Happy June everyone! Things are super busy here. My wife had been traveling for the last 10 days only to come back and test positive for COVID. She’s doing well. The rest of us had it 4.5 months ago and haven’t caught it again, yet. It’ll take me some time to catch up.
I’m usually focused on things that are of interest nationally. I realize that the majority of the readers out there don’t care too much about things specific to Rhode Island. It’s easy for me to forget that there are thousands and thousands of local small businesses. There are lawyers, real estate agents, painters, plumbers, insurance agents, and electricians.
I cast a wide net to the whole world hoping (and often failing) to get a good number of readers. A local real estate agent can narrow their search to a couple of cities. It sounds a lot easier to me because there is less competition. Then again, that real estate agent will likely never experience the joy of someone showing up to his business from the other side of the world.
I’m starting to enter that world of running a local business. My Rover dog sitting business is doing well. So far, I’ve let Rover just send me customers. However, I think I’m going to start to explore getting my name out there myself. Rover.com’s finder’s fees are 20%. They do a great job with their booking software and they do all the advertising, so it’s not a bad deal. However, sitters could lower their prices by 8% and still give themselves a raise of 12% by doing it themselves.
With that in mind, I wanted to look at four ways to grow a local business:
1. Your Local BNI Group
About nine months ago, I had never heard of a Business Network International – BNI group. I was talking with a parent at my kid’s school and my wife mentioned that I had gotten into dog boarding and business has been booming. It was a small side hustle until everyone got vaccines and tried to catch up on 18 months of missed travel.
The other parent was a well-known real estate agent and asked me, “What would happen if they change the website?” Yep, Rover.com could put me out of business overnight. That’s never a good feeling. He said he belonged to a local
cult group that meets once a week and shares business referrals. He invited me to check it out and I honestly only went because he was giving away Patriots tickets to a lucky visitor. I didn’t get the Patriots’ tickets, but I did see my other son’s best friend’s mom there. In fact, all the occupations from the first paragraph came from the local chapter. I get dog sitting business from a network of a network and I have some great people to help manage our rental property.
2. Telephone Book
Believe it or not, the telephone book is still a good place to advertise. I was surprised, but I came across this yellow page advertising article. It seems like it depends on the industry, but it really can work.
3. Direct Mail Campaign
I used to get a package of local coupons in an envelope every couple of weeks. It seems like it hasn’t happened since COVID though. It seems like most of the advertisers were for nails or spas. There were also a lot of products tied to new moms. I still went through each one and looked to see if there was a good deal that we could use.
4. Radio Ads
I was reading that radio ads reach more people than Google or Facebook ads. It sounds unbelievable, but I know I listen to a good amount of radio. They’ve got me as a captive audience in the car.
Final Thoughts on Local Advertising
I’m not sure if I’ll try telephone books or radio ads for my dog boarding business. It would easier to justify it if I was renting physical space instead of running a tiny gig business. I’ve had some luck with putting my business card at hotels that aren’t pet-friendly. They love having someone they can call at the last minute to save the day when someone shows up with a dog.
My best suggestion is to try a little bit of everything and do more of what works.