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How Being Involved in your Community Can Help Grow your Business

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Home-based business in the United States is a $465 billion a year industry and is still growing. In 2005 it is reported that over 150 million people owned their own Internet business. According to Raymond Boggs, IDC vice president, Small/Medium Business and Home Office Research, “The Internet has become a critical communications and promotional resource for the largest share of small businesses, changing the way they reach customers and prospects.” Shop.org reports that online sales grow between 20 and 25% each year and that they are expected to reach $211 billion this year. So how does the average small business get their share?

As the Internet world continues to grow, many changes are occurring in the field of Internet marketing. After explosive growth in the last decade, pay-per-click advertising is becoming an obsolete method due to the high fraud rates. By October of 2006, 27% of advertisers had slowed or stopped their pay-per-click advertising. (Outsell Inc. 2006) More and more consumers report how much they dislike pop-up advertising. Arbitron/Edison Media reported in October of 2006 that roughly 71% of computers use pop-up ad blockers. The new ‘fad’ in successful internet advertising is in using email and blogs. These can both be used effectively at a fraction of the cost of traditional Internet advertising mediums. The Internet has in so many ways leveled the playing field for small businesses to market themselves into the realm of big business. But there are even better ways to gain visibility on a small budget.

The term ‘viral marketing’ comes to mind here, with a twist. The best way to get involved with other businesses and consumers is to market to them directly. However, since door to door solicitation is as unwelcome as cold calls and spam, there are ways to get in front of your customers. One of the oldest tricks in the book is to become involved in your community. This allows your prospective customers an opportunity to get to know you. Many times, if people trust you already, they will more likely come to you when they need the product or service you sell over someone else whom they don’t know. In addition, when you really know your customers and what they need, you can then offer them personalized products and services. This is how you develop your niche. Tailor made services to your customers will earn more business through word of mouth referrals than thousands of hits on your website. Even if your business markets over the Internet on a national or even global front, remember your roots and get involved locally. These actions will not replace your online marketing, but simply enhance it.

By following this approach, you will establish name recognition and credibility for your business. Basically, you will promote your business locally through joining the Chamber of Commerce, other local business networking groups as well as several service organizations as a volunteer. Volunteering in local non-profit service organizations such as Kiwanis, Rotary or serving on the local Church or Hospital board will do several important things for you. One, it makes you visible. If people see you out in the community and then they receive your advertisement via a regular email newsletter or your listing in the phone book, they will have that personal connection that you seek. Second, because you are in this group and that group and you participated in this activity that was covered by the newspaper, people will begin to become familiar with your name. Your name will appear in the newspaper and the newsletters that normally are put out by these groups. Your business will have opportunities to sponsor local charity events which again, will be covered by the newspapers and get you even more name recognition. The organizations that you will become affiliated with will have websites that you can reciprocate links with. And, remember those newspaper stories? Those along with the pictures that were taken make great content for your website, promoting your local connections and activities. All of this helps build your credibility on a professional level.

This works for just about any business out there. Businesses such as massage therapists, pet groomers, bakeries, retail businesses, day care providers, bookkeepers, online, marketing or auction product businesses all can benefit from becoming active in their community. Not only do you feel great and help others, your customers get to know you as the face behind your business. In a big way, selling yourself is just as important as selling the products themselves. People like a connection when doing business. Sell yourself as trustworthy and committed to the community in which you live and you will establish a foundation of credibility. Not only will you gain loyal customers, those same customers will promote your business exponentially. The cost? Just a little time and a smile!

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