How do I build my business in a small "It's who you know" town, when you are new?
My business is an in-home pilates studio, in horse country, close to the vest farming neighborhood. I have tried to break in with the neighbors, advertise, teach public classes, offered intros & good will sessions to the neighbors. The local Chamber of Commerce left me off the e-mail list repeatedly... no matter how gently I reminded them.
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I can so relate to this story!
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I would try to get in with a local senior center, church or even a hospital. You may have to do some free classes to get started but I think once you get the hook in them and they start enjoying it then they will start signing up on their own.
Outside of WRITE A MARKETING PLAN with someone who knows how. Getting horse country attention is easy. Offer something they want to learn about, which promotes their interests and your business at the same time. Call if your open minded to learn more.
It is not easy. I am going to offer ideas that my Colleagues may have offered, so forgive me if I don't suggest anything new. You are doing the right things in general. I would start a simple Blog that talked about who you are and why you deserve their attention. Keep it high level. I would build an Email List from anyone you can start with. Why should you get their attention? What do you that is different than what other people do in the are? Focus on the Uniqueness of what you offer. Get someone to acknowledge that what you do is different and unique from others offerings. You don't need use names, but I would get Quotes from people that describe your services as being good and unique
Hello Julia, I see your challenge and why you ask the questions how?, first thing ask yourself is there a need for your service or product in the small town and will it be enough to sustain your efforts, Is there any other competition in the area with the similar business? the best approach is test the water, It would not even hurt to ask some potential prospects that you would target, would they be interested in my services or product, best ideas are from potential customers, this is not a expensive approach it will keep you from losing sleep and spinning your wheels. and give you some directions. for sure.
Small towns are about relationships. Try to start volunteering in some community service or faith based charity. Once engaged people will get to know you. They want to know you before they do business with you. I am convinced in one of those engagements you will find someone to connect with.
Finally, examine your offerings. Are you providing a solution, need that the community wants or needs. That can go along way in helping you get established.
Richard Stern-Be proactive "network" be part of the community.
Join the Chamber of Commerce, make presentations to as many groups as possible.
Keep track as to what works and what does not work
Contact the local paper and get an editorial about you and your business.
Be sure your Website is great and write editorials that are pertinentt to your customer base.t
The communication theory and practice of AIDA is much like networking. It starts with one step on a journey, and you're selling a product or a service with the nine (9) P's of Marketing.
The communication begins with Awareness>Interest>Desire>Action (AIDA). If they don't know who you are, you need to get out there. You just need to get out there and meet people.
Join clubs, associations, church. Have coffee dates. It starts with generating and building "Awareness."
What a concept.
Here to help.
Think about your top possible market sectors and what benefits you can offer them Have a look at my Theaker's Rule of Three for some ideas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WOGr6dEW8Y
Hi Julia, you've had some excellent suggestion so far.
Being a chiro myself, I would suggest you visit any musculoskeletal practices around your area/ town. If you guys gel, then maybe start a pilates class or 2 each week working from their practice, for their patients. If this works out then start your own Saturday class from the local school hall. Have fun with it.
Do get involved in the community as others have suggested and consider beginning a systematic referral based business strategy. You want to nurture relationships to gain their trust so they'll do business with you and will also give you referrals.
I worked for a a firm called Refer.com and we/they (I am still associated with them but I'm not on staff) teach small business people how to grow business using a referral based strategy. You might want to consider checking them out.
The fundamentals are nothing mysterious. Decide how you want to reach out to your contacts - email, phone, note cards via US mail (or other way) and what frequency you want to reach out say twice a month, once a month, once a quarter depending on how you prioritize your contacts.
The challenge is to continually engage your contacts over time. Many stop after a couple of months or once they earn business. But reaching out consistently is critical to keep yourself in their top-of-mind-awareness . You obviously want not just clients, but client/advocates.
Partially it may depend on exactly where horse country is and the population count of the general vicinity. If you are townee or suburbia community. Is it just you which is new or is the concept of Pilates foreign as well. This is one of the scenerios which takes us offline for introduction. IF there is such a thing as a local gym. Join up, Make a few friends, word of mouth works extremely well in small town settings. Find local businesses which your own service would provide a relatable benefit, The vitamin and health nutrution purveyor, the parks and recreation, provide the local school a few voiuchers for free classes for the teachers, perhaps even a few for the students.
Get out and make some friends, the quickluy you will cease to be unknown and become the new that everyone should know.
While social media is great and all, in situations like this you really have to be face to face. Go to local business meet-ups, participate in Chamber of Commerce events, and network as much as you can in person. Also find out who your mavens are in the area and make an effort to attend their events and meet with them face to face. If it's "Who You Know" make sure you know the right person to make your introductions or tout your business. I know in the past, I've had great success knowing the movers & shakers from donating to charitable events & working on them. Good luck.
Become someone to know. Join the Rotary, the Chamber of Commerce, you won't be the new person in town long if you emerse yourself in the community. Find a charity who's cause you believe in and get involved. I became a fundraising expert for the Rotary and several other charities and became know and was able to meet the people I wanted to meet almost over night. You must remember you only get what you give.
Try this. Sponsor a $500 scholarship for thr local high school seniors. Every parent with a student would learn who you are. The local newspaper will publish your check presentation a community human interest story. At the least, you will get a Photo published in the paper. Put on your thinking cap and get to work making yourself known.
That is why relationship building in business is so important. Know like and trust factor. People will be more willing to help you find that connection faster once they know you.
Julia, you have some great answers here, but to fast forward a bit, when the clients start coming and they will, remember to " do what you say and say what you do " because nothing will kill a small town business quicker than one's actions being out of sync with one's words. However backtracking a bit, what is the biggest muscle fatigue point for horse riders ? Then produce a leaflet with 3 easy Pilates exercises to strengthen this muscle fatigue.
This can be done best by building relationships and waiting for that first break. Initially, you have to hold intros and interaction sessions, by making them free. This is your investment. Tell everyone who asks you to come to free interactive discussion. Emphasize the word free' You should have a high attendance. Tell clients that this is not an attempt at poaching your competitor's but merely an attempt to show them what is available ..latest technology..blah blah. (Here I don't mean that blah blah equals BS). Want to have good relations with someone? Then its best you do that person a favor or gift him something he/she will find practical. The more you do so, the more will your attendees feel obliged to you and most of us don't like being obliged to someone. Perhaps in the 2nd meet, the first brick will collapse and within a week you will be rolling in inquiries. Of course, you will be lying when you tell them that you are not that much interested in taking the business away from their earlier vendor, but relax- its for a good cause. Again, the inquiries will come in but unless you are an ace hypnotist, shoddy work will do you more harm than good.
The Chamber of Commerce problem can be easily resolved. All you have to do is find out why your name is eliminated. Perhaps, you had a row with someone. Perhaps the chairman gets a kick out of eliminating names etc. There has to be a reason and you need to find it out. If someone does not like you, make it a habit to show him your face. A day will come soon, when he calls you. If you have a right to be on the CoC list, be extra nice to the person. He may snub you but you smile back. Believe it or not, we may be of the same species, but there can be a heaven and hell philosophical difference between two neighbors who talk to each other every day.
Finally, as I am from India, a slight port or starboard turn may be required to compensate for the culture, but unless you have not revealed some goof ups , you will start getting business within 2-3 weeks from your start. All the best and go for it.
Thank You all so much for your advice. Each suggestion is wonderful. I have volunteered with the Seniors, & kids, But stopped because it got me nowhere & took time away from my own family. I Will continue to work at it with each of these suggestions. I am very grateful, as I just joined yesterday! Many thanks!
Being the new kid on the block has never been easy. To be brutal about this you need to identify who the key influencers are in town, get to know them, and let them get to know you...and I mean you not the service you're offering. I totally understand you want to build your business but 'people do business with people...and people they know', so they're unlikely to 'do business with you' if they don't know you.
As a new person in town, they don't know you and most people are quite reticent to engage new people...how long will you be there, why are you there, are you competing with one of their friends...all these sorts of questions will be going through their mind, and most have nothing to do with your business offering.
Sounds like you're trying different things and you'll have to keep trying, but try things that allow people to meet you. Sounds old-fashioned in a way but this approach works for me even with a global book coaching business. People choose me because they get to know me from my Blogs, networks such as this (and some selected others), other social media and still, significant word of mouth in the city/country I live (Sydney, Australia).
Best of luck and let me know how you go. Jaqui