This is a guest post by Tim Campbell, one of our Social Media Pro community members.
Starting Local, Expanding Online and Circling Back
I started my business in Guelph, Ontario and focused on finding clients locally at first. I’m lucky because Guelph is such a small business minded city and so it wasn’t hard to get started. I will continue to honor my local roots.
Once I got a foothold locally, I looked to the online world to grow. One of the places I connected with was the Social Media Pro community. With knowledge gained, my business expanded.
How do these two worlds collide?
First and foremost, the online growth strategies I’ve learned along the way, can be applied in a specific, small way to help continue growing my business locally. I like having a local foundation because I’ll always have a launch pad to spring from.
Lastly, when you know your ideal client and where they are both geographically and online, using tools and their language with common sense engagement strategies is a surefire way to grow your business locally.
Let’s look at how you too can find clients In your neighborhood!
Start Looking for Clients By Doing Your Homework
One of the first lessons I learned in business that was this: do your homework. And by homework, I mean creating a business plan.
The business plan need not be long or complex, and can even be done in jot form.
When done to completion, it should both inspire and terrify you, while clarifying every aspect of your business and the environment it exists it. Each part of your business plan will answer key questions related to how to grow your business either online or in person:
- Market Research – this section will highlight how many small businesses there are in your city, town or region.
- SWOT Analysis (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) – will show you your passions and strengths, which then reveals who would match your business as an ideal client.
- Marketing Plan – will cover the obvious points like how you will find clients, types of business owners you want to work with, who your target audience is and what your niche is.
- Strategic Plan – will start to discuss tactics on how you’ll actually find clients, who your potential clients are and what will make them choose you over others.
- Finally, a combination of plans will tie together your tactics: so decide whether you want to use a specific social media platform on it’s own, whether you want to combine efforts (like attending events and connecting on LinkedIn with connections) or whether you want to keep your efforts entirely offline.
Never skip your homework: Complete a business plan.
Check Event Platforms to Find Clients
Events are a fantastic way to promote your business (though I’m biased because I’m a potent extrovert). B2B (business to business) events happen all the time: check local chambers of commerce, trade shows and conferences and you’ll find a gold mine of potential clients.
I personally start this process by finding my centers of influence.
First, a Google search with a combination of your city + business events usually yields some great results. Then I look to businesses working with other businesses: Chambers, business development centers, economic development organizations, accelerators and incubators and more. Finally, I check event websites like Eventbrite or MeetUp.
My secret weapon to using local events to grow my business: make it loud and clear on social media. I dedicate time before or after the event to follow people I met, take selfies, get pictures, tag people and make sure everyone and their grandmother knew I was at the event.
Use Instagram REALLY Specifically (Read: Locally)
Let me start by admitting my bias: personally, Instagram has been the easiest social media platform to use to find local clients. LinkedIn was a close second, but Instagram is such a powerful social media platform and has some specific functionality that made finding local clients easy. The beautiful thing is that once you read and learn these tactics, you can apply them to any city where you want to find clients:
- Know your locations, and check in on them religiously. Currently you cannot follow a location on Instagram, but you can check in on it, see and interact with posts.
- Follow local hashtags! While you can’t follow areas, you can follow hashtags, and in my experience every city or region has a hashtag. Follow it.
- Further to number #2, make sure you know all the popular hashtags for the local area. For example, where I am #Guelph is popular, but so is #GuelphBusiness. Do your research and make sure you know what people are posting.
Once you’re on these platforms, start exploring! In some regions, small business owners who offer a niche product or service may also use a custom hashtag, which may be relevant to your audience. You’ll find and refine these efforts only by exploring and seeing who’s connected to who, and what people are posting.
Use Twitter Lists to Find Clients!
I think Twitter lists is one of the most under used social media marketing strategies that can work wonders. Instead of following people on Twitter and seeing everyone’s posts, you can curate groups of people and only see their actions!
With Twitter lists you can:
- Create a list of centers of influence for small business, you can see who they Retweet and engage with (which will probably include ideal clients) and then engage with those business owners directly,
- Curate a list of just business owners
- Explore local keywords and use them in your own tweets to sell your products or services.
A quick note: if you do create a Twitter list of leads, set it to private. Otherwise everyone can see your leads and prospects, and this may turn off those who are on the list.
Find Influential People and Engage With Them
While influential people may not be your ideal client, they will make you one person removed from your target audience. This is also crucial as your influencer will close the know/like/trust gap, creating a sense of familiarity and building trust in you with a stronger momentum towards conversion.
Influential people may include:
- Elected officials
- Executive directors
- Local business mentors
- Event organizers
How you interact with them is your choice: you can have an in person meeting, chat via social media or meet with them at an event.
Use Facebook Groups to Find Clients, Carefully
Social media is a direct reflection of real life, and serves a real purpose. People want connection, community and to come together. This is why groups work so well, and something we’ve definitely seen is the rise of local Facebook groups. How can you leverage them to grow your business:
- Start by doing a Facebook search for your city + businesses and click the group tab, see what comes up!
- Get to know people – and get referable. While opportunities will be posted and it’s great that you recommend a product or service you offer, a referral will always be a stronger choice…so make sure people can refer to you with confidence!
- Stay active, without being spammy or salesy. Yes, we get it you’re in business and want to sell a product or service – but often what leads to decline in local group engagement and lack of sales or referrals is people only posting about their products and services.
Be careful here. Many people often join groups just to promote themselves, but what’s the point of trying to sell in a group where nobody’s willing to buy?
Take The Conversation and Relationship Offline
When I started my business with a local focus, social media was an afterthought to offline efforts. Match your social media efforts to offline activities like
- Pro bono work
- Teaching and speaking
- Event attendance or sponsorship
- Print marketing
- Any other offline effort
To do this effectively via social media and in a way that lands with your ideal client, make sure to be:
- Present at events or places your target audience is present
- Prepared with your 30 second elevator pitch explaining the benefits of your products or services
- Tag the location on your social media post
- Follow the people or businesses you meet
- Tag others you engage with
From Local to Online, and Back to You
If you want to find clients, you have to know who you’re looking for and who they are as people and businesses.
When you work on your business plan and match your social media efforts to everything you want to achieve in your marketing business, you’re far more likely to achieve it.
People love local businesses because there’s something relatable – so engage online, locally. Follow the hashtags. Attend events (online or in person). Be open to potential clients from anywhere and everywhere: because while we’ve talked about you going out and hunting locally via social media, you never know when someone is watching your social media and what they’re gleaning from it.
So get social. Get local. Get to know your neighbors, hashtags and opportunities. Your backyard is a goldmine of business.
I’m a social media consultant and expert based out of Guelph, Ontario and serving North America – and loving every second of my career.
I love working with small (and I mean small) to medium sized businesses, social enterprises and impact driven small business. I do this because digital marketing can be extremely expensive, and means smaller organizations are left behind because they can’t afford an expert.
My specialty is holistic care. Whereas many others JUST focus on social, or a part of social, I see social media as a series of opportunities in the whole portfolio that is your business.