How to Turn Neighbours into Customers

If you're like many businesses: When it comes to marketing your company, you think big. Sometimes, maybe too big.

Take your publicity efforts, for instance. "When people mention the word 'publicity,' they're usually referring to press coverage. If you're a small-business owner, a positive mention of your business on a national TV program would be amazing," says contributor Lou Casale.

In national waters, however, you're a small fish. If you swim in a smaller lake where you're a bigger fish -- your local community, perhaps -- you might gain more traction that you can later leverage to get attention in bigger markets.

"Before you pitch your favorite national publication a story idea about why your business should be on the cover, make a connection with the reporters at the local newspaper your potential customers are most likely reading," Casale advises. "At the end of the day, public relations is about reaching the public, and even just a mention in the free weekly newspaper that can be found in most communities will guarantee visibility with an audience of potential customers."

The same goes for your networking efforts. If you're having trouble meeting senior decision makers at companies you want to do business with, perhaps one of your neighbors has an "in."

"Find the local Facebook group that never sleeps," Casale suggests. "Every town has one. It's the go-to-destination for local news and information. I can't tell you how many times I have crowdsourced the names of vendors on my community's Facebook page. If you're not already engaging with this group in your area, start now. This is your community, these are your neighbors, and they are all potential customers. Have a presence and join in on the conversation. Share your opinion on local topics and happenings. There will be a time when other members will seek out references -- 'Anyone know a good [event planner]?' If you're engaged with the community, local customers will naturally find you."

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