Recently I left a community of almost 250,000 people to go back to my hometown with a little over 50,000. To say that things have changed would be putting it mildly. I have a small business, well two small businesses, and I was very active in the networking community where I lived in Idaho. Really it was like 20 hours a week of networking with likeminded people. For someone who was an extrovert this was a needed fuel source. Now I’m back in Tennessee, the only place to get that kind of networking is to go to Nashville. That’s at least an hour drive one way.
It left me asking myself what do I want to invest my time in? What do I want to invest my energy in?
After looking at the Meetup app and determining there really wasn’t anything in my hometown of Dickson, I decided I wanted to build something. I wanted to invest my time and energy into my own community. After living for 6 years in Meridian Idaho, a suburb of Boise, I had learned some things about community and growth. It occurred to me that I had a unique opportunity to be someone who was there while a community was growing and be part of the foundation of that growth here in Dickson.
Just in the time I was gone the retail, real estate, and restaurant market in my home town was exceptionally larger. Which was an amazing realization since the reason I left was because of the fall of the real estate economy in 2008. As a Realtor that hit me pretty hard.
Once I decided that I wanted to try and build something I felt like I needed a plan of action. Which led to the ideas I have below. I hope they can help you as a small business owner living in a small town.
- Join the Chamber of Commerce: This is going to be critical. The chamber is an amazing tool and it’s going to be where you really get a feel of what’s going on in the business community you are living within. This is where the people with experience, money and connections congregate. It’s important to get to know them. They can be great resource to ask advice and support from in the future. They are also who you want to serve with your time and talents as well.
- Be active in the Chamber: It’s not just enough to be on the mailing list and have a plaque on your wall. If you spend the money to join you should maximize the benefits. Show up for ribbon cuttings, the monthly meetings, and the after hours events. One of the best ways to show people you are serious about being active in the community and business is simply to show up.
- Have your own Ribbon Cutting: Whenever a business joins a local chamber they are offered a ribbon cutting. This can happen even for a home based business like mine. A ribbon cutting usually is like a launch party for the opening of your business. But if you work from home then that can be a challenge. So my chamber, and the one I was in before, allow you to have a ribbon cutting at the main office. Your chamber invites the local members and ambassadors to come and you can invite the public as well. For my ribbon cutting I’m offering refreshments and a free workshop on social media marketing. This helps create traffic for the event and makes it stand out from others. You might try to do something to stand out too.
- Have one on ones: While be active in the chamber is great it’s important to capitalize on all those people you are meeting. Don’t be a business card pimp throwing your cards at people and moving along. Take the time to talk to people you meet but then follow up and have a one on one meeting with them. It’s important to facilitate these relationships. I know it seems like a lot of time. But really this is something that will serve you and your business more than any kind of other marketing out there. If you take the time to get to know someone they want to know you. They remember you and they talk you up. Word of mouth advertising is crucial, especially in a small town.
So that’s my action plan for investing in my community. I’ll make sure to check back in on the blog. But tell me what would you do different? What would you add to or take away?
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Social Ghoster Marketing Strategist, Author, Speaker, Social Media/ Platform Consultant