Source: As the cost of marketing and advertising continue to rise and become out of reach for the average locally owned small business; business owners need to consider alternative community outreach efforts in getting in front of their next potential client. Samuel K. Burlum share some methods on how to strengthen your business's local community brand. 

Any proven marketing and advertising medium needs about ninety days in order to create top of the mind brand awareness with potential consumers who come in contact with marketing and advertising pieces. The cost of an effective marketing and advertising campaign can range tens of thousands of dollars, when including a mix of print, radio, social media, direct mail, and online advertising. Most small businesses cannot afford an effective comprehensive advertising campaign long term. On the other hand, small businesses cannot afford being seen by potential consumers.

So what does a business owner to do to get in front of people? There are many community oriented relationship building opportunities within the business’s local surroundings. Here are eight methods of reaching potential customers in place of expensive advertising campaigns.

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One way a business can connect with the local community is to get involved in sponsoring local youth sports. Whether is sponsoring a local team or youth league, your business can benefit from being seen in the local youth sports network. Options include soccer, little league baseball, football, softball, and basketball. Most of the time, a business’s image and name can be found on player’s uniforms, on sports fields billboards, are mentioned in press releases, are mentioned by the game’s announcer, and are thanked on social media and in the media. Many parents will usually patron businesses that support their children’s interest.

2). Hold a free seminar at local library, VFW Hall, or Senior Facility Center. The great thing about hosing a free seminar at the local library, VFW hall, or local senior community center, is that in most cases, there is already a captive audience which can be notified about your event. Usually, these organizations will provide a monthly calendar of events for their constituents, which may have interest in the subject matter you desire to present. You will want to present an informative seminar on an industry topic you are an expert of knowledge in. Include in your presentation some facts and history about a leading concern, then present ideas and trends that are taking place to solve the issue. This is a place where you present as an expert, as an authority, without directly selling your products or services. In these cases, you’re providing a public service, where at the end you can hand out your contact information if anyone may have further questions or suggestions for you.

3). Volunteer for a good cause in the neighborhood (fund drive for local fire department or first aid squad; or raise money for an individual or family hit by a devastating life event). Volunteering is another way to build a bond with the community. You can sponsor a fundraiser, or just show up to support as many of the local fundraising efforts which benefit the community. When others see that you are generous with your time and your money, it will be notices. Whichever you give, money, your time, or both, make sure you do it from a place of sincerity, from the heart. People can spot fake intentions from across a room.

4). Get involved in your local church. Your local church can be a place where you can get to know others who share in the same values which you have in common. Whether it be to support their events, fundraisers, community outreach to the needy, or just make yourself available for set up and tear down of events, helping your local church can help you connect with others.

5). Get your business listed on Manta, Merchant Circle, and Yelp- as clients for them to leave a review and rate your business. Customer reviews and ratings rule the internet when grading a local businesses’ dedication or lack of customer service. You will want to ask your customers to leave a positive review on your Manta, Merchant Circle, or Yelp profile, after they have had a positive customer experience. Building a legion of online positive four and five star ratings and personal experiences by your clients can help spread the word of the great products and/or services you provide.

6). Join a local business or trade organization. Rotary, Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, BNI, LeTip, are all business to business environments. By joining these groups allow you to network and connect with fellow business owners and leaders within the community. These networks offer a number of opportunities, including but not limited to sourcing new vendors and suppliers, connecting with prospective clients, acts as a support system, and even provides educational resource tools to build your business.

7). Show up to other community events and town meetings. Getting involved in local politics can either hurt or help your business. It is wise to take some time to understand the legislative climate your business is subjected on a local, regional, and even state level. Showing up to a few meetings will provide you first hand insight to the challenges your business may face as a member of the tax paying community. Other attendees will take notice that you have an interest in the interworking of the local government, which a dialog can then be created.

8). Write a blog of how to tips for your clients. Public awareness and public education are methods for informing your clients on subject matters important to them. You can share how to do something or how to fix something. If you own a hardware store, you can discuss how to do a particular home project, and then at the end of the discussion, provide a parts list and a coupon for potential readers to patron your store. If you are into health and wellness, you can share recipes for healthy meals, or a fitness regiment that has helped your own health situation. Blogging allows for you to connect with potential customers by sharing your expertise from the comfort of your living room.

Most of these practices only require your time. If you are to be noticed and remembered by your local community, then you need to be proactive in providing an extra value service that is important to them. Done with sincere intention, potential consumers will take notice of your noble efforts.