Every year my small town holds an event called “Old Home Day.” It’s a 120-year-old tradition where neighbors, friends, and family come together at the town common and celebrate community spirit.
There’s a 5K run. Soapbox races. Music. Games. And all sorts of local businesses come out to sponsor, support, and celebrate the occasion, too. From arborists to artists. Farmers to photographers. Food vendors. A crossfit business. And many more.
If you’re a small business owner, attending community events like this in any capacity might be something to consider. But how do you find these opportunities? What are other opportunities? And how should you take advantage of them?
This article is a good place to start for answers to those questions.
So let’s get going.
Sometimes all it takes to promote your business in your own backyard is your presence.
Town festivals. Business expos. Health fairs. Fundraisers. Farmers markets. If the event seems like a good fit for your business, go. It’s a great way to promote yourself and your business.
Here are a few simple tips and strategies on how to make the most of that opportunity:
1. Do a test run first. Find an event that you think might be a good fit for your business and attend as a visitor first. As you walk around, look to see what’s working and what’s not. One business booth might have a lot of people around it. Another might not. With a little sleuthing, you can figure out why, and put that knowledge to good use later.
2. Learn from other business owners. This sort of goes along with the first tip. Talk to other business owners who have done this type of thing before. They can give you advice on what works and what doesn’t.
Knowing what drives traffic can give you a big advantage. Find out what kind of contests or giveaways work. Think of an easy way to collect information about customers so you can follow up with them later. If you’re selling merchandise, consider setting up an easy payment method.
3. Do your research. When you think you’re ready for a real event, gather all the information you can about who might be there.
Knowing your audience is key. Gender. Age. Local crowd or out-of-town residents? Families or more single visitors. Knowing who goes helps you plan your marketing strategy ahead of time. It also helps you develop your sales pitch.
4. Practice your 30 second elevator pitch. Once you’ve done your research and written your entrepreneur elevator pitch, practice it so when someone walks by your booth, you already know what to say (from the very first “Hello”), and how to keep them engaged.
Tone and timing matters, so practice your 30 second elevator pitch out loud with a stopwatch. It’s a good way to know if you sound drab and dreary or confident and cheery and to know if you’re getting your message across quickly.
5. Build a booth. Deck it out with banners to give it a professional look. The nicer it looks, the more positively it reflects on you and your business.
Booths are also a great way to display brochures and other marketing materials. Perhaps even merch. And they create a buffer between you and attendees, allowing them to approach you more comfortably.
Smile and have fun. When your community sees how passionate you are about your business, they might be more prone to approach you and do business with you. Smiling is a great promotional reputation builder.
And it doesn’t always take an event — or showing up at one — to promote your business in the community. Here are some other ideas to consider:
1. Donate your time to a worthy cause. Let’s say you’re a landscaper. Consider volunteering to spiffy up the entrance of a school with plants and flowers. Add a sign by the landscape that says “Courtesy of [your business name],” and suddenly you’ve done a good deed and promoted your business at the same time.
2. Learn how to promote a loyalty program. For example, if you own a coffee shop, hand out loyalty cards. Every time a member buys a coffee, they get their card stamped. When they amass a certain number of stamps, they get a free coffee. It’s a great way to reward locals while securing repeat business.
3. Look into a referral program. Offer your current customers an incentive to refer their friends, family, or neighbors to you. For example, if you own a dog grooming business, offer free nail-clipping services for the pet owner that refers another pet owner.
4. Join a Facebook Group. There’s a whole section dedicated to this in the article, so keep reading if you’re interested in learning how to join one.
5. Leverage community resources. Your local Chamber of Commerce is a good place to start. They can help you in many ways, which we’ll get to in a bit.
If you go to your local town or city website, there’s a good chance they have a calendar of events throughout the year. The Chamber of Commerce can help, too. Ask around. There can be all sorts of community events out there, including:
Even if you don’t actually attend an event, your business can still be indirectly part of one. For example, I played in a golf tournament recently. There were all sorts of incredible raffle baskets on display from local businesses. Had I not put all my tickets in the local brewery basket (sadly, I lost), who knows which business would have made my day had I won their basket.
That personal story aside (still can’t believe my strategy didn’t work), there are many different ways — and places — to promote your business within your community. Get creative. And don’t rule out social media, which we’ll get to next.
If you don’t already have a Facebook Business Page and are interested in creating one, check out our simple guide on how to make a Facebook business page.
If you already have a Facebook Business Page, great. Let’s now look at the benefits of joining a Facebook Group and how to do it.
Your Facebook Business Page serves an important purpose — to promote your products and services to a wider audience.
Including Groups in your Facebook strategy also serves a purpose. It’s a place where people with common interests can connect with one another. That fosters a sense of community. It also gives you access to a more targeted audience.
Joining a Facebook Group is fairly simple. Just follow these steps.
Step 1: Sign in to your Facebook Profile
Step 2: Find a Facebook Group to join
Step 3: Click on the “Join Group” button
Step 4: Select the Page you want to join as
Step 5: Answer questions (if asked) for membership request and approval
Step 6: If approved, click the “Interacting as…” button and select your business page (if you have one, otherwise select your profile)
Just remember to follow the group’s ground rules. They’re meant to keep posts respectful and relevant.
If you’re a business owner, one rule to look out for is around solicitation. Some groups allow it. Others don’t. Either way, you can still be part of a group conversation without soliciting.
For example, let’s say you’re the same landscaper who spruced up the entrance to the school. In addition, you decide to join your community’s Garden Club Facebook Group. If one of the ground rules is no solicitation and someone in the group asks about the best fertilizers for flowers and vegetables, consider giving advice without pushing a sale or your services. Otherwise you risk breaking the rules and being kicked out of the group.
The information you provide to your group will help them remember who you are. You can make the sale later.
As you think about all the different ways community engagement can help your business thrive, it also may be a good idea to think about how you can protect your business and the people you serve in your community with business insurance.
We even wrote an article that provides specific examples of how insurance can come to your rescue when you need it most.
And it goes beyond that, too. Having insurance can build credibility, which is super important within community circles. Having the right policies in place shows your community that you’re managing risks seriously. Now that’s where we can help.
We love working with small businesses. And just like you know what questions to ask your customers so that they get the best goods or services possible, we know what questions to ask so you can get the customized insurance coverage you need.
Just tell us a bit about your business online or over the phone, and we can help find the general liability, professional liability, workers’ compensation, and other coverages you may need for your small business.
Not only are we thorough, but we make it fast and affordable, as well. We often can find policies in just a few minutes. And because we work with many of the nation’s leading insurers, we can shop for rates and let you choose the price and policy that’s best for you.
Want to talk to a helpful human? Our licensed insurance pros are here to help. Just give them a call at 844-654-7272, Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-8 p.m., ET. Or spend a few minutes with our handy quote tool, and we’ll get to work looking for quotes from respected insurers for you.
What do the Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Week, and Small Business Saturday all have in common? They’re outlets that open up opportunities for your business to thrive. Let’s take a closer look.
National Chamber of Commerce Day falls on the third Wednesday of October. It’s a day to spread awareness about local businesses and to show gratitude to all the chambers of commerce across the U.S. that support the growth of those businesses.
If you’re a small business owner, you might consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce. They provide a community to be a part of and a support system for you to lean on.
Here are a few examples of the value of chambers of commerce for businesses:
It’s tough to thrive in business when people don’t know you exist. The Chamber of Commerce can help. For example, let’s say you’re an arborist and a local resident needs to have trees removed from their property. If that resident reaches out to the Chamber of Commerce — and you’re a member — there’s a good chance they’ll find you and potentially refer you to the local resident.
When you’re a member, you gain access to special events, expos, and conventions. There, you can mingle with other members of the professional community. Talking shop can often lead to opportunities you may have never known existed for your company.
If your small business sells products or services to other businesses, then having access to a mailing list could be huge. Your local Chamber of Commerce not only has a directory of businesses, but contact information within those businesses. Knowing the exact contact for someone with buying power could be very important for you.
Business grants and funding are available if you know where to look and how to apply. For example, let’s say you opened a women’s fashion boutique. A grant might be out there that supports female entrepreneurs. The Chamber of Commerce can help you find it.
Perhaps there are local government rules and regulations that may be holding your business back. If so, you’re probably not alone. Other businesses could be experiencing the same thing. If you’re all part of a chamber and you bring your collective concerns to your local government, you’re more likely to be heard.
National Small Business Week (usually in early May) was created to recognize you — and all the other entrepreneurs who turned a big idea into a small business.
You may see it promoted on social media, in the newspaper, through the Chamber of Commerce, in local schools, on the radio, and other media outlets. It’s an opportunity for your community to say “thank you” for doing what you do.
And while they’re busy celebrating you, there are things you can do to celebrate with them — and promote yourself at the same time. Here are a few ideas:
Create special offers or provide discounts during that week. In a way, it’s you thanking them for supporting you — and helping to make your small business possible. That could build an even greater, stronger following.
It could be anything. For example, let’s say you’re a florist. For that week, maybe you put together a bunch of “Small Business Bouquets” to encourage customers to send one to their favorite local business. Other small businesses get recognized. You get paid. Win-win.
Bring other small businesses together to raise money for a worthy cause. Perhaps you all agree to pool — and donate — 5% of profits to a local food bank. Giving back to the community is a feel-good story that may prompt the community to give back to you.
Branded pens. Notepads. Hats. Bumper stickers. T-shirts. Who doesn’t love swag? Just give your customers something during Small Business Week, and you might be surprised how far a small token of appreciation goes.
Another date to circle on your calendar is the Saturday after Thanksgiving, known as Small Business Saturday. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The push is to “shop small.”
And people do. More than $23 billion was spent in the U.S. on that day in 2021.
But if you want to take advantage, you may want to start advertising early. With a little creativity, almost any type of small business can tie into Small Business Saturday. Here are a few ideas:
Small Business Saturday has been around for more than a decade, so many people know about it. But they may not know your business is participating in it. So get the word out before the day arrives.
Post on social media with the hashtags #SmallBusinessSaturday or #SBS, and share why you’re excited to be part of the day. Send emails or mail out flyers and newsletters. The idea is to let people know you’re there.
People love a good story. They also love a good deal. Entice them with limited-time offers, two-for-one deals, and discounts on products or services. Last year, I walked into my local bakery for free cookies and walked out with a (not-free) cheesecake and chocolate chip cannolis.
If you have a store, consider extending your hours. This is a busy day for committed shoppers. Make it easy for them to stop by when they can. Just be sure to update your store hours online. That will let everyone know you’re taking part in the event and accommodating them in the process.
Let’s say you own a coffee shop and down the street from you is a dog grooming parlor. Why not work together to create something special. Anyone who brings their dog in to get groomed gets a free “puppuccino” gift card from you. And anyone who goes into your shop gets a coupon to the dog parlor.
It’s not only a smart form of advertising, but also a way to build relationships with other small business owners in your area and to strengthen community belonging.
Good things tend to happen when communities and businesses come together. Hopefully after reading this article, you have new ideas on how to make that happen.
With the right promotions, you’ll likely build your audience. With the right insurance, you’ll be better able to protect your business within the community. And with the right partners, you’ll help bring everyone together.
That’s not just good business. It’s a good feeling.
I went to college to be an accountant and graduated with a degree in creative writing. Words won out over numbers, but barely. All credit goes to my parents. Had they talked about anything other than banking at the dinner table growing up—and had they never bribed me with Pop-Tarts to read books, play with my Matchbox cars and quietly exercise my imagination—who knows where my left and right brain would be today.
Chris writes on a number of topics such as legal resources, small business taxes, and social media marketing.
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