Everybody needs good neighbours

by Basil O’Hagan

Getting your business off the ground can be an expensive exercise – and that’s even before you start marketing. As a small business owner, the best place to start is by focussing on potential customers in your community or neighbourhood.

But, how do you reach them?

We’ve identified a few great hyper-local, low-cost efforts to get you started:

Welcome to the neighbourhood

If your store is in the suburbs of a major city, then hundreds of people are moving into your neighbourhood and your store’s feeder area every month. They’re new to the area and are keen to quickly establish a network of businesses and suppliers who cater to their needs. Get in there quickly by targeting them with flyers and mailers welcoming them to the neighbourhood and inviting them to take advantage of your Welcome Specials.

Data analysis companies like P:Cubed (www.p-cubed.co.za) are recognised, approved-database companies that can tell any retailer who has moved to within five to 10km of their store during the last three months, for example. They are able to supply databases of consumers you are legally allowed to approach with digital and physical mail offers. The database is approved for use under the Protection of Personal Information Act. New home owners have needs related to DIY and home improvement and can be directly targeted for these. A new homeowners list can be obtained from direct-marketing and data-analytics
companies.

With many of us living in sectional-title complexes these days, the role of the managing agent has become important. Many managing agents carry advertising on their websites, or run listings of suppliers in their areas. Consider advertising on these platforms, or becoming one of their preferred suppliers. If you are a plumber, a garden service or a building contractor, this relationship can become invaluable.

Neighbourhood post box drop

There are many ways to distribute physical flyers. Dropping them directly into the letterboxes of homes in your neighbourhood is certainly one way. Like any marketing message, whether it’s sent via email, SMS or post box, success depends on the actual offer, the headline and whether it’s catchy or not. “Mother’s Day Hotel Special”, for example will certainly catch someone’s attention. So would headlines like “Cape Town for R900 return” or “Top Liquor Brands at Wholesale Prices”. While letterbox drops have their place, they are waning in popularity – not least because more of us are living in complexes and apartment buildings where marketers have limited access to letterboxes.

Give to local charities

Consider donating a percentage of profit to a charity for the period of a promotion. And, be sure to link in with a charity that is within your neighbourhood. This way the members, supporters and staff of the charity can reciprocate the gesture and support your business. This is key. Also, by supporting a local charity you make your gesture a newsworthy one. You can then mention your support for the charity or the handover of the funds in the local paper, local radio and other media.

If you choose to support a large national or international charity without a local presence you may not enjoy maximum exposure. Keep it in the neighbourhood. You need not offer the discount on every product you sell, but you could do it on selected products. Always offer a special deal to members of the charity to encourage them to shop at your store.

Systematic Sampling

Sampling is a recognised way to promote your business in your neighbourhood. But like all good business methods, it really comes into its own when done systematically. So make sampling part of your job description, or assign the task to a member of your team. Tell them you’d like them to spend one morning a week visiting neighbouring businesses and sampling them with gifts or products. Samples should be inexpensive, and fairly relevant to your business. You should include a bounce-back gift certificate or discount voucher with the samples. Here are some ideas for a variety of store types:
■ If you’re running a clothing boutique, perhaps you can sample a small make-up bag in fashionable fabric donated by one of your suppliers.
■ A tech store might want to hand out branded USB memory sticks, or charger sticks. These are super-handy as loadshedding becomes a part of life.
■ A plate of eats from your bakery or restaurant is an obvious sample idea, or a voucher for a sandwich.
■ If you have a sports store, perhaps you can sample a small sachet of training supplement
shake mixture.
■ A chemist might want to hand out vitamin supplements.
■ A photo store can hand out vouchers for a free A5 photo enlargement.
■ A music and DVD store might sample free downloads of a song by a new artist. This would work best on social media.

You will know what product exemplifies your store and is affordable or can be sponsored by one of your suppliers. They should be keen to get involved, because in giving out their products you’re also doing neighbourhood marketing for them. If you’re sampling products instead of vouchers, always remember to include a bounce-back voucher with the product.

To order Basil O’Hagan’s book 415 Action-Packed Neighbourhood Marketing Tips or to have him speak at your next event contact 011 467 2358/083 412 4459, email: basil@bohmarketing.co.za or visit: www.bohmarketing.co.za.