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Monday Morning Marketing Muse Carol Aubitz

January 28, 2013

Social Marketing at the Local Level

By Carol Aubitz
Author & Marketing Consultant

With all the focus on social media and your online social effectiveness, don't lose your focus on opportunities to do social marketing at the local level.

You might say that local social marketing is actually a return to some old-style marketing, before mass media and technology opened ways to reach big audiences of consumers through mass campaigns.

Social marketing at the local level is the ultimate in customer engagement. There is no opportunity more compelling than interacting with a consumer face-to-face in a fun and captivating in-person experience.

It's also cost-effective, has immense value in gathering information, building customer loyalty, and expanding awareness of your brand. It also lets you differentiate yourself from your competitors in a highly memorable way.

As you look at all the marketing you have planned, think about the many ways you can include social marketing at your local level, such as:

Create Events. Regardless of what type of business you own, you can hold events that will bring customers and potential customers to you. You can control the size of your events. You might want to hold the same event on several consecutive days to maximize your ability to interact with smaller groups on a more personal level.

Events should be fun, should include complimentary refreshments, must have an entertainment element, and should always give you opportunities to create added value with your customers. It's OK to sell products or services at events, but only if it is done in a non-selling, passive way. As you think about what events you can create, here are some categories of events.

Do Demonstrations & Samplings. If you sell products people use, demonstration events where consumers get to try out the products without a commitment to buy can be fun and profitable for you. Getting consumers to experience your product is crossing the first hurdle in getting them to want it. Show them how to use it. Let them use it, make things with it, try it on, taste it, or whatever interaction works for your type of products. It is a great way to build demand for what you sell.

Have Games or Contests. If you are a destination business such as a retail store, create special game or contest days where visitors to your store have opportunities to win something or receive a free gift just for participating. Make your game or contest highly visible. Tie it in with a theme or special occasion, and connect that theme or occasion to your store. Doing something unique can get you a lot of free publicity and generate buzz as it makes your business the center of attention.

Take an Ordinary Topic or Function and Turn it into Something Fun. There are all kinds of businesses that provide repetitive, ordinary services for their customers. Some are blue collar (painting, electrical, plumbing), some are white collar (accounting, investing, engineering/design), and others are gold collar (technology, manufacturing, environmental). The common thread is that they require specific expert training that the average consumer doesn't have.

If you're this type of business think of how to use your expertise in a fun event (not a workshop or seminar) for consumers. If you need to keep the participation level low to be effective, hold the event once a week for consecutive weeks. Be sure to do press notices. Things that are unique get the attention of the media.

Connect Your Event with a Cause. If there is a non-profit, special interest topic, or social cause that is dear to you, develop an event to help that cause, purpose or organization. Your event can raise funds, raise awareness, or provide much-needed goods for the cause. One caveat for this is to realize that a cause supported by one segment of the population may be disliked by others. When you connect yourself to a cause or topic, you can attract like-minded people and alienate those who disagree. Social cause marketing can be controversial for you, but it is highly effective with those who share your attitudes.

If you don't want to invest the time in creating your own events, get involved with the events of others.

Communities, non-profits, and a variety of organizations hold events throughout the year, where they allow participation by for-profit businesses. Look at what opportunities exist for you to reach new consumers at another person's event. Whether its setting up a booth to sell merchandise, doing demonstrations, offering merchandise for fund-raising auctions or providing fun activities or entertainment, it's a way to build your brand with new potential customers.

These events usually fall into three major categories:

Community Events: Towns and cities hold events, usually for a day or a weekend, where for a fee you can set up a booth and sell direct to the attendees.

Cause or Topic Events: These events usually center around a theme. Some are for non-profits; others are just to increase awareness of a need. If your products are a good match for people interested in these causes or topics, participation should be good for you.

Non-Profit Fund Raising Events: All non-profit organizations do a variety of events every year as ways to raise money. These can be sporting events, black-tie dinners with auctions, or community competitions. They all provide opportunities for sponsorships and participation that can raise awareness for your brand and give you new ways to make social connections.

When developing your social marketing plan, be sure to integrate local social marketing with your digital social marketing. Anything you are doing socially at the local level should be posted on your Facebook, Pinterest, and LinkedIn pages. Also put announcements on your website home page. Use your website for signup or registration. Write about it on your blog. After the event post results, or take pictures at the event and post them. If you shoot video at the event, put that video on your website and YouTube.

Social integration of your local and digital worlds will keep your customers interested in you, build buzz for your brand, set you apart from your competitors, get you media attention, and ultimately will build referrals for your products and services. It is a key part of an effective marketing plan.

Check back for next week's Muse where I'll give you examples of events you can do for all the categories discussed today.

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Carol Aubitz
208 Great Lawn Circle
Lancaster, 17602

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