Keep your Business Local

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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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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Customer Engagement Process

Customer Life Cycle Engagement @kyleplacy

ExactTarget

This slide from a presentation by ExactTarget.com showcasing the “5 Digital Trends Changing Business” is very interesting. It elegantly describes the Customer Engagement Process, and notice that I said process. Not many businesses understand that this is what it is, and that there are many steps involved. They get frustrated after they have implemented one or two promotions with no seeming success.

The Process starts with Building Awareness using online marketing, brochures, print advertising, television, radio, whatever works for your customer demographics. At this point, potential customers start making Comparisons between your products and services and other offerings using online searches, blogs, social media  and old fashion leg work. The next step should be the Purchase decision.

Hopefully, the experience with the business was a good one because consumers often use Social Media to endorse and comment on Products or Services and sign up for company newsletters and future promotions. This is the point where they are engaged, are predisposed to purchase from you again, join your loyalty programs and advocate for you to their network of friends.

As you can see, it is not one single promotion or piece of information. To be successful a Marketing Strategy should include the right kind of content and contact throughout the buying cycle. Once a business understands the steps involved in the transition from Business Getting to Business Keeping, it can better manage the key customer contact points and increase its sales.


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Infographic: Inside the Holiday Shopping Forecast | Inc.com

holiday shopping forecast

Shoppers are starting to get into the Christmas spirit according to the Holiday Shopping Retail Forecast from Infographic. See where and how they are spending their money.

Infographic: Inside the Holiday Shopping Forecast | Inc.com.

Maeghan Ouimet is a business and culture reporter whose work has appeared in Boston Magazine and Rolling Stone. She covers technology start-ups and innovations from the San Francisco bureau for Inc.com. @MaeghanO


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The Marketing Component

Many small businesses have yet to take advantage of marketing resources at their fingertips. Some think that marketing equals big bucks but the increasing popularity of Online Marketing techniques and Social Media mean effective campaigns can be implemented on a small budget. Using these channels any business can build and develop a following that can be converted into market share.

The best marketing strategies combine offline and online activities to direct prospects to a website and a physical location. The most important component of the strategy is defining and understanding the target market. Creating messages that engage that audience will encourage prospects to make contact and to buy.

Ultimately, marketing is an integrated process through which companies build strong customer relationships and create value for their customers and for themselves. Each customer interaction is an opportunity to cement this relationship.

The key to building a successful business is using all the available promotional tools. Combining marketing techniques with social media and programs that reward customers translates into good business.