It takes some thought to remember how businesses connected and promoted their products and services before the advent of social media. A list below may have you dusting off
some cobweb-covered memories and for others, it might be new and cool enough to be considered vintage. Let's first talk about why this might be important now, more than ever.
Why is this an important discussion?
By virtue of social media, we have unintentionally defunded and removed a significant amount of soft infrastructure that supported robust local communities across this country. I do mean most everyone has had a hand in deconstructing a system that kept money, knowledge and opportunity local. We've flocked to social media platforms, apps and on-line shopping taking with us our money, time and attention.
Now, many are seeking out community to establish living solutions that are more connected to others and decentralized from the systems that degenerate the mind, body and spirit. There are many well intentioned who are working hard to create new models of community, but I thought I'd take you back a few decades to highlight some successful methods we used that were low and no tech.
The outcomes derived were and still are a connected community with deep roots and investment in your neighbors and communities wellbeing. Note the costs for doing business utilizing some of these grass roots methods. As economic times become unpredictable, these were successful because they were low risk and cost. In some terms, this is the original branding - creating trust and loyalty through one's reputation in business.
Here's your blast from the past.
Local chambers were the most well-known go to for business connecting in communities. They often offered a business directory, a spotlight in their newsletter or at their meetings about your business and an opportunity to "affiliate" market to the members with special offers and discounts. Here's where you can look to find your closest chamber. https://www.uschamber.com/co/chambers
Radio. Yes, it still exists in some communities, but they need your help. Check out their ad rates and consider redirecting some portion of your marketing budget to run an ad. Use a promo code or some tag that will give you feedback on the results. This ranked as one of the first locations one would place an as annual line item for business marketing budgets for good reason. Its net could be wide and ROI high.
Local TV. Very few have remaining local stations, but this was a vehicle for advertising, as well as being featured in local segments. It is where events were announced, new community businesses were welcomed and viewers were educated about how to use the new products and services. Check out your community to see what is available or coming back in vogue.
Flyers. Paper flyers could be distributed to area businesses by the owners and staff to give face-to-face introductions of their businesses and get to know better those in their own community. The results were often collaborative. It engaged an audience with just in time feedback and quickly established a relationship on a first-name basis. Add an introductory coupon for them to extend to their customers. Even better.
Signage. Signage at the store, on one's vehicle and even bumper stickers could be creative and be a community talking point. Seek out creative ideas from your family, friends and staff that people will remember. We all have memories of signage that stood out.
Memberships in local organizations - religious, service, trade associations, etc. Do you know the myriad of local organizations in your community? How many do you belong for engagement in their meetings, activities and trade shows? Think about the multiplier effect of engaging with a group. Maybe best said in this quote by Sallie Krawcheck, "Networking has been cited as the number one unwritten rule of success in business. Who you know really impacts what you know."
Schools: Let's not forget that school teams and groups are always fundraising for trips, scholarships and competitions. Are you sponsoring a team or school? Should you? Even if you are not a parent with children in school, parents who do are grateful for your support. Display ads in the local paper or yearbook, banners at the local games, etc. Dig deep into your community to show your support. Students and parents will remember your business.
Asking for a table top opportunity at a collaborative local business. Have you asked to have a small table in a community business that may be somehow connected to what you do? Have you been into a farm store and asked for a table to feature your fresh produce or CSA? There are a million options. What is important is to remember that if you are buying from these businesses, making your case to highlight your products only passes on benefits to the store in the end. Think supply chain, but small and local.
Word of mouth. Still considered the gold standard, people are most likely to trust a business if they trust the people telling them about the business. Friends, family and business associates are where you are best to start. Ask them to share about your business. Give them the information they are seeking or most comfortable in sharing. Maybe they'd like some flyers. Maybe they'd like you to go with them to meet a few potential customers, face-to-face. Maybe they'd love to have a special coupon code "Friends of ?" to offer up over the holidays or special occasions. It never ceases to amaze, the insurance and real estate agents that are overlooked, the bankers, the dentists, doctors and other health professionals, the contractors and service providers that are all within your network that benefit from your business succeeding. Ask for their help.
"Refusing to ask for help when you need it is refusing someone the chance to be helpful." - Ric Ocasek
Lastly. Authentically, thank EVERYONE for their business and help. Show gratitude. This is a foundation currency for a healthy community to thrive, as well.