Guest Post: This guest post is written by Mike Ragsdale. Mike is the co-founder of TownWizard, LLC.
Small towns are big business, which is why the Googles, Facebooks, Groupons and Living Socials of the world are all scrambling for a huge slice of the hyper-local pie. But how can your local business stand out in the increasingly noisy world of data-driven deals? By keeping it real. Here’s how:
1. Less is More
Facebook. LinkedIn. Groupon. Living Social. Twitter. YouTube. FourSquare. You just can’t do it all, nor do you need to. Pick two platforms, and embrace them unapologetically. Over time, you can always add more, but in the beginning, just adopt the platforms that most locals seem to use. Some towns are Twitter communities; others are predominantly Facebook fans.
Pick the one or two platforms that most locals seem to be using, and ignore the rest of the online chatter. It’s better to use two hyper-local marketing tools very effectively than to spread yourself too thin across a half-dozen.
2. Write Like You Talk
Stop writing like a brochure, especially when dealing with social media. The key to promoting your brand in a hyper-local community is developing an intimate relationship with your audience through the way you communicate to them. When you are genuine, your customers will notice the difference between you and the next guy trying to sell them something.
Your business is YOU. Let your personality shine through. If you don’t have a personality (or can’t spell), then empower someone on your team to manage it for you. Especially with social media channels, it’s essential to type like you talk -- not like you write. So before hitting that “Share” button, ask yourself: “Would I say this, word-for-word, if I was standing at a cocktail party with all of these people?” If the answer is no, then delete it, and start again.
3. Serve Your Audience, Not Yourself!
“Please click LIKE and tell your friends about our business!” WRONG and painfully annoying. Don’t appeal to people to help promote your business for you. Instead, give consumers something of VALUE. Forget about your business’ selfish needs and think about the needs of your customer. Get to know your audience well and share something that’s relevant to them.
What can you offer or share with your audience that will improve their life, even if only a little? Maybe it’s a vintage photo of the old downtown area in your town or maybe it’s a funny quote or a video; whatever it is, make sure you are thinking about serving your audience. Every time you bring a smile to someone’s face, selflessly, it increases your brand’s mojo.
4. Shine Light on the Little Guy – Reward the Champions in Your Community
Anyone who’s ever owned a small business or managed a local charity will tell you how tough it can be, especially when you’re just starting out. To win the hearts of locals, you need to establish yourself as a champion of small business owners and local charities.
With TownWizard, I wanted to offer the easiest, fastest, and most cost-efficient way for people to start a company that can reward businesses in their local community. Whether it’s a big city, a small town, or a special interest group, TownWizard helps to build a platform for people everywhere to become involved, engaged, and have the ability to connect and promote their local community businesses.
For example, one of our TownWizard partners awards a $25 gift certificate every week to one person who makes his community a better place. You can use a gift certificate from your own business; if that doesn’t apply in your case, buy one or get one donated from a different local business each week. Feature the “winner” on your website and social media pages on the same day every week and tell people why that person helps make your community so special. Not only will you feel great, but when you shine light on deserving locals and organizations, people will ultimately remember and reward you for it. It’ll be the best $100 you spend on marketing each month.
5. A Little Huggie Goes a Long Way – Get Other People to Talk about Your Brand for You
It’s amazing what people would do to win a $5 T-shirt. People love freebies and they love talking about it to their friends. I bought 250 “huggies” (insulator sleeves for beer and soda cans) for about $150, and I give them out liberally, online and offline. People have been raving about them and about my brand.
You should find fun and appropriate items to give out to your customer. It’s even better when the items fit into standard-size envelopes, so they are also cheap and easy to ship as prizes. Give them out to people who share great testimonials about your business or upload photos to your Facebook page. And sometimes give them out “just because”. It costs you less than a buck to make someone happy. You’ll get them bragging about your generosity and talking about your brand to all of their friends in no time.
Mike Ragsdale has built several multi-million dollar businesses, including TownWizard.com, the #1 local mobile marketing platform, with over 130 partners worldwide.