Putting together a marketing plan can be overwhelming for local businesses, especially when you factor in the potential cost of the more traditional print, TV, and radio advertising. Factor in the time and the additional cost of producing a radio spot, or filming a commercial, and it’s easy to see why over 13% of small business have no marketing whatsoever, and over 20% rely on inexpensive, but inefficient and antiquated marketing channels.

Now, obviously there is no “one size fits all” answer, but there are basic truths when it comes to getting your business in front of potential customers, and staying in contact with current customers but, if you have a tight marketing budget, or are hyper-focused on your city/state/region, social media is, without questions the most cost-effective marketing options for small businesses. How cost effective? Virtually free.

The first thing you should do (maybe even before you have a website) is create a Facebook page for your business.

Why? Because everyone is on Facebook.

∴ The idea here is simple: It’s easier to be seen if you are where the people are. Having a website is important, but unless you’re spending money on promoting your site, you’re likely not going to see a lot of traffic. And even the most excited website visitor isn’t likely to send a significant number of friends to your site. The same isn’t true of a Facebook page.

When looked at as a marketing platform, it is incredibly versatile and rewards businesses who take the time to create engaging content.

∴ Not only does Facebook allow you to fine-tune your page to fit your needs, but you can be as active or passive as you want. If for example, you run a food truck, you’ll want to show off your food, show off how it’s made and let people know where you’ll be and when – you can create events, connect with other organizations, and encourage people to engage with your page. Not because it feels good to see likes and positive reviews, but because every time someone tags you in a picture of their food, or checks in at your truck, they are broadcasting to all of their friends, and when their friends “like” that post, they are then broadcasting to their friends, and so on. With a few tricks, you generate exceptional organic engagement without spending a dime in ads.

The more people engage with your business, the easier it is to get in front of people who, likely, have similar interests which means they are more likely to be a future customer than someone who hears a radio a or saw your coupon in the newspaper.

This is most important – Facebook, creepy or not, knows everything about everyone who uses their platform which means that when you’re ready to run ads, you can focus like a laser on the people most likely to spend their money on your products and services.

Lets say creating engaging content isn’t something you have time for, and you would rather pay a few dollars and let an ad run. Perfect. Facebook is still an ideal platform because it’ll make it easy for you to spend money on ads that are only being seen by people who are actually interested in whatever it is you’re selling.

Here’s an example: You’ve got one month to let everyone in the tri-county area know that Tri-County Outfitters is having its grand opening in 1 month. Where would you start?

∴ Take note of your local competitors and major retailers in your space, when possible target local fans of those competitors with your ads.

∴ Make a list of every brand that you carry. If you carry Patagonia, Smith Optics, and Yeti, you want every person in the tri-county who liked the pages of Patagonia, Smith Optics and Yeti to know you have the best assortment at the best prices.

∴ Create a public Event on Facebook, and encourage your friends, family and coworkers to mark that they are going – events, like everything else, are shared with friends, and the more popular an event looks, the more likely people are to go.

∴ Use the Facebook live option to post periodic updates – get people excited about the grand opening by showing them all of the exciting things you have planned.

∴ Engage. Engage. Engage. When people take the time to comment on your post, or review your business, like their comment, let them know it’s appreciated. When you’re a local business, the personal touch can make a world of difference.

Bingo Bango Bongo, you’ve got people from all over the area excited about your new shop, and as long as you deliver on expectations, you’re going to see success right out of the gate.

Want to dig deeper? Check out our Social Media installment of our Marketing Crash Course, and while you’re there, be sure to sign up for the Blue Dog Blog. We’re always sharing the latest industry news, and helpful tips we think can help businesses like yours succeed in an increasingly competitive market.

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