Today’s business market is more competitive than ever.  This is especially true for small business owners who don’t have the nearly limitless financial resources of their larger competitors.  A large corporation can easily afford multi-million dollar ad campaigns while a small business owner may have an advertising budget of only a few thousand dollars a month.   So how can a small business hope to compete in today’s economy?  This article will discuss a couple of inexpensive and effective local marketing strategies that will help boost a company’s visibility in the community.


Support Local Schools

One of the easiest and oftentimes least expensive ways to raise brand awareness is to support a local school.  This can be accomplished in a number of ways, from advertising at home sporting events to donating time and/or goods for students and teachers.  Advertising at home games can become expensive however, especially if the home team is popular or already sponsored by large corporate brands.

Donating time and goods to the classroom or for school activities can be a very cost-effective way to raise the visibility of a company.  For instance, a bakery might contact the school board or school and offer to supply some goods for an upcoming school board meeting or PTO meetings.

The bakery stands to benefit in multiple ways from a single donation.  During the meeting, its products would be in direct contact with potential future customers.  If the products are good, the people who attended will be more likely to purchase items in the future.  They will also likely mention the great cake or pastry they had at the PTO meeting to friends, and word of mouth is probably the single best way to ensure future sales.

Most PTO groups and school boards will send out letters to parents summarizing the meeting and many also post this summary online.  A small business should always ask to be mentioned in such publications.  Even something as simple as ‘refreshments provided by Acme Bakery’ will help spread the word about a small business and raise brand awareness.

These benefits are not limited to bakeries, this was just an example.  A printing company might offer to print the letters for a school at cost or even free.  A tackle shop might offer to send a representative to the school to discuss fish biology at a science fair or why it is important to be good stewards of the environment.  A charter fishing service or dolphin cruise can offer discounts for students who make the honor roll.  There are many ways a business can gain exposure through a school and these are just some general ideas.

Even if a business can’t think of a way to provide goods or services directly to the school this doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from marketing to parents of children in school.  For instance, an oil change shop can offer to donate $1 dollar from every oil change to a schools book fund.  Or a hair salon can offer a discount to all students and parents of local schools.  Again these are only a few examples and a savvy business owner can easily think of many other ways to market themselves and their business to schools and more importantly parents of school-aged children.


Organize a Fundraiser for a Charity

Another great way to raise visibility of your business is to organize a fundraiser for a charitable organization, or support an ongoing fundraiser.  Supporting a non-profit is a great way to give back to the community.  It will also garner your company goodwill amongst potential customers which is nearly impossible to do with traditional advertising.

Organizing a charity event can be time consuming, but the potential returns more than compensate for the effort expended.  In order for a fundraiser to be effective as a marketing strategy exposure is key.  A sign sitting in front of a business stating ‘We donate to XXXX charity’ isn’t going to cut it.  Instead, a business should contact a charity they would like to support and set up a fund raising event.

The event itself doesn’t have to be at the owners place of business, though this certainly helps.  Any fundraiser should offer a potential donor an option of either using the business’ services or simply making a donation.  This helps prevent the ‘this is just a marketing ploy’ feeling, and will help generate more goodwill in the long-term.  While a charity event doesn’t have to be related directly to the type of business, it is a good idea to try to match the event to services offered by the small business.  For instance, a 5k run is nice, but not likely to generate much interest in a local tackle shop or provide much in the way of increased sales opportunities.  On the other hand, a fishing tournament to provide funding for a local animal shelter could be very effective.  People love puppies, and even those who may never otherwise pick up a fishing rod may do so if the cause is right.

Prizes don’t all have to come from the business hosting the event either.  In the above example a wide-range of prizes could be offered, from free dog toys to a private fishing trip with a top charter company.  The key is to avoid competition between companies donating the prize, and certainly a bait shop shouldn’t offer discounts or other prizes from a competing store.

After the event is organized either the charity or the business should contact local news agencies, radio stations, and television stations.  Ask these public entities to spread the word of the upcoming event to their readers/listeners/viewers including the sponsor.  This can translate into thousands of dollars of free advertising for a business, while generating a perception of caring for the community at the same time.


Both of these strategies help not only to raise the visibility of a small business, but also serve to generate goodwill amongst the community.  There are plenty of customers who will gladly shop at a business that is perceived as doing good for the community, even if it means spending a little more than at the big corporate chain stores.  As an added bonus, both of these marketing strategies can have tax benefits.  And neither of these strategies requires a large investment.  For the cost of a few donated goods and a few hours of time, a business can reach a large potential customer base while cultivating an image as a positive influence in the community.

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