Small businesses often have more challenges marketing their business than larger enterprises, not least because their budgets and resources won’t stretch as far. And COVID didn’t help, either.
But small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are our local heroes. They’re the businesses that employ us, provide us with the services and products we need, and engage in our communities.
According to Statistics Canada, small businesses made up 98.1% of all employer businesses in Canada in 2021, employing 10.3 million people, while medium-sized businesses employed 3.4 million people. Together, they play an important role in the economy.
And times have been tough, and it’s more important than ever for SMBs to have a strong marketing plan to build their customer base and increase revenue.
The Benefits of Community Marketing
Using community advertising is a great way to do this, and we’ll share some tips below on how to do this while maximizing your SMB marketing dollars as a small business in the US and Canada.
Many marketing plans will focus on quickly getting new customers, but community marketing focuses on relationship-building. It’s about building communication, engagement, and loyalty—priceless attributes that any company needs.
Community marketing can align your brand by creating a strong sense of connection and belonging in a community—i.e, a solid social experience in a mutually beneficial relationship.
Gen Z, especially, are more value-driven than previous generations and want to connect authentically with brands. And community marketing is the perfect way to reach them.
Here are our tips for a strong SMB community marketing plan.
1. Set your targets to measure success
SMBs will often use their marketing budget on an as-needed basis, so getting every bang possible for your buck in a marketing campaign is even more important.
For it to succeed, you need to know what that measure of success is. Finding the endgame for the campaign and what you really want the outcome to be will inform how you refine and repeat it.
Is the goal to increase brand awareness, grow the number of customers, or strengthen the bonds of existing customers in the local market?
The key is to prioritize the goal based on need and determine what success looks like for the campaign.
2. Know your audience
Tapping into the community can yield enormous benefits, especially if you know your audience.
Any demographics, such as location, age, interests, and income, will be helpful, as it will help you determine how to reach your target audience. But there’s more when it comes to community marketing.
What does this community value? What brings it together?
Often, communities come together around sports, local arenas, and sports facilities, which offer considerable opportunities to SMB marketers, as they tend to attract a large and diverse local demographic.
Finding where your target audience assembles in a community and advertising in a meaningful way in places they enjoy and care for will align your brand with these positive moments and locations.
3. Make the most of Google’s free products
When it comes to SMB community marketing, many often need to pay more attention to the powerful yet free Google My Business, which is now known as Google Business Profile.
With this Google service, businesses can reach local customers through Google Search and Maps.
It’s incredibly helpful to increase visibility on Google and to increase or improve your ratings and credibility with reviews (something millennials and Gen Z use enormously in purchasing journeys).
That indispensable online presence—along with your website—can perfectly complement your community advertising campaigns when you’re targeting local customers.
For example, if you’re advertising in the community, you can integrate your local campaign with a wider national online one (more on this below!).
3. Choose your social channels wisely
As an SMB, you might not be making the most of social media, as it requires significant resources.
You may be tempted to have an account on all social media channels and be scrambling to keep those up-to-date and interesting.
But there may not be time and budget to do this well.
So, instead, analyze your current channels and find out which ones offer the highest number of engagements.
Then, focus on your target audience and where they tend to be.
For example, if you are targeting families, a great place to start may be on Facebook, where the parents of Gen Z are currently hanging out.
If you’re trying to reach children, maybe TikTok is a better place.
Choosing one or two channels and doing those well will yield far greater results than engaging only sporadically on many platforms.
Engage with locals by publicly liking, commenting, and responding to events like sports games, parades, and other events in the community.
And if you’re already advertising in sports arenas and recreational facilities, integrate the campaign with your online social channels for maximum engagement.
Use the 60/30/10 rule, with 60% of posts on engaging content, 30% reshared from other places, and 10% promotion/sales content.
4. Find the niche and monetize it
To stand out, you need to find your niche.
Finding your niche is about cutting through the noise by making your brand relevant to that community.
For example, you could find ways to personalize your product or service for, e.g., soccer mums and dads who support their kids’ games, and make your campaign relevant to that group.
This will help build deeper connections as the niche recognizes the value and relevance of your brand.
Finding ways to monetize the community niche as a new revenue stream can also build good credibility for taking your marketing efforts further afield.
5. Create shareable content
Lead with expertise. Today’s audiences (and communities) enjoy sharing content, which helps them build links with other like-minded people.
Effective content should be engaging enough that people will want to share it.
Use your community marketing campaigns to tie into what’s happening in the community and create compelling content around that.
For example, is there a highly anticipated sports game being played soon? Consider sports advertising with a fun and relevant message that supporters will want to share with other fans.
Consider making videos, tutorials, webinars, and blogs, or use advertising opportunities to promote educational or thought leadership content from the community.
This is an interesting method of showing authenticity and value to prospective customers.
6. Be present in the community
SMBs are the lifeblood of a community. Their advertising in local venues is what keeps money flowing through a community.
They support local charity efforts, sponsor events, and attract business to the community.
Community recreation centres and sports areas offer an excellent opportunity to be present in the community to show that you care.
These facilities are high-traffic areas where families come to cheer their teams, and advertising there reaches people when they are at their best, spending leisure time and enjoying themselves.
As an SMB, you can advertise in a sports community centre with messages of support to a local team, showcase your products or services, and show value.
7. Integrate your campaigns
Make the most of local events by using integrated marketing campaigns.
Integrated marketing isn’t out of reach for SMBs. It’s about ensuring your messages across all your marketing channels are consistent.
It can be easy to lose control of the message on social media, for example, or promote something on a direct mail campaign but not on the website.
Keeping the same visual aesthetics, the same offers, and the same voice across every customer touchpoint will increase brand awareness, whether it’s for your billboard ad, your website, or your in-store experience.
8. Leverage local brand ambassadors
Word of mouth is priceless, and community marketing offers opportunities to turn your local brand ambassadors into ambassadors.
If you can find trusted individuals in your community who value your brand, you can engage with them and create a mutually beneficial relationship.
This can lead to more user-generated content (UGC), either from your ambassador or their followers, and reward loyal clients (by making them feel part of the team).
UGC is more credible, as followers can relate better to peers than to SMBs themselves.
9. Offer value & use repetitive advertising
You’ll have better engagement with the community if you can bring value when it comes to your advertising and marketing.
This helps you stand out and be seen as a more integrated part of the community and, therefore, more memorable.
When you’re advertising in a community, think of how you can add value. Perhaps it’s by sponsoring an event at the community centre, or maybe it’s by promoting a local sports team at a sports arena.
Whatever way you do it, make sure your message is repeatable and repeated. Marketers often use the word ‘effective frequency’, the time it takes someone to hear/see your message before it’s absorbed or remembered.
So think simpler message, more often.
It’s better for your advertising to be in front of 20,000 five times than in front of 100,000 once.
10. Create emotional bonds
You can maximize your SMB marketing by creating strong emotional connections with your target audience.
Emotional marketing works, and it works wonderfully in communities.
Emotions are always heightened at sports centres, arenas, and recreational facilities. That energy can be leveraged by placing ads in these venues to make captive audiences remember your brand, share your content, and become loyal customers.
Is it time for your SMB to add community marketing to your strategy?
Let Rec Media help you get there. We can:
✅ Increase your visibility at local, regional, and national venues with terrific CSR opportunities
✅ Help make your SMB marketing easier with one-stop shop aggregation and execution
✅ Guide you with our more than 25 years of experience and expertise solely in this space
Connect with us for a quote 🎉