A good way to make yourself known as a business person in a small community is to use other small businesses in the area. At first, this may seem like backwards logic, since we are giving our money to our desired customers, or even more paradoxical, to our competitors, instead of the other way around. However, the small gestures of using businesses in your community can be a good way to make good impressions, let others know what your expertise, and also let the competition know that you are willing to build symbiotic relationships. For example, as has happened to me personally, a supplier for your business may hire your expertise after they get to know you by you using their business first. Look at it as advertising by making necessary purchases that you would have to make anyway.
Use Local Subcontractors
A natural follow-on to the first tip, using local contractors and subcontractors is a great way to build business. Subcontracting out can let you take on more business, and if you use reputable services, can build a lot of rapport in the community. Using established subcontractors can build contacts; use them to find out new information about pricing, materials, supplies, local ordinances, etc. Contracting local businesses for various products and services such as office supplies, maintenance, uniforms, marketing, or accounting can give the community a sense that you want to belong there and reinvest your money instead of outsourcing.
A word of caution, however, using local services and businesses could potentially cost slightly more than could be found elsewhere. For instance, your local print shop may charge more for business cards than an online source, such as Vistaprint.com.
Join a Community Group
Many small business and entrepreneur types may not like to be groupies and perhaps do not relish an organizational atmosphere. However, in a small town, most successful business owners know that it is a necessary. You may not find it possible to join the VFW, First Baptist Church, or be elected to some small public post, but you could find it beneficial to join the local Chamber of Commerce, a young entrepreneurs club, Optimist Club, or some other local group that community conscious citizens are drawn to. This brings you into the public eye as someone who cares about the community and not as someone there just for their money. This speaks volumes, and many beneficial contacts can be made and oftentimes these organizations will run features on local business in local news sources. This is a great way to obtain some free marketing and testimonials from an inherently reliable source.
Do a Good Job
Live up to your hype. The bottom line is to make the community feel that you are there to support them. Show them that your business can help the community and that you being there – whether as competition to existing businesses or filling a new market space – is a positive thing. Take the potential interactions and use them as free advertising for yourself and your business, and show them a real person. A face behind a business in a small town is better than an expensive marketing campaign any day.
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