As a new business, one of the most difficult things to do is gaining traction, especially in the first year. In fact, even businesses past the two-year mark have trouble finding the footing to grow effectively. While most of these businesses may not be doing anything wrong, they could be failing to leverage their biggest source of opportunities: the local community.
The people in the local community will be your first customers. They will be the ones to spread positive word-of-mouth about your business. And ultimately, your strong ties with them will be the main cause of your longevity as a business.
With all these things considered, it only makes sense to create a strong connection with your local community. But how do you even start?
Here are the best ways to do so:
1. Start an online discussion
Building a strong online presence is one of the best ways to grow a small business, but this doesn’t just mean having a big following or posting memes on the regular. Apart from increasing brand awareness and advertising your brand, you must also use your online pages as a means to build genuine connections with the local community. And one of the best ways to do this is by starting an online forum.
If you don’t know how to create or start an online community forum, there are many sources that can help you do so. But more importantly, you have to go into it with the right intentions. Yes, an online forum can help boost your engagement, but ultimately, it should be made for the people, not for the business itself.
2. Say hello to the neighbors
Once you set up shop and get everything settled, it’s time to go out and greet the neighbors. Visit other local businesses in the area and introduce yourself. You may even want to leave your business card or a promotional item (a free sample of your products) to promote your business.
Even if there are no feasible collaborations in the future between you and your neighbors, leaving a good first impression will make them more inclined to refer people to your business when the opportunity arises. And in turn, you can do the same for them and help boost the local economy, which will ultimately benefit your business as well.
3. Join volunteer programs
Take a look at your core values as a business and find volunteer programs that are in line with them. Then, dedicate some of your time to volunteering so you can show through genuine action to the community that you are serious about living up to your values and are willing to put the time in to make it happen.
Furthermore, joining volunteer programs also gives you the opportunity to build your network. You may meet like-minded individuals that can be potential investors in the future. Or at the very least, you can promote your products and services to them while doing something good for the community.
4. Sign up for a local event
Festivals, parades, street parties, and cook-offs can be great opportunities to introduce your business to the local community. These local events attract large crowds, which means that you can get a lot of exposure and increase brand awareness by being a sponsor.
Pro tip: sign up for local events early on. Slots for sponsorships may be limited, and you’d want to be included in that list to take advantage of the crowds. If an event is approaching, contact the business association or event team that will be handling the event.
5. List your business locally
People use their smartphones for almost anything, including looking for products and services nearby. List your business on Google so that it shows up on locals’ searches. Be sure that your Facebook page contains your address as well. This way, members of the local community can easily find your business when looking for particular goods or services.
6. Offer discounts or free products
Nothing gets customers more excited than large discounts and free products. Introduce your products and your business to the local community by offering them for a low price or for free. People won’t know how good your product is until they try it, and offering them for free or a low price is a great way to encourage customers to buy them. Moreover, getting something for free (or practically free) will create good memories about your product, which can encourage patronage in the future.
Growing roots in the local community is one of the key drivers to business success. So whether you are just starting out or are already a few months in, use these tips and start building a stronger connection with the community and everyone in it.