I think social media has been the biggest marketing help for local businesses.
Many coffee shops, gyms, restaurants and more have used and continue to use social media as a way to earn attention and new business in their city, town or region.
I remember in 2006 when Facebook came to my college. About a month or so into it I got a request to be friends with a local tavern. That was my first introduction to someone using social media to drum up business. I thought it was genius.
But even all these later there are local businesses that are still looking for ways to use digital marketing to boost sales. Here is one method that’s a bit traditional now, but that can still work wonders.
That’s right. Email.
Email was the first major cool thing about the Internet. I just finished reading Hard Drive, which is the story of Microsoft. They were using email back in the ’80s and employees loved it.
I think I got my first email address around 1996 or something. AOL of course. I would read every email that came into my inbox. Didn’t matter if it was spam or what.
And the thing is…I still read every email that comes into my inbox. I’m much more selective about what I let into my inbox, but I still pay close attention to everything. So when an individual or business gets access to my email they have my attention.
That’s true for a lot of people. Not everyone checks their email multiple times a day or even everyday, but they check it often. And when they do they give a lot of their attention to it.
A few years ago about 79% of people had email addresses. This continues to increase.
Email is old school, but it’s effective.
An email newsletter is something you send regularly to subscribers. You can provide just about any kind of information you want. And that’s something I hear businesses asking: What type of content do I create?
For local businesses I’ll often suggest that they start a local email newsletter. One where they become the go to source of all things local. The best restaurants. The best activities for families. Upcoming events. Everything.
Then the business owner or manager will give me a funny look and say something like: But I’m a dentist. That stuff has nothing to do with dentistry.
When you’re a dentist pretty much 100% of the people in your area are potential customers. But they’re thinking about dentistry, what…0.01% of their lives? Maybe even less.
How are you going to get their attention if you’re only creating content about dentistry? Yes, you should create content about dentistry, but there is so much more opportunity.
The name of the game is attention and local businesses can win the attention of the community by writing about everything in the community because people think about their local happenings a lot of the time.
Here are a few quick steps for creating your own local email newsletter.
Step 1. Signup for MailChimp
The great thing about MailChimp is that it’s free to signup. You only pay when you start reaching a certain number of subscribers.
It’s also incredibly easy to use. If you’ve never created a newsletter before you can use it.
A few tips:
Don’t worry as much about the look and feel right away. It’s important, but you can learn over time. The key to this is to get consistent with scheduling your newsletter. Lots of great emails started out as basic text and some of the best ones still are just text.
Also, as you grow your subscriber list (more on this later) focus on keeping it lean. Every 6-12 months you can login and sort your subscribers by those that haven’t ever opened. So you can say, “anybody that hasn’t opened in 12 months” and delete them from the list. They’re not interested. No use in paying to have them on the list.
Step 2. Create A Source List
By Source List I mean a list of people, websites, newspapers, etc. that will provide you with local news and information. A big part of what you’re going to be doing is curating information about your local community.
You can still go out and break news and do things yourself, but you’re providing a key service by curating everything about your community into one newsletter. You’re saving people time by putting all the information they need and want into one place.
But to do that you need sources.
Subscribe to all the local news sites and blogs. Even their Facebook and Instagram pages. Send regular emails to the local event organizers and event venues. Build relationships with the local restaurants, coffee shops, musicians and all those kinds of things. Local shops and stores too.
Step 3. Put Someone In Charge
Key point here. You have to ask yourself if you will really commit to doing this newsletter. If not, put one of your employees in charge of it. Communicate to them that it’s a priority.
The reason is that you’ll get into this and will eventually hit a spot, probably within a few months, where you’re feeling like all the work is a waste of time.
Which brings me to the next step.
Step 4. Set A Schedule & Commit Long-Term
I almost feel like with email or blogging or social media that it’s best to forget about analytics for awhile. Maybe even forever. The only analytic you need is long-term sales.
With email you’re investing for the long-term. Any company out there with a great email program has probably been doing it for 5+ years. That’s the minimum commitment you’re looking at. If you’re not willing to commit that long then you’re better off not doing it because you’ll be disappointed.
I would recommend a weekly newsletter. If that seems daunting then start with one per month.
But one per week is probably the best place. Maybe look to send it on Monday to help people start their week or even on Friday at lunch time so people can plan their weekends.
Start creating the newsletter every week and put your head down. Don’t pay attention to the analytics. Just make it habit and continue doing it. Pick your head up every year to check on the analytics.
Step 5. Add Subscribers
Ask every person that comes into your place of business to signup.
Use your social media channels to ask for subscribers.
Use your website to ask for subscribers.
Go to local events and ask everyone that comes by your booth or desk or whatever to signup.
Ask other local businesses if there is a way you can send an email for them and ask if you can ask their subscribers to signup for your email newsletter.
Some of the key things to include in your newsletter include:
- Food & Drink
Everything that is going on and happening in your community. There is no reason a local business like a dentist or retail store or restaurant can’t be the source of this kind of local information. It’s a great way to earn the attention of people in your area. People that are all potential customers.
It’s hard work. It’s long-term. But that’s the opportunity. No one else will probably be doing it, but it’s something people want.