Last month, on social media, I felt the need to speak out about how many people want national recognition but are not known in their local communities. When a politician wants to run for office, they start a grass root campaign. An average Joe can’t just run for president if he is unknown to the public. He has to start locally, and work his way up the ladder. As a small business owner, you must do the same thing.
Trust me, I know the pain of wanting to be a huge brand and have customers all over the world, but sometimes you need to bloom where you are planted first. My twitter friend, Sakita, has put that in my head, and it reigns true. Why ask God to put you somewhere you have no familiarity with? You will look like a fly-by-night company. It’s important to soak up knowledge at any level possible. Grow where you are planted, and then move to the next place. Your local town is greater than you think.
For example, I live in a military town where a majority of the people are transplants. Why wouldn’t I want to connect with these people? It makes perfect sense. These members of the community have friends and family across the country and probably the world. Word of mouth is still the best advertising because it means you have built someone’s trust.
Join Your Local Chamber of Commerce
- Yes, it costs money, but people admire the investment of joining. A majority of the members have been in business for decades. Their companies were built before social media. The community trusts them.
- Form a mentorship here. Find someone in the chamber you admire, and invite them to have coffee with you. Share your thoughts and express why you want them to be a mentor. Don’t be afraid of their reaction, most people think it’s flattering to be asked to be a mentor. First, make sure it’s genuine–faking anything isn’t good.
- Volunteer your services. There are so many chambers that lack the “younger generation’s skills.” Barter your services into a membership.
Attend Local Events
- Sign up for Eventbrite and meetup.com events in your community. If you live in a super small town, set it up for the next biggest town up to a 50-mile radius of your community.
- If there are no events, create them. I always say, “Create your own opportunities.” Contact a local restaurant or coffee shop, and say you want to host a meet-up. In exchange for being able to use their space, offer to promote them as well. Make the meetings once a month. You can charge a small fee, which can cover food if need be. The point is: connect with others.
- Attend events outside your industry. Some of my favorite events I have attended are Tech events. There is so much knowledge in the room, and it also helps to get you out of your comfort zone. Branch out your network–diverse portfolios stay afloat during rough times.
- One of my fondest memories as a kid is of volunteering. I won Youth of the Year in my community, and it felt great giving back. We as individuals need to give back on any level we can. You might not be a fortune 500 company, but you do have 2-3 hours you can spare a week.
- Non-profits tend to lack man power and funds, especially in small towns. If you are a great writer, why not help them get more grants? If you’re savvy at social media, help them build their brand on social media too. Set up a small easy website with a Paypal donation button, and help them collect the money they desperately need.
- Connect with your community on a deeper level. Yes, you are doing it to help others, but you never know whom you will meet. Factor in that the non-profit might give you business.
Growing your brand locally has many perks. Baseball players start in the minor league for a reason: to get accumulated to the rigorous work they have to do when they make it to the majors. Start hitting home runs in the minors and trust the majors will take notice. If you have a solid foundation to start with, it will be hard to break it when you grow into a bigger brand. See the positives in working with your community.