While watching one of my favorite baseball Kevin Costner movies, a Ray Liotta line struck a chord with me.
‘If you build it, they will come.’
This line from ‘Field of Dreams’ spoken by Shoeless Joe Jackson to wannabe farmer Ray Consella, compelled Ray to mow down one of his Iowa corn fields and build a baseball diamond for the ghosts of wayward baseball players to come out and let off some steam. And while he had the faith to build the field despite all the criticism, for the longest time, the only people who could see the value of what he had done was him and his family.
Think about how this pertains to business. Especially today, people think if they build a website customers will automatically flock to it. If your business has a URL, it has a built-in audience and in turn, built in customers.
But nothing could be further from the truth. Just ask one of the many former business owners who are now working jobs at McDonald’s. They’ll tell you they had the product. They had the support staff and they had the location and website. What they didn’t have was the ability to get the word out about their business, their products and their services.
It doesn’t take a full-fledged marketing team to make sure sales numbers reach profitability. In fact, I’ve seen companies with large marketing staffs run the brand into the ground or make little to no impact on a company’s bottom line.
It just takes 1 person who knows what they are doing to strategically evaluate the market needs, the available budget and the reach needed to achieve those goals. Some of the easy wins are low-hanging fruit so easily forgotten now because people think of ‘newer’ outlets. But their affect, especially on a small business, shouldn’t be taken lightly and most certainly shouldn’t be forgotten.
Do you have these bases covered?
No One Will Cheer For You Like Your Home Town. It’s true in sports and it’s also true in business. That’s why it is so important to get out from behind the computer or the desk and get yourself and your business known in your community.
Just because people CAN go to your website to find out about you and your business doesn’t mean they will. Sponsor a local little league team and attend a few games to get to know parents. Talk up what you do – offer them discounts. This type of connection – helping kids in a fun and athletic way – plugs you in to a community of people who are influencers in schools, businesses and in churches. A few hundred bucks can go a long way to help you in your endeavors.
Step In To Help Rookies Just Getting Started. There are Small Business Development Centers all over this country and daily, people engage with them to learn how to solve their business problems and also to get started in business. Become a volunteer at the center, speaking or mentoring and you’ll soon find being a partner of the SBDC to be extremely helpful – not only in your business, but in meeting people who can also help you.
Commerce Is the Ultimate Home Run. If you want to get the skinny on doing business in your area, the keys to the kingdom are held in your local Chamber of Commerce.
By becoming a business member of your chamber, you will have access to the membership not only as potential customers but also has mentors and as colleagues. Chambers put on events constantly within the community and the organization and its members encourage buying local and developing business growth. They also have marketing tools you can utilize. Your membership will cost, but the benefits are a grand slam.
Get Your Name In The Program. It baffles me beyond belief how many businesses forget to do the simplest of things – get your name and business info in all the local business directories. The phone book used to be the end-all of marketing listings but now, we are so inundated with more cutting-edge tools, we forget to list our companies on YP.com and our local business directories.
Remember: There are people out there who aren’t as internet savvy as we are and still use online phone books to let their clicking do the dialing. … Most listings are free of charge but if you’d like to add a logo or something you can do so for a nominal fee. Make sure to sign up on all the heavy-hitting sites, but also don’t shy away from local online business directories as long as they seem reputable.
Who Doesn’t Love Trading Cards? While your business card probably won’t wind up behind glass in a hall of fame somewhere, it still is an excellent tool for making contacts. Many businesses have done away with business cards as a cost-saving measure but this tangible contact reminder is important for those of us who are so busy, we forget names and faces.
Make sure you create a card true to your brand and business and also make sure it is error free. Today’s cards are created and printed so fast it’s easy to get the box of 5,000 in the mail and discover you spelled your own name wrong or put a comma where an apostrophe should be.
Don’t Get Thrown Out Because of a Bad Call. The world is glad you’re online – really. But your local customer won’t be so very thrilled if you don’t have a phone number. Some people still prefer letting their voice do their talking vs. their keyboard and fingers.
You don’t have to have extra lines put in your house. Use an online phone service like Skype or Grasshopper and give the old-fashioned customers out there a little piece of mind. Some customers want to know you’re real – not just virtually everywhere.
For this run around the diamond, I have completely exhausted my inventory of baseball metaphors as they pertain to this topic. While I take a little break to think of some others (maybe I’ll move on to basketball now …) give me your thoughts. I’d love to know some of the grassroots efforts you’ve used to build brand and gain local business.
Until next time, this is Deanna Murray, signing off from … (insert favorite stadium name here) …