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Community Based Marketing and Loyalty Programs for Small Business


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The Challenges of Marketing in Rural Areas

Close up of a small Christmas tree inside a spherical glass

My clients in rural communities use many ways to reach out to their customers. Traditional things like billboards and signage are not very effective when you can count on your fingers the number of cars that pass by. Another client just realized that being ranked Number 1 on a Google Search in her category does not help in her remote area.

So how do you get your message to this target market? Simple, deliver it directly using focused Marketing Programs. Community based marketing programs such as Loyalty Programs that focus on local businesses and customers in the surrounding geographic areas. Use a geo-targeted approach that encourages residents to frequent local businesses. For example, add location information to your posts so they are listed in searches for businesses in your area.

A great way to leverage exposure is to connect and team up with other local businesses. Do this using joint promotions, geographically targeted advertising, Multi-Merchant Loyalty Programs and sponsored events. “Like” other local businesses on Facebook and use Pinterest to promote your business, and local activities and attractions.

The Holiday Season is perfect for getting organized. Increased traffic into the area benefits everyone. Make the shopping experience special to entice shoppers to frequent local businesses. Time limited promotions, hot chocolate stations and gift wrapping tables make the process more enjoyable.

Small businesses need a different approach to successfully market their products and services in rural areas. They need focused programs that appeal to their target market and encourage them to “Shop Local”.

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“Shop Local” Loyalty Strategies

Women Window Shopping

How can smaller centers compete with the big cities? By developing strategies that encourage residents to shop in their local community. The key to making these types of programs successful is making them flexible enough to work for different types of businesses.

Loyalty Programs are a great way to focus the attention on local businesses. A Coalition Loyalty Program made up of local businesses is a good way to start. Residents collect points and redeem them at other local businesses.

Make it Simple. Signing up for the Program should be quick and easy. Consider getting away from the standard Loyalty Card. There are other ways to do it.

Make it Fun. Use a mobile app to delivers deals and rewards directly to your customers’ smartphone.

Make it easy to Save. A Coalition Program makes it easy to collect and redeem points at different businesses for items customers want.

This type of Community Based Marketing targets customers in your area. It leverages marketing dollars and increases exposure of the businesses that join the Program. Large corporations use these types of programs to increase market share, collect information on customer buying trends to develop marketing campaigns and discounting strategies. Now this type of information is available to small businesses.


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A Smart Phone that is a Reward Card!

WomanWhile doing research for a client, I found a whole new way to communicate directly with customers. A software approach that lets businesses send information about the “hot deal” of the day to their customers’ smart phones.

Merchants sign up and set up the system, then input their deals, rewards and coupons. Customers down-load the app and sign up. When they are near the business, the system does the rest. It transmits the deals to their phones.

This new approach does away with Coupon Cutting and Sorting. Change promotions daily, even hourly. There is no points liability to manage and no risk for the merchant.

I immediately signed up and soon my client joined. It is an easy, effective way to communicate directly with current customers and to attract new ones. Just about everyone is interested in trying out a new app, are you?

LoyalBlocks from LocalBizconnex


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The Marketing “Easy Button”

The Marketing "Easy Button"Everyone in the know, says that you need an online strategy. But, how do you develop and sustain one? Sometimes it is impossible to effectively support all the Marketing initiatives required to implement and even more importantly maintain one . You know what you think when you go to a site that has not been updated since…2000. We have all seen them.

There are many estimates as to how often you should post. Once a day, once an hour, once a month – the frequency usually depends on how much time a business can spend on Marketing. The best approach might be to post when there is a new promotion or something interesting is happening in the business.

If this is still not often enough then providing information on customer and industry trends is a good way to keep the dialog going. A good place to start is to develop a publication schedule. Next, recruit writers. If there are enough resources available some should be from within the business. If not, there are many consultants that can help you.

The same approach can be used in other areas.  Newsletters are a great way to contact your customer base. A great newsletter sent to an up to date distribution list is worth its weight in gold. Remember that your Facebook page can be used as a website, you can update it as often as you want to. Add promotions, coupons and anything else that appeals to your Target Market.

Remember that sometimes we all need to use the “Easy Button” and call someone.


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Integrating Social Media into your Online Marketing Strategy

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Every online strategy should include a social media component. Social Media is an effective and inexpensive way to expand your marketing reach. Use it to build credibility, promote products and services, and reward customers.

Your website is great for describing your business, your blog can provide background information on industry trends, products and services. Upload pictures of products and special events onto Pinterest, and distribute information, coupons and promotions on Facebook. There is also Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram, and there will probably be more in the future.

Developing an online strategy and managing the flow of information can be time consuming. There can be a down side to setting up too many accounts on social media platforms. If you have no idea what you are doing, you can actually damage your reputation and your brand. To be effective you need a clear communications strategy and a way to generate and distribute content to the various social media sites. Be sure that you have the time and resources to maintain them. Do not sign up for more than you can support, or get help.

One approach is to start with an editorial calendar. Use it to outline the topics, events and promotions you want to cover and the platforms that you want to distribute them on. Assign the writing duties to various members of your team and manage the distribution. Do not forget to integrate and monitor the data analytics for each platform. This is a great way to measure your audience’s level of interest in your posts.

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A Question of Loyalty

How do weOpen the Door to Loyalty develop loyalty? This question is asked over and over again in businesses around the world. The answer is different in almost all cases. What works for one business does not necessarily work for another business.

One thing is certain, customers want value for money. Value in some cases is the lowest price, in others it is selection and in others it is service. The answer for your business depends on what your target market is looking for. The key to designing a great program is knowing what you want to accomplish and what appeals to your customer base.

There are different approaches to building loyalty. Loyalty Programs range  from simple punch cards to loyalty cards, coupon clubs and gift programs. If you want information about your customers, then you need a Loyalty Program that collects customer demographics and has the required tools to do the analysis. Coupon Clubs are flexible and some allow you to collect data. Punch cards (paper or digital) encourage repeat business. Gift Programs work best in rural communities where businesses want to reach out to a widely distributed customer base.

Loyalty is hard to measure. Customers change their purchasing habits to fit their economic conditions and what they perceive as the best value. So whatever type of Program you choose, it should be flexible enough to meet your customers changing needs.

Let us know about your plans, please join our Poll.

 


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How to use Lessons from Archery to improve our Marketing Campaigns

MP900404836 In archery, mastering the technique gives the preferred result, hitting the target.

Is this what we are trying to do with our Marketing efforts, hit a target? Is the target a sale? If so, then does technique determine the outcome? Does this mean that continually improving our technique will yield better results. What does this look like?

As a business learns more and more about its target market, it improves the likelihood that it provides the products and services its customers want. This information can also be used to develop better ways to promote the business. It is also vital for developing marketing campaigns that get information to potential customers where and when there is the highest probability of making sales.

Fortunately today results of each campaign can be measured using analytics to track things such as coupon redemption rates, and “click-through” and conversion rates for each post, email campaign and call-to-action. This is way we understand what works and what does not. It is a continuous process, as we identify the type of content that gets the most results, we can then customize the message for the audience.

This type of systematic approach to Marketing gets Sales. Just like the arrow hitting the target, this is the improvement process that yields results.

Reaching your target market is often challenging. Get a copy of our free eBook, ” A Primer on Community Based Marketing”,  to get information about Community Based Marketing Programs. “Like us” on Facebook to access even more resources.