As a small business owner, you’re always looking for new ways to connect with potential customers and bring your existing ones back. With COVID-19 limitations expected to continue into early 2021, it’s more important than ever to make an impact with online advertising and other methods of virtually connecting with your local community.
But how can you stand out from the crowd online?
In this short guide, we’ll go over the best ways for a small business owner to connect with customers in 2021 and beyond.
Refresh Your Look
When was the last time your business had a makeover?
If you’ve been a community fixture for years, customers may be well-acquainted with your brand. With the pandemic, you’ve likely already reimagined large aspects of how you do business and it may be time to upgrade your appearance to match your new business model. Local advertising and taking advantage of digital platforms can be an effective ways to reach your target audience.
Follow the lead from larger national brands like Adobe and Fisher-Price and use 2021 to invest in a brand refresh.
Consider the following projects:
- Revamp your logo – When you ramp up your online advertising efforts, it’s important that customers can easily recognize your brand across all possible channels. This means you need a clean, high-resolution logo that fits your small business’ personality and services. If you don’t have a logo, or if your current one feels out of date, invest in help from a graphic designer or start a contest on 99 designs and invite artists from around the world to reimagine your logo.
- Upgrade your website – When it comes to improving your digital marketing efforts, you must have a strong website where you can lead your target audience to. Your website is where customers go to keep track of changing store hours, ask questions, and make purchases. If you don’t already have an online sales channel, what’s stopping you? Even if you sell in-person services, many people prefer to make their purchases online. Now is the time to work on building a welcoming, attractive website that integrates your new logo.
- Remodel your interior – With less traffic in and out of your doors, you have an ideal opportunity to repaint your walls, reconceive your lighting, and make your retail space more warm and inviting. Don’t have much of a budget? Consider asking other small businesses for discounted goods and services in exchange for advertising as you invite customers to follow your transformation on your social media accounts.
It’s no use running a flashy advertising campaign that ultimately directs potential customers to a slow-loading website or a rundown storefront.
Refreshing your brand (as needed) can help you put your best foot forward as you embark on other local advertising ventures.
Peel Back the Curtain
How well do your customers know you? Not your brand, but you, the owner?
Many small local businesses have seen success after sharing their specific stories with their community.
In Brooklyn, owner Kalima DeSuze has shared the journey of running her bookstore Cafe Con Libros through the height of a pandemic. The shop’s blog allows customers to read about the difficulties of transitioning from a neighborhood coffee shop to a business that thrives not just from foot traffic, but also from monthly mail-in subscriptions.
If there are disruptions to your service, it can pay to be transparent. And if you’re looking to adjust your local business model to your community’s shifting needs, sharing your uncertainty can lead to valuable customer feedback.
Put a face to the business and share your story in the medium that’s most comfortable for you. Keeping things personal can actually be an effective marketing strategy in itself. Options include:
- Social media
- A blog (hosted on your website)
- Your monthly newsletter
For best results, don’t post once. Being consistent is key when it comes to sharing your journey. Commit to updating your customers every two weeks or month as your schedule allows.
Run Local Promotions
When it comes to reaching nearby customers, Nextdoor offers free tools to market your small businesses.
Nextdoor is the go-to place to connect with members of your community - including local customers. In fact, a majority of Nextdoor neighbors say that small businesses are vital to the health of their communities. This makes it one of the best online resources to get in touch with customers who are passionate about uplifting local businesses like yours.
It’s free and easy to create a Business Page on Nextdoor and start connecting with your local community. Once you’ve claimed your Business Page, you can:
- Customize your Business Page by showcasing photos, store hours, pickup and delivery offerings, and your unique story to get your neighbors acquainted with your brand
- Engage with your customers and other local businesses using free Business Posts
- Run promotions in specific nearby neighborhoods via Nextdoor Local Deals
You’ll start showing up in local search results on Nextdoor as soon as you have a recommendation. From there, how much you interact with your community is up to you.
Connect With Other SMBs
You’ve heard the phrase strength in numbers. And now more than ever, small businesses can thrive by lifting each other up.
There are hundreds of ways to cross-promote with other businesses—including businesses in your industry. Consider initiatives like the following:
- Collaborate on a project – Who says the Korean restaurant down the street is competition for your French bistro? You could easily create a collaborative fusion dinner with a set menu and prices. Then, promote on both your channels. Likewise, a small local ceramics shop could create a line of custom candle holders for another artisans’ hand-poured candles. The possibilities are truly endless.
- Give a free gift – Are you a local florist looking for new business? See if local realtors are interested in dressing their homes with your bouquets—with your business cards on the table beneath, of course. If you’re a chocolatier, you could offer samples of your candies to a local restaurant. Giving out free chocolate along with the check could improve your brand awareness within the community.
- Cross-promote – Ask another business to highlight your product, event, or sales on their platform in exchange for promotion on yours.
Reach out to other local business leaders on Nextdoor or simply shoot them an email. You might be pleasantly surprised at how willing other SMBs are to collaborate.
Host a Contest
Running a contest is one of the most popular small business free advertising ideas for a reason—everyone loves the prospect of winning a prize.
How can you create an effective contest? Consider the following methods:
- Tag-a-friend raffle – Create a post on the social media channel of your choice. Ask users to tag two or three friends in the comments in order to be entered into a raffle contest for a free product, service, or gift certificate to your business. Choose the winner at random.
- Giveaway – Want to get more clicks on your website or add new subscribers to your newsletter? Create a giveaway page on your website, and ask people to sign up for your newsletter to enter. Post the link to the giveaway page on social media. With advanced analytics, you can still advertise to the people who click without ultimately entering their email address.
Although you’ll be giving away a product or service, new customer connections will make your contest well worth it.
Retarget Your Existing Customers
Above, we mentioned that it’s possible to target people who click on your website even if they don’t ultimately enter a contest.
If you have the budget for paid advertising, use advanced analytics to retarget the people who are already clicking on your advertisements, visiting your website, and even putting products in their carts.
You don’t need a giant marketing firm to make this happen! There are fairly easy-to-use tools on Facebook and Pinterest that allow you to create ads for a specific user group like the following:
- Followers and people who have “liked” your posts
- People who have viewed your profile
- Visitors to your website
Connect With New Audiences Online
Sometimes, paid advertising simply isn’t in the budget. In this case, one of your most important assets is your social media brand.
While most social media platforms have paid advertising features, it’s 100% free to:
- Create unique still, video, and text content
- Interact with customers and answer questions via Direct Message
- Comment on other local business’ posts
Take inspiration from the other small local business leaders you admire—but don’t be afraid to think outside the box, too!
Recently, a Sherwin Williams employee and TikTok star went viral for mixing paints. While he was ultimately fired for his off-the-books marketing efforts - a move that was widely criticized - his videos grabbed a lot of attention .
If your employees are adept with emerging social media platforms, encourage them to post about the business (or take your own stab at it). What really matters is getting new eyeballs on your business and products.
How to Have a Big Impact With a Small Budget
There are more ways than ever to connect with potential customers. The key is picking the advertising methods that are most comfortable, sustainable, and effective for your business.
In 2021, try out something new with one of the following ideas:
- Reimagining your business’ digital and in-person footprint
- Sharing your journey as a small business owner with customers
- Collaborating with other SMBs to cross-promote goods and services
- Connecting with your neighborhood via Nextdoor
- Using contests and emerging social media platforms to broaden your reach
As long as you’re putting yourself out there, you’re bound to keep making connections with your local community.
We’re hoping these advertising tips pay off not just in 2021, but for years to come!
Better Marketing. The Best Rebrands of 2020. https://medium.com/better-marketing/the-best-rebrands-of-2020-d5bc58b8d0
Cafe Con Libros. We’re Hiring. https://www.cafeconlibrosbk.com/post/we-re-hiring?postId=5fb0d4e0e76a6e0017a986e8
Buzzfeed News. A College Student Behind A Massively Popular Paint-Mixing TikTok Page Was Fired From Sherwin-Williams. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/tanyachen/college-student-behind-a-massively-popular-paint-mixing
Claim your free Business Page to get started on Nextdoor. For resources on how to use Nextdoor to stay connected with your local customers, pertinent news affecting businesses, and more, follow us at @nextdoorbusiness on Facebook.