means that they need – and care about – your expertise more than ever. And, just like you, they are people who value relationships. So invite your local business editor and/or reporter out to lunch (if they can’t make it, then take them coffee and donuts – yes, really!). Ask them how you can help support their efforts. Examples of things they may need include expert quotes, industry trends, interesting or troubling news in your industry, changes in leadership, opening of new jobs, and so on. (NOTE: Don’t bug them when they are on deadline).
2) Contribute guest content for local business publishers
As I mentioned in Step #1, your local business publishers have shifted their focus to the online realm. This means they are on a never-ending quest for great content related to local business. You have an opportunity to showcase your expertise as a guest contributor like I did in this article on Core Purpose for Oregon Business. If you are an authority in a specific area of expertise, you may even be able to get a spot as a regular contributor.
3) Nominate your business and people for local awards and lists
Your local business publications and organizations have a number of awards and lists and always look for exciting businesses to highlight. Examples in my local area of Portland include things like: 100 Best Companies to Work For, Orchid Awards (honoring top women business leaders), 40 Under 40 (recognizes younger high-achieving entrepreneurs), Best CFOs in Portland, Top Oregon Manufacturing Firms, and so on.
The recipients of these awards get lots of press when they receive them. Use Google to find out which local lists and awards are a good fit for your company and people. Then nominate yourself. Remember, if you don’t enter, you’ll never win – since it takes some work, this eliminates a lot of your competitors right off the bat.
4) Shop networking events until you find the right fit, then attend
While I’m sure you’ve already considered networking as an option, what you may not have considered is looking for the right-fit networking event.
Since your time is precious, you should only attend only those networking groups that are going to allow you to meet your target audience. That’s why I recommend shopping around for several months. Search online and ask business friends for recommendations. Attend a few each month to see if your key buyers are actually attending them. When you find the golden groups, then (and only then) is it time to dedicate yourself to regular attendance.
5) Never go out to lunch alone
You have many people in your local area who can connect you with your next new customer. But, if you aren’t meeting with people on a regular basis, then my friend, you are missing a huge opportunity.
Take people you know out to lunch or coffee. Tell them what’s new in your business and explain who you are looking for as new customers. Ask them about what’s going on in their life and how you can help them. The power of people is exponential – so broaden your local network by connecting on an ongoing basis. The more you take the opportunity to nurture and broaden your relationships with people, the more they will refer people your way.
6) Create amazing relationships with your customers
Part of your sales force can be your thrilled customers. If you do everything that you can to delight them, they will refer an ongoing stream of their friends excited to be your next customer. Continuing to communicate with and educate your customer after the initial sale is a great step in this direction. Serve them better than anyone else out there.
Once you’ve delivered service, take the time to follow up to learn if they need anything else from your company. You can also shower your customers with appreciation – surprise them with a card on their birthday, send hand-written notes of thanks, invite them to valuable education events, facilitate peer-to-peer networking events and introduce them to partners that can successfully add value to them.
Making your business “locally famous” will encourage customer loyalty, boost referrals, bring new business, and help strengthen your brand against competitors. These strategies don’t require much money, but they will take time and effort. But remember, you’re not just bringing in leads, you’re nurturing relationships and building your company’s renown… and that’s the kind of lead generation that will keep paying off for months and years to come.
Did we miss anything? Leave a comment below if you can think of any other good ways to get local attention for your business.
Wendy Maynard is a marketing strategist and business consultant who coaches CEOs and leaders on how to build brand awareness and become the top company in their industry. She is the co-founder of Kinesis, a Portland-based marketing firm. You can find her on Twitter and Google +