Small businesses have been hit hard recently.  It’s not just “because of the economy…stupid”.  Sometimes small businesses struggle because they can’t get enough online or foot traffic to their location.  If you factor in the riots going on across the country in the name of FREEDOM (yeah right), you’ll see stores are having to downsize or even close because rioters are blocking entrances or vandalizing property. 

It’s pretty rough out there, so how do you survive?

Well, it’s time to think outside the box both in marketing and your target niche.

One of the great things about online marketing is that it opens you up to customers who don’t even live in your area.  A few months ago, I traveled over an hour to a wonderful teachers supply store for my son’s science project.  Great store.  But it is the CLOSEST store to where I live and takes SO LONG to get there.  So the cashier gave me a catalogue and told me I could go to their website or call in an order and they would ship it right to my home.  Perfect!  I do the same thing when ordering cooking spices.  All I need now is my favorite BBQ sauce and I’ll be set!

With an economy like this, you have to open yourself up to potential customers outside of your area. 

Great Cassie.  But how do I get them here?

Think “destination marketing“.  What’s that, you say?  It is using marketing and promotional ideas to draw people to your town, event, or business because of some unique qualities or products or services.

To do this, start by asking yourself a few questions:

1. What’s so interesting about my town?

               You know the old adage “Give and you shall receive”?  This is where you help promote special places in your city or town that only the locals know about.  Highlight events, fairs, restaurants, hotels, outdoor & indoor activities, plays in a local theater, a lecture at a local college or university.  Feel free to promote other local businesses that complement your own.  You can even work out incentive programs in partnership with other businesses.

2.  Why should anyone want to come to my store?

               What have you got that’s interesting?  Tell us about it!  How do you stand out from your competition?  Go ahead, brag!  Are you easy to find?  Do you have a sale you want to promote?  Look around your business to see what makes you special and share it with us.

3.  Why should anyone want to buy from me?

               This goes along with going the extra mile.  Look, you have competition everywhere you look.  It could be a local mom and pop shop, or a big conglomerate like Wal-Mart (Yikes!).  But Wal-Mart is not the answer to all of life’s problems.  You just have to find that one weak spot that Wal-Mart can’t fill and then fill it.  Here are a few more questions to think of:

               Do you offer specially made products?                                     

               Do you sell only American made products? 

               Do you offer a service that none of your competitors offer? 

               Are you showcasing local artists?

4.  Why should anyone want to buy from you?

               This is where you let your product or service shine.  Tell people about its features and benefits.  Give customer feedback quotes.  Tell them what you can do for them.  And don’t forget to set up online ordering for people way outside your area. 

After you’ve answered these questions, then it’s time to develop a strategy to get the word out.  I read a great article on destination marketing that you should read here

The most important thing to remember is that you network with the right people who influence other people’s decisions in you niche market.  As the article says, “as you get the right influencers, you’ve got champions who will send you visitors by the plane load, year after year.” 

I was on the phone a while back with a website developer from out of state.  The town I live in is small, but it has a local airport which I told him I wanted to approach at a later date for my services.  When he looked at the website, the first question he asked was, “Why would I want to come to your town?  What’s so interesting about it?”

Good question.

The great news is it’s a lot easier than you think to draw people in to your area.  Social Media, website blogs, email marketing are some of the latest tools to get the word out.  And you’ll need it if you’re going to attract attention now because not too many people read the local newspaper!

 

PS

I have found some great articles on social media and the travel industry.  Check these out.

http://everydotconnects.com/2009/05/12/6-ways-to-improve-your-destination-marketing-and-why-youre-toast-if-you-dont/

http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/how-social-media-saved-lake-arrowhead-when-city-ad-budgets-ran-dry/

http://www.convinceandconvert.com/social-media-monitoring/social-media-monitoring-tools-how-to-pick-the-right-one/

 


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