Recently I cycled my way around The Outer Hebrides. A beautiful, peaceful place; unspoilt and inspiring. No billboards, no “in your face” promotion, no obvious advertising. And yet many businesses on the islands survive – or actually thrive! A small Harris Tweed weaver is exporting to Japan (amongst other countries); an artist is selling prints and originals on the mainland in galleries and giftshops; a museum depicting the life of islanders in their blackhouses had visitors from Munich, Arran, London, Northampton, Leeds, and Aberdeen whilst I was there. What are all these businesses doing successfully? Using marketing to promote themselves and reaching markets that they know will be interested in their products. They are all also successfully using the internet to help them promote their business. The income generated by only reaching islanders wouldn’t be enough to sustain and existence but by reaching out to a wider audience they are able to prosper.
Conversely businesses that relied on regularly trade from islanders: shops, small cafes and pubs often looked closed – with doors shut (well it was cold), but with no external signage inviting the passer-by in; no bright lighting to indicate that there was anyone there to serve. Once inside the service was always excellent. Often there were cars parked in car parks and the local banter once through the doors was wonderful – but without cycling a mile or so down a road on the basis of a mention by either other people making the same journey or someone in an establishment prior to theirs, there would be no way of knowing that these places existed. They solely relied on local knowledge and word-of-mouth marketing.
Think about your business. How can your customers find you? Do you rely solely on local knowledge and word of mouth marketing? (even if that is social media). Or do you look wider and think about who would be interested in your products and services and actively target them. It is obvious that the latter will bring more success.