We are a nation of small towns. Did you know that about 76% of US towns have fewer than 5,000 residents? And of those, a whopping 42% have fewer than 500 people! That means that a lot of those Americans rely on small-town businesses. However, those same businesses often struggle to break even without the much-needed influx of big-city money. In some regions, there’s a regular tourist trade that helps out; but it still requires marketing finesse to attract those customers.
And for areas without regular tourist traffic, it’s a whole different ball game. Fortunately, in this digital age, it’s easier than ever to attract big-city customers with online options for goods and services. Read on to see how you can make your small-town business work for you.
By doing a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis of your town, you might discover ways to market your small business that you never imagined. Your small town might have an interesting historical landmark or outdoor recreation options that attract visitors - or could attract visitors, with the right marketing.
Say you own a bakery on Main Street in a town of 4,000, and your town is in a beautiful lake district a few hours from a large city like Chicago or Madison. You’ll want to use your PR campaign to target those cities, which have thousands of residents that take annual vacations to small northern towns. Sell the small-town experience to big-city dwellers looking for a country weekend away from it all, and advertise your bakery as an example of classic home-town America.
Getting big-city customers to your small-town business often means that partnering with other small local businesses can boost both of your bottom lines. Maybe your small town is near a ski resort, and you’re trying to promote your bed and breakfast. Your PR campaign should target skiers and snowboarders, and if you work in concert with the ski resort, they can advertise local accommodations for those who attend the resort.
Another way to boost business by creating associations between businesses along with joint marketing (which can also help save you money) is by creating bundle or package deals for visitors. For example, create a package that includes a daily lift ticket to the ski resort, a night’s stay at your bed and breakfast, and a meal at a local restaurant. Three small town businesses profit and the tourist saves money, too.
This might seem obvious, but the key is to advertise in novel ways and in avenues you might not normally consider. Say you’re a small-town florist and gift shop struggling to make ends meet simply because the demand isn’t there. You could put an ad in the local paper - and that’s not a bad idea - but most likely, all the residents of your town are already aware of your existence, so it’s not going to significantly boost your business.
If you have a reliable tourist trade, consider advertising in places where they normally gather. Go back to the example of the small town in a lake district. Where are tourists seeking a weekend on the water likely to congregate? Think boat rental shops, bait shops, and local bars and restaurants. Or consider the ski resort town. You’d want to advertise at the ski resort itself, as well as local hotels/motels and other lodging, as well as bars and restaurants close to the resort. This is going to get your advertising the most traffic.
But what if your small town doesn’t have regular tourist traffic? Maybe you own a business in rural Iowa. Your town is surrounded by cornfields, soybean fields, and pastures for cattle. There are no major natural wonders - just open skies and silos.
Or maybe your general area gets tourists, but your town doesn’t. Let’s say you live in the wilderness of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s a rugged and beautiful land, dotted with extremely small towns that often struggle economically. Maybe you own a local restaurant, but your town is so small that visitors to the UP just drive through it - maybe they stop to gas up and grab coffee at the single gas station, but that’s it.
In these cases, you need to adapt. Find a way to offer your goods and/or services online or virtually. Say you’re the baker from the first example. Create a website and offer to ship your baked goods around the country. You’ll want to look into online ads and target Facebook, Google, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media platforms. Most businesses can find ways to transition to e-commerce; you just need to get creative!
Let’s go back to the one-stop-sign town in the Upper Peninsula. You own a bed and breakfast and are struggling to fill your rooms. You might need to put your imagination to the test and find reasons why people should visit your town. In a place like this, a focus on the great outdoors can often be effective. You’d have to look pretty hard to find a small town in the UP that isn’t near some area of natural beauty.
Say you live in a tiny town within driving distance of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore along Lake Superior. Your town may be small, but over 1.2 million tourists visited this area last year! That’s over 1.2 million chances to attract big-city customers to your small-town business. A targeted PR campaign can make or break your business. Find out where people are going in your area and hit those places with advertising.
Online PR can be the best friend of a business in a small town. Remember that local newspapers/magazines/circulars will only reach local residents; to draw in outside visitors to your business, advertise outside your immediate area. Online ads on popular social media sites can bring awareness to your company. Any goods or services you can make available online can greatly grow your business and a PR campaign offering these goods/services can bring new expansion that you’ve only ever dreamed about.
Imperium Group is an American public relations and marketing consultancy firm. Founded in 2016, it specializes in guaranteed placements, creating utmost transparency for its clients. Imperium Group generates over 15M impressions a month for its clients. Its team is based out of New York, Dallas, and Los Angeles.
For more information about Imperium Group, please see https://navigator.imperiumgrouppr.com/.