Having a marketing plan may sound like something only large companies need to worry about, however, even small rural businesses can benefit greatly by implementing some very simple marketing techniques. Promoting your business to new and existing customers does not have to be costly, but there are certainly some areas where you should consider investing. Here, we are going to look briefly at a few areas that every business, rural or not, should be aware of.
Running your own business is no easy task, and your to-do-list is guaranteed to never end. However, you should not use this as an excuse to take short cuts when it comes to having online visibility. Beginning with your website, it’s vital to position yourself online with a strong, professional destination that gives potential customers the impression you mean business and have the motivation to want to engage more with your customers.
We live in a world where people Google before they shop or visit, this even more true of rural businesses, as by their very nature people will have to make a conscious decision to visit them. Because of this you should ensure you have a website that gives the best possible first impression. Beginning with your website, consumers are passing judgement and making decisions about whether or not they will give you their custom. They are likely to dismiss you entirely, should they believe your website does not reflect the kind of experience your business, or a business like yours, should offer.
The sign on your premises is your handshake with the public, and that handshake is the first impression being made to potential customers. Often, people judge the quality of a business on that first impression, so consider your signage to be as important as the homepage of your website. Signage should be large, legible, uncluttered, and passing motorists should be easily able to read it. It is also important to properly maintain your signage; it refelcts your commitment to your business standards to the public. Rural businesses should especially bear in mind that signage is not only vital to attract passing trade, but to help first time customers actually find you.
There is no getting away from the fact that a social media presence is vital to any business these days. Remember that social media is a dialogue and conversation. Small businesses can leverage platforms to expand visibility, increase sales, or inform their audience. An active social media presence will also help improve your SEO (search engine optimisation).
Managing social media takes little effort or time. Depending on the size, location and industry of your business, you might focus on more visual platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest. Platforms such as Facebook also allow visitors to ‘check in’ when they visit, thereby expanding your audience to friends of the user. Get involved in online groups in your area, this way you can promote any new products or offers to your local market.
Social media does not have to be complicated. Keep it simple by investing in a few platforms that aim to engage your audience and customers while positively representing your brand. The key to social media is to post little and often, and to never post anything that could be seen as offensive or divisive (i.e. sports or politics), and don’t take yourself too seriously, have a little fun!
Similar to social media, be aware of what is being said about your business online. Sites such as Trip Advisor usually give a good indication of how customers perceive your business, so take this as constructive criticism. If someone has posted a negative review, always take the time to respond in a polite and professional manner, and invite them back so you can turn a negative experience in to a positive one. Others will see that you have dealt with the review gracefully and your business will look better for it.
You should also sign up for any free online directories you can find (Yelp, Thompson etc.) to create a listing. The easier you make it for people to find information on your business, the more likely they are to use it. These listings will also contribute to your overall SEO.
Contests, Coupons, and Incentives
Consider running regular promotions to incentivise people to use your business, these could be starting a contest, creating a customer rewards scheme, or offering regular special offers on products or services. Customers love to feel they are getting a deal, and the costs to you are likely to be minimal. In the case of retailers, talk to your suppliers and encourage them to organise regular tastings or samples at your business. Most will be happy to do so as it will be encouraging sales of their products, and it is a great way of directly engaging your customers and increasing spend. As an added bonus, it also gives you great content to post on all your social media platforms.
Engaging the community
No matter what type of rural business you have, you should be engaging with your local community by getting involved and giving back. This can be anything from having a stall at the local town fete, offering something as a prize in a raffle, to sponsoring a local sports team. More often than not, the greatest cost to this will be your time, however your perception in the community as a business that cares and wants to get involved can be invaluable.
These are just a few ways that any business, rural or not, can improve their visibility and appeal to new and existing companies. As you can see, none of the above require much in the way of time or money, so there really no excuse not ensure that you are doing all of them to help your business.