25 Creative Ideas for Gaining Local Exposure for Your Small Business

small business and local networking

A small business specifically focused on attracting local customers has an advantage over businesses with a broader scope. While it still takes some time, effort and strategizing, building up a reputation within the local community is easier than doing so nationally or internationally.

The most obvious advantage to gaining local exposure is increased referrals and customers, but that’s just the start. By becoming a member of the local business community, you will gain valuable new connections, knowledge, and get the priceless benefit of contributing to something larger than yourself.

Every small business owner has a number of options to choose from to raise the profile of your business in the community. Think carefully about which methods are right for you and your business. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

1) Sponsor a charity event.

2) Help plan or host a local networking event.

3) Partner with other local businesses.

4) Give speeches and presentations to relevant groups.

5) Contribute articles to local publications and blogs.

6) Contribute to your local public radio affiliate.

8) Register your website with local directories.

9) Optimize your website for relevant local search terms.

10) Join local business organizations and actively attend networking events.

11) Sponsor a local party, art, or music show.

12) Write articles with valuable advice on local attractions and issues on your business blog.

13) Become a mentor to students and young businesspeople with an interest in your field.

14) Sponsor an educational contest related to your industry that encourages young people to learn more about it.

15) Start an organization or meetup that provides value to other professionals.

16) Offer classes for people interested in learning more about what you do.

17) Create and promote online instructional videos that teach people valuable information about your trade.

18) Participate in local conferences as a speaker, exhibitor, attendee or sponsor.

19) Research who some of the most prominent experts and business people in the community are, and look for opportunities to meet and learn from them.

20) Interview other local small business owners for your blog.

21) Join local LinkedIn Groups and Google Communities and participate (don’t just promote!).

22) Interact with other local businesses, individuals and organizations on social media.

23) Provide eye-catching t-shirts with your business name and logo to friends, partners and customers.

24) Donate a portion of each sale to a local charity, or let customers choose between several for the percentage of their purchase to go to.

25) Start a scholarship for local high school students.

Many of these boil down to seeking out opportunities to get involved in and give back to the local community. One of the nice perks of this approach to business is you get to feel good about the work you do, and benefit professionally at the same time.

Link Building is Dead, Practice Link Encouragement

Within the most of marketing industry, to say that link building is dead isn’t terribly controversial. Nonetheless, many businesses haven’t yet left behind the idea and come to marketing firms and consultants convinced it’s what they want for their business.

The shift in the direction that SEO and online marketing have taken in the past couple of years due to recent Google updates is good for consumers, but bad for businesses looking for an easy fix to outrank the competition.

If you care about competing online, you can’t hire someone to do a little SEO work for you as a one-off project and expect results. Instead, you’ll have to drop the idea of an easy fix, and think bigger.

Content Marketing=Link Encouragement

It’s certainly still true that gaining links back to your site is mostly a good thing, but the quality and relevance of the sites giving you those links matters more than the quantity. The only way to get a link from a site with any authority is for them to want to give it you.

They have to believe that what you’re offering provides value for their visitors, and feel comfortable associating their site and brand with yours. Without that, you won’t get anywhere.

For this reason, the best approach is not to set out to “build” links, you need to encourage them by providing something that relevant sites will value. As you’ve probably surmised by this point, that means content.

The Good News

Content marketing is not an easy, quick fix. It’s a long-term process. But, it comes with many benefits besides link encouragement.

Content gives you the opportunity to earn trust from your audience and demonstrate that you know your business. A consumer trying to choose between a business that talks about how good it is, and one that shows how good it is by giving a taste of the knowledge and expertise it’s able to impart has an easy choice.

With some time, effort and strategy put into it, your business can build up a community around its content that doesn’t just attract customers, but creates advocates. A customer that feels she has a relationship with your business will make sure that people in her life know who to turn to when they need your services. A loyal customer that feels a bond to your brand is a better marketing tool than anything a marketing firm can do for you.

Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses: An Austin Copywriter White Paper

introduction to content marketing for small businesses whitepaper

Are you a small business owner interested in learning more about content marketing? If you’ve heard that content marketing is a good way to promote your business and improve your brand reputation, but want to learn more before you get started, this white paper lays out some of the basics.

Content marketing allows your business to attract new customers and develop relationships with current customers by offering something of value to them.

With this white paper, An Introduction to Content Marketing for Small Businesses, you can get a feel for whether or not you’re ready to get started developing and deploying a content strategy for your business.

If you have questions, feedback, or would like some help developing quality content to promote your business, feel free to contact me at kristen@austin-copywriter.com.

5 Reasons Blogging for Your Business is Worth It

business bloggingThere was a time when much of the population could hear the word “blog” and shrug it off as a silly word tied to an activity primarily practiced by a subculture of writers, hobbyists, and narcissists. Blogging for business is a fairly recent development in the short history of blogging.

Blogging didn’t start as an activity tied to professional advancement, it was a way for individuals to express themselves in a public forum, in the hopes that like minds would find their words and choose to engage. Now blogging has evolved into something hard to categorize. It plays an influential role in politics, news reporting, and marketing.

Blogging can be an intimidating practice for a small business to embrace. It’s not something you can put some work into now and finish – it requires regular maintenance.

The continuous production of fresh, quality content means either a serious time commitment, or the monetary investment of working with a freelance writer. Any business on a budget is likely to wonder: is it really worth it?

Though doubts are understandable, the benefits of blogging for your business are considerable. Five especially notable reasons blogging for your business is worth it:

1) It’s important for SEO.

Google values quality content. A website that produces a steady stream of content lets the search engines know that it’s active. Good content can encourage links back to your site, and a blog gives you the opportunity to develop a content strategy around relevant keywords for greater SEO benefit.

2) It helps build brand recognition.

A blog enables you to grow your online presence. It helps people find you more easily and often, and provides valuable information that they will come to associate with your brand.

3) It lets you show your expertise.

You know more about what you do and the industry you’re in than most people. A blog allows you to demonstrate that. By sharing what you know, you show people that you’re qualified and they can trust you and your business to know what you’re doing.

4) It can inspire customer loyalty.

A business that offers up something of value for free demonstrates a desire to help out customers that’s not all about profit. Giving people an answer to a question they have, or information they didn’t know they needed yet is a good way to build up the kind of good will that inspires long-term customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth.

5) It’s an important component in a good social media strategy.

Social media’s another trend that’s evolved to become an important component of business. It offers you a way to engage with customers and potential customers, and gives you an avenue to distribute the content you produce. There’s little point in putting time into developing a social media presence, unless you can figure out a way to add something of value to the ongoing conversation. Blog posts are one way to do that.

Google + and the “End of Search”

Who likes hyperbole! Well, people who like provocative headlines, for one. Wired has a current article on “The End of Web, Search, and Computer as We Know It.” The gist of the article is that the way we interact with the internet is changing, moving away from static pages and individual searches, and more towards streams of steady information. The author calls this the “lifestream.”

“This lifestream — a heterogeneous, content-searchable, real-time messaging stream — arrived in the form of blog posts and RSS feeds, Twitter and other chatstreams, and Facebook walls and timelines…All the information on the internet will soon be a time-based structure”

You may or may not find the article’s argument convincing, but it does seem to tie in to an issue I’ve been hearing and thinking about quite a bit about recently – the recent rise of Google +.

When Google + first surfaced, it seemed primarily designed to compete with Facebook. It aroused plenty of curiosity and a good number of people gave it a try, but when it came down to it, it couldn’t compete with the main thing Facebook had going for it as a social media platform: people. Everyone was already there, and failed to feel a mass compulsion to switch it out for something new.

Now Google + is embracing a new identity. By linking Google + usage with your authority in terms of how Google determines ranking, Google + is quickly becoming a content distribution platform, with a strong influence on SEO. Or, another way of seeing it, via Copyblogger:

“Google+ is less social media platform and more backplane social layer that transformed all Google products into features of Google+.”

In other words, Google is aiming to leverage Google + into the frame through which all our internet activity is experienced. Potentially moving people away from the traditional search experience, and into a more customized version of the web – perhaps in a way that resembles the “lifestreams” described above.

Who knows if internet usage will move in this direction as predicted, but it’s inevitable that time, the evolution of technology, and people’s ideas of how technology can be used mean our relationship to the internet is bound to change. It’s important that businesses and marketers keep an eye on those changes as they occur and adapt marketing efforts to accommodate consumer behavior.