Big corporations use the fancy term called “branding” and “brand awareness”. The goal is the same as it is as a small business owner trying to make a name for yourself: familiarity. The customer MUST become familiar with your business. Community building works towards the same goal, where you watch Mikelle help others become familiar with her, trust her, and buy her jewelry and her book. Would someone who has never heard of Mikelle land on her website, read one blog post and start opening their wallet to support her? Highly unlikely. First, they get to know her. Become familiar.
How do you help others become familiar with your business? Here are a few fun, creative ways to get the word out on a budget:
- Work from a Coffee Shop – Don’t start filling out applications for Starbucks. Go, buy a coffee, plant yourself in the middle, keep your headphones out, and hang out for a few hours. People love to get together, meet others, and gab in coffee shops. Pick a downtown, high-traffic location and don’t dress like this is your first cup of coffee of the day. Just be wary of what websites you log in to since you are on unsecured wi-fi; perhaps skip checking your business bank account balance until you get home. Pablo’s on 6th Ave in Denver is a friendly coffee shop that Mikelle frequents – and has sold many a bracelet!
- Go to the Bar – Judge me all you want, this WORKS. Have a beer with a guy, you earn trust bonding at the bar faster than you could imagine. Your business comes up naturally in conversation, regardless of whether you sell lawn care or website development. Once you have steered the conversation to showcase your enthusiasm for your given industry, your new bar buddy is bound to either need your services or know someone who does! Choose a sit-down bar, not a dance club. Wash Park Tavern is a great Colorado bar to meet some new people.
- Go to a Trade Show / Event – Get your stuff on a GIANT SIGN and display it for a bunch of other people in your industry. Are you KIDDING?! Don’t miss this! Especially in industries like tech, software, design, jewelry, or any product that you can plaster on a billboard, this is a fantastic opportunity for people to come to you who are interested in learning more about your business. Get some ideas from a tradeshow display gallery with examples specific to your industry. Never show up at a trade show empty-handed; give away some stuff, and put that on your big sign! Think about industry-specific shows, like setting up at a booth at a wedding gown fashion show if you are a wedding cake baker. Think about it – who comes to a wedding gown show? A bunch of brides-to-be, your exact target market. If you sell performance apparel for athletes, give away sports drinks at the finish line of a local 5k. What better way to spend your advertising dollars than to hand sweaty athletes a drink that attracts their attention?
- Show Up at Those Corny Networking Membership Events – Yea, you know the ones I mean, for “Small Business Owners of Denver” or “Young Business Professionals of San Francisco”, or a similarly cheesy and ridiculous title. People go to these looking to meet people, and YOU are trying to help people become more familiar with you, so spruce up your business cards, dust off your best business-cocktail appropriate suit, and go shake some hands and plaster on some smiles. If you relax a little bit, you may find that you actually enjoy yourself while promoting your business and learning about other people’s! Mile High YP is a great example of these groups.
- Remember Supporting Business Owners Works Both Ways – Especially in the recovering economy, people like to establish symbiotic relationships with other business owners. Show some loyalty to another brand and get some business from that brand’s owner in return! Shop a few extra times at your local grocer instead of Wal-Mart, get to know the manager, and next thing you know he will be asking to fill some rack space with your new product!
These tips are not meant to be a one-time thing. Showing up to one trade show will not flood you with business; talking with 1 business woman in 1 coffee shop will not make you known to all of downtown. Form habits to developing and strengthening relationships to bring in the best kind of new customers: those who are familiar with your business.