If you want your business to become the go-to brand for local customers, capture passing trade and expand its operational footprint, combining online and offline tactics is essential.
Focus solely on offline strategies and you’ll miss the opportunities digital offers to connect with online customers when they need your services most — but ignore real world networking opportunities and you’ll never have valuable face to face interactions that build trust.
So it’s best to adopt a balanced approach — here are four effective ways to grow your SME on and offline.
Attending every networking event in your local area can be costly and time-consuming — although you may make lucrative connections with potential customers and future business partners.
However, joining trade associations like one of the British Chambers of Commerce instantly plugs you into an established network of trusted firms of all sizes — as well as public sector organisations and social enterprises.
Joining fees aren’t prohibitive for small companies and the potential to get your name out into the local business sphere equates to good value for money.
You might even be able to promote your business for free on your local chamber website or printed publications.
When you want to establish a positive reputation in a local community quickly and relatively cheaply, sponsorship marketing is worth consideration.
You might be lucky enough to find an opportunity to gain exposure for your name and products simultaneously — for example, if you’re a sports shop supplying free kits for a local football or netball team.
But if you can spare a few hours each week, business mentoring at local schools and colleges can also be effective and you might even offer apprenticeship opportunities to local school leavers once you expand.
Social media can be effective in extending the reach of your business and enhancing your online presence.
But some platforms are more effective than others — the professional segmentation and targeting made possible on LinkedIn makes it particularly promising for B2B businesses.
Paid ads can work but niche firms like food production facilities specialists Penmann use LinkedIn to blog about case studies and industry developments in order to grow their following organically.
Making sure you prioritise your digital spend on the most effective channels is essential for sustained success.
The changing nature of employment in many countries means that more of us are tempted to create our own businesses rather than stick with salaried employment that’s not always secure or well-paid.
And entrepreneurial social enterprise Business Elevator receives government support to provide new startups with practical advice and business mentoring prior to launch, in their early days and later, when they want to scale and grow in a sustainable manner.
The scheme offers workspaces and meeting rooms across its network of hubs and also collaborates with schools, colleges and universities to guide the business leaders of the future.
Take on board these four ways to grow your SME on and offline and you’ll soon be the talk of the town.
How did you grow your SME? Share your advice in the comments section.