20 Great Ways to Market Your Business Locally

Whether your target audience is in your neighborhood or across the world, you can use your local resources to get the word out about your business. Your local community is easily accessible and provides dozens of opportunities for building a buzz about your product or service. The following are twenty ideas to get you started.

1. Offer Your Product or Service as a Free Give Away ? For example, if you own a restaurant, you could have your local Holiday Inn give away dinner gift certificates for $10 to hotel guests during check-in. If you own a car wash, you could have the local car dealerships give away a certificate for a free wash with all car purchases. Think about businesses that are complimentary to yours and offer a promotion that is easy for them to implement and that will benefit their customers.

2. Donate to Local Charities & Schools ? Offer your products, services, or gift certificates for charity auctions and events. This will get you exposure to everyone who attends the event and build loyalty with members of the organization you are supporting- not to mention a tax write-off!

3. Leave Brochures, Fliers, and Business Cards Everywhere ? Many local businesses will allow you to display your cards and brochures. Potential venues include:

* Car washes

* Bookstores

* Coffee shops

* Apartment buildings (near mailboxes or in laundry rooms)

* Churches

* Student centers

* Community centers

* Retirement centers

* Fitness centers

* Subways and bus depots

* Fraternities and Sororities

* Libraries

4. Canvas Nearby Neighborhoods ? Instead of just leaving a flier, you could leave an inexpensive item or tips booklet. One local Realtor stuck an American flag on the lawns of everyone in our neighborhood and then left her brochure on the doorsteps. Not only did the neighborhood look wonderful with all of those flags waving in the wind, but everyone loves a patriotic theme. This is a great strategy for all kinds of holidays: Independence Day, Veteran's Day, Memorial Day, etc. You could take this idea a step further and do something similar for all of the major holidays. You can find inexpensive novelty items in bulk from www.rinovelty or www.orientaltrading.com.

5. Hold a Contest ? People love to get stuff for free and contests are a great way to lure in new customers. Make the prizes something people want, or even just a gift certificate or shopping spree for your business. Be sure to alert the media to your contest. Here are some contest ideas:

* Have kids color pictures or submit stories related to your business.

* Have customers submit funny business slogans.

* Hold a poetry contest with a theme related to your business.

* Have people submit their best solutions to problems related to your business. For example, if you own a garden center, people could submit their best gardening tips. Take this a step further and publish the entries in a booklet when the contest is over.

* Host a recipe contest if you have a food-related business.

6. Use Gift Certificates Creatively ? Gift certificates are great for business because they cost you next to nothing, bring in cash, and often they are not redeemed. Get your customers to buy gift certificates by offering them a special bonus. For example: Buy a gift certificate for $20 or more and receive $5 off your next purchase with us. When the customer purchases a gift certificate, you then give them one worth $5 dated for use the following month only. This means that your customer must return to you the following month and if they do, will probably spend more than the free $5 you've given them.

7. In-Home Parties ? Mary Kay, Tupperware, and Pampered Chef are just a few of the companies who generate big sales from small parties. This strategy won't work for all businesses, but if you have products that would benefit from an in-home party, contact your friends, family, and business associates and get the party started.

8. Join Local Trade Organizations ? Many organizations hold regular meetings and free seminars, providing you with another opportunity to make valuable contacts. Toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org) has chapters all over the U.S. and there are probably dozens of other organizations in your community to choose from. Even if you don't think your business can benefit from networking, you might be surprised by the connections you can make at these events.

9. Join Everything ? Even the PTA (Parent/Teacher's Association) can be a great place to network. Join book clubs, writer's groups, or any groups of interest to you, even if they don't directly relate to your business. Get known by everyone. They will associate you with your business as soon as they get to know you and your mere presence at functions could serve as a reminder and cause members to want to do business with you.

10. Use Networking to Build Alliances ? The secret to effective networking is to not just be on the lookout for what business contacts can do for you, but to consider what you can do for them. When you meet someone new, ask questions and engage them in conversation. Offer advice or ideas, build a relationship and trust between you. Once you've established a rapport, offer to meet for coffee or lunch and see if you can brainstorm ways to work together.

11. Set Up Shop at the Farmer's Market ? If you have a food-related product or anything of interest to the general public, the local farmer's market is a great place to not only generate sales, but to increase exposure to your business. Visit www.farmersmarket.com for a directory of these events.

12. Swap Coupons with a Complimentary Business ? Offer to give away their coupons with each purchase while they give away your coupons with each purchase. Each provides the other with coupons and runs the promotion simultaneously. Make sure you print a special run of coupons or give them some unique identifier (printed on a special color of paper, for example) so you can easily track the success of the promotion.

13. Give Away Free Tips ? Tips sheets or booklets can be a fantastic marketing tool. Put together a list of tips, similar to the tips you're reading now. Your tips could be as few as ten or as many as 100. For example, a financial advisor could put together a tips sheet called "Twenty Ways to Save on Tax Planning." A beauty salon could offer "Ten Tips for Ageless Skin." A child care center could give away "Twenty-five Tips for Child Safety."

Print your tips sheets or booklets and give them away as a bonus with purchase or use them with your advertising. If you offer something of real value, people will be more likely to hang onto your list and refer to it over and over again, thus you are providing a consistent reminder of your business. Make sure your contact information and logo are printed on the documents.

14. Smile for the Cameras ? Television news programs like to host guests who have visual appeal. If there is something you can demonstrate, or an interesting presentation you can give, pitch your idea to local news program producers (locate their contact information from their websites). Watch your local programs to see what kinds of stories they feature and how you can tailor yours to meet their needs.

15. Offer Something Wacky ? One northern California restaurant started a "Bald Tuesday" promotion. You guessed it; anybody who was in a stage of balding could eat there for free on Tuesdays. Not only did this bring people in for a free meal, those patrons brought along paying customers with full heads of hair. And the biggest benefit of all? The media loved the story and covered it in the local news. Soon the story reached national news and the restaurant became the talk of the nation. Think of something unique and unusual that will bring people in-then be sure to alert the media.

16. Online Classified Ads ? One fabulous venue for getting the word out about your business is www.craigslist.org. There is no charge for listing your add in a variety of categories and Craigslist now has a presence in most major cities. Ads are archived for two weeks, so be sure to resubmit regularly. Try different ads to see what works best. You can even offer a discount or special offer for people who print the ad and bring it to you.

17. Record Audio CDs ? It can be relatively inexpensive to record a CD using your computer with a recordable disk drive. You can put together and audio presentation that your prospects can listen to in their cars. Assemble a display and give them away. You can also place them in the same types of venues where you distribute fliers.

18. Turn Your Customers into Billboards ? Give away your shirts, hats, and other gear or sell it at cost. The big companies print their logos on everything and get people to buy, so you can too. Make sure it's something of interest that people will want to wear. You could put a fun image or phrase on the front of a shirt, with your company logo and website address on the back. Be creative!

19. Make it Stick ? Magnets are an inexpensive way to leave a lasting impression. Print your business card and logo on a magnet. Many people stick these on their refrigerators and will remember it's there when it's time to call a plumber, do their taxes, or order supplies. These are especially effective for service businesses. You can order these from www.4imprint.com.

20. Use Your License Plate ? It only costs a bit extra to order vanity plates from the DMV. If your business name fits on a plate, put it on there. Be sure to frame it with a vanity license plate frame.

Your local community is a great place to build support and recognition for your business so don't miss out on this valuable opportunity. By implementing even one of these suggested marketing strategies, you could open new doors for business opportunities.

About the Author:
Stephanie Chandler is the author of "The Business Startup Checklist and Planning Guide: Seize Your Entrepreneurial Dreams!" and founder of http://www.BusinessInfoGuide.com, a directory of resources for entrepreneurs. Subscribe to the newsletter for hot tips and small business tools by sending an e-mail to Newsletter@BusinessInfoGuide.com.

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