Charleston, SC is a history rich city with thousands of tourists each year, thousands of small businesses & hundreds (no kidding) of networking groups for business men and women. So how on earth are small businesses supposed to grasp their ideal customer when the thought of networking becomes overwhelming? Let me introduce you to the beauty that is better Networking, Social Media Marketing & Content Marketing.
I was introduced to this trade in my mid-teens while working for a hospital in the town I grew up in. Since then, I have fallen in love with the process of small business owners taking advantage of affordable marketing without spending thousands of dollars!
Social Media Marketing, when done right, is your key to success, especially in a tourist town! I'm going to ask you to think about it from the outsider's perspective so picture this: You live in Augusta, Georgia and you are thinking about taking your family on a vacation to the beach. You're a younger family - you and your spouse are in your mid 20's and your kids are toddlers. You're active on Facebook because your mom wants to see updates of her grandkids at least twice a week, otherwise she sends you texts every day until you do post updates. You have an email address and an Instagram. This is your social network! Currently you're on your lunch break at work and you begin to search for a family friendly beach that's not too far away from home. Google brings up numerous beaches and most of them look too much like your college spring breaks, so you keep searching. Finally, you discover Charleston with it's local beaches in Isle of Palms, Sullivan's Island, Folly Beach and more. Plus there's plenty of parks and historic features to tour! You call home to your spouse and at some point book a vacation in beautiful Charleston!
Now let's step back and see where small business owners come in:
1. Social Media Marketing - This is your chance to inspire potential tourists to come to you and your city! For about $1/day you can begin the process of paid advertisements or create content relevant to your business and to your city and start inserting call to actions for your followers to like, share & comment (this brings you into their friend's newsfeeds at no cost)!
2. Become an active member - as a small business member, you cannot always afford to join every business association, chamber of commerce, networking group, etc. Instead, choose your budget for each year and find the associations, chambers of commerce and otherwise that will reach out into your area for you. Most chambers of commerce will cost your business less than $1.40 per day & if you become an active member and participate when you can, you can make that money back shortly! Take advantage of your chosen groups and participate! Make sure the groups you choose are active online, as this gives your business' social media and websites better SEO (search engine optimization). Plus, the more your name in on that RSVP list, the more likely you're going to get valuable leads!
In Charleston there are hundreds of networking groups and meetups. A couple of key groups I've found to be effective are:
Sea Islands Chamber of Commerce, which covers the barrier islands around Charleston, SC and introduces a smaller and more intimate networking group 3 times per month, which is more valuable than a stack of irrelevant business cards that will be put to the side or thrown away.
Tech After Five which is a great connection for tech companies (their attendance is usually well over 110 local techies at each monthly event).
3. Content Marketing - this is perhaps THE most important step for modern businesses! In association with Social Media Marketing, content marketing brings more relevant content to your ideal customer! Content marketing can include: photos of you and/or your employees working or having fun on the job, photos of products/services provided, event invitations, videos of any relevance to your business + more! Photos and videos will be your best friend when starting or building upon your small business. People like to see colorful photos or moving videos that "include" them into your business. Think of it this way: when you walk into someone's home and you see their family or pet photos, you most likely feel included, right? In the same sense, let's make your business inclusive to your ideal customers!