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4 Unbeatable Marketing Strategies for Rural Small Businesses

  • January 25, 2018
  • Written by Community Futures Manitoba

If asked whether they wanted more customers, every small business owner would say “Of course!” Yet, many entrepreneurs struggle to implement successful marketing efforts that would draw customers to their companies - particularly entrepreneurs in rural areas where smaller and more dispersed populations present additional logistical challenges.

Good news: if you are a small business owner in rural Manitoba, there are plenty of powerful marketing strategies at your disposal—they merely have to be adapted to your particular situation to be most effective. Read on and we’ll share how to customize a few smart and savvy techniques!

Direct Mail

Snail mail may not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of marketing strategies in the 21st century, but it can still be very effective. Household response to direct mail is approximately 5.1%, compared to a 0.6% response to email. This figure varies by industry and marketing campaign but it goes to show that post can still pay off.

However, postage costs can be expensive or prohibitive for small businesses in rural locations because customers and clients are spread out across large areas. Consider adapting a more strategic approach to direct mail for your small business with one of these tactics you can tailor to your company:

  • Take direct mail online and combine it with email marketing. For example, rather than mailing out postcards to 500 customers, which would entail printing and mailing costs, consider designing a personally addressed digital postcard and emailing it out to a few of your select customers instead.
  • Identify a few prospects, clients and/or customers and send them a hand-written card or thank you note. Choose carefully to keep costs down and increase the odds of conversion (transforming a prospect into a customer or a one-time buyer into a repeat customer).
  • Partner with other rural small businesses. For example, if you’re a personal trainer looking to promote a summer discount to attract new clients, reach out to a local health-conscious restaurant or hair salon. The restaurant could stick your flyer into to-go bags or the salon could display your company brochure on their reception counter. In turn, you could offer a small “commission” or some reciprocal promotion to the other business for each new client that signs up, therefore eliminating the cost of mailing the pieces.

Event Marketing

Attending trade shows, conferences, and industry events is a great way to meet prospects and connect with fellow entrepreneurs within your space. However, if there aren’t physical events hosted in your area, this marketing strategy seems pretty out of reach, right? Not so fast. While you can’t always make events come to you, you can attend a large number of events without racking up costly travel expenses if you get creative.

  • Explore virtual conferences and offer to host a keynote speech. You can do that right from your home office using video conferencing software like Skype.
  • Organize a webinar in place of an in-person gathering and use social media and email to promote it. Webinar platforms such as Google Hangouts are free and easy to use!
  • Join a non-competing business that is trying to appeal to the same kind of customer and collaborate in planning one large annual event in a central location (an ideal solution for companies who can’t afford to host such an event on their own but can manage when pooling resources).  

Billboard Advertising

Not only is billboard advertising cost-prohibitive for most small businesses, but it also makes little sense in most rural areas where the ads aren’t likely to attract enough eyeballs. Luckily, entrepreneurs in these areas can experience the potentially high conversion rates of billboards without buying expensive ad space.

How? By investing in video marketing. Research shows that consumers are up to 85% more likely to buy a product after watching a video about it. Additionally, small businesses that utilize video marketing see nearly 30% higher click-through rates (CTR) and 34% more web conversions than organizations that don’t.

The best part about video marketing is that the threshold for entry is very low; all you need is a good camera and microphone. Even a smartphone will do! Don’t wait to try this powerful marketing strategy for your rural small business and then share your company’s videos online.

Tip: Take it from the experts. Explore Community Futures’ video marketing guide for small business owners!

Local Marketing

Local or location-based marketing is a specific type of marketing aimed at providing targeted, hyper-relevant attention to nearby audiences. For instance, a hair salon or eatery could gather testimonials from community leaders and prominent business owners in order to strengthen their brand name and encourage foot traffic in the neighborhood.

To make this strategy work for your rural small business, think past geographical boundaries. With the internet, “local” could mean across the world! Therefore, focus on honing your ideal customer profile and then building small communities of highly engaged prospects and customers:  

  • Clearly explain your company’s value proposition on your website, being sure to address your ideal customer’s pain points.
  • Optimize your website with terms that would appeal to your ideal customer.
  • Invite all customers to connect with your small business on social media, and then reward them for doing so (enter them into a raffle, provide valuable or exclusive content, etc.)
  • Encourage referrals—your customers most likely know people experiencing their same want or need.

As you can see, it’s easier than you might think to market your rural small business… but first, you have to turn your big idea into a company!

 

To do that, download your free copy of Community Futures’ e-book, “17 Life-Changing Reasons to Start a Small Business in Rural Manitoba!”