You own a business, so you already know that marketing is essential to keeping your doors open. Forbes says the first step is to figure out who you want to sell to, and the next is to determine what it’s going to take to get them to buy. It sounds easy enough, right? But what if you want to really set yourself apart?
For the Chickasaw Nation, a Native American tribe that’s located in Oklahoma, the key has been to bolster the wellbeing of the communities in which they operate. In the year 2011 alone, the Chickasaw Nation paid $525 million in wages and spent another $119 million on goods and services from the state of Oklahoma. Don’t let those numbers scare you, though. This illustration of community contribution can be applied to any business, no matter how small. Any goodwill you garner in the community is likely to come back to you in the way of business.
According to the University of North Carolina Wilmington, a strong marketing plan includes understanding your customers. Creative marketing ideas draw you nearer to the public and put you in the position of better understanding what customers are looking for.
One of the following ideas may help get your creative juices flowing, depending on the image you’d like to build in the community.
Give potential customers a reason to come into your business during off-hours. While you may be saying, “Wait! I want them to buy something,” there is a method to this mad idea. Sponsoring an event that brings customers through your door gives them the opportunity to become familiar with your business and feel comfortable in the space. In a sense, they’ll feel “at home” when they do come back to shop. Here are a few ways to bring them in:
· Sponsor an art show, featuring the work of local high school and college students.
· Offer classes that tie in with your business. For example, if you own a bicycle shop, offer classes in bicycle repair.
In a world bathed in daily pressure, creating a fun atmosphere is a good way to draw customers into your business’ doors. There are a number of ways to associate your establishment with fun:
· Organize a flash mob, complete with a choreographed dance.
· Have a contest. Provide cardboard cutouts of your business logo along with instructions saying that the person who takes a photo of the logo in the most interesting location wins. It’s a great way to involve social media pages, too.
· Conduct a monthly drawing. Encourage customers to fill out a small card with their name and phone number on it. Draw once a month for a pair of tickets to a theme park, professional ball game, movie theater or other relaxing activity.
You’re not alone when it comes to wanting to promote your business. Here are some ways to work with local businesses for a win/win situation:
· Place a small basket of goodies along with your business cards in someone else’s business. Allow them to do the same in your establishment.
· If the kind of advertising you would like to do is out of your price range, consider splitting the costs with a business that coordinates with your own. A gift shop might coordinate their advertising with a party supply store, for example.
Soft selling your business is as easy as providing visual reminders that you exist. Some easy ways to do that are:
· Pay or barter with the owner of a pizza shop to add stickers featuring your company logo stickers to the top of their pizza boxes.
· Have matchbooks made up with your business name featured on the cover. While smoke shops and bars are generally happy to make them available to customers, candle and gift shops can also give them away with their products.
The Chickasaw Nation is so serious about the importance of relationship-building that they have created the Chickasaw Small Business Development Center (SBDC) to help other business owners — like you — make the best connections possible. Show some of that same dedication (though likely in smaller amounts) and you can be on your way to your own creative advertisement, too!