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The Best Local Business Promotion Ideas

August 8, 2016 • 5 mins read

Ahmad El-Najjar

Policy and Communications

In our previous piece Types of Small Business Promotion, we looked at how to establish a foundation for success when it comes to promoting your business. Here, we’ll outline the four basic business promotion ideas that any business can use and build on. But, before you can even think about what a promotion for your business might look like, it’s essential to have the proper channels in place to get the word out. These include:

Once you have your communication channels in place and the means to reach your current and potential customers, you’re ready to take the big leap and actually start planning some of those business promotion ideas.

What do good business promotion ideas look like?

Everyone appreciates being rewarded for taking an action that benefits another person. In fact, this is true for just about any type of customer relationship. Customers take the action of supporting your business and are rewarded with a service or goods that they genuinely appreciate. A good promotion reinforces that sense of appreciation through a purposeful and explicit reward mechanism that goes both ways. The best business promotion ideas are easy ways for you to reward your customers for rewarding you with their business.

There are as many business promotion ideas as there are stars in the sky but we’re going to stick with six promotional ideas that work for any type of business, whether it’s retail, restaurant, manufacturing, or professional services.

4 basic business promotion ideas you can build on

1. Customer Referral Program
You’re in business, so you likely already have some customers who appreciate the services or goods you provide. Think of these early customers as your evangelists—key assets in helping promote your business. An easy way to transform these existing relationships into new referrals is by offering those existing customers a special perk for helping to spread the word. Depending on your business, you could offer a discount or freebie for each referral they send your way. The best part of a promotion like this is that you can extend it to each new customer.

2. Event Hosting and Workshops

host a business event
courtesy of Jill Lindsey

Townsquared member Jill Lindsey, owner of Jill Lindsey in Fort Greene, Brooklyn is a master of the event and workshop promotion. Almost every day of the week, the business hosts a workshop or event for her customers and larger Brooklyn community. With weekly yoga classes, kids sing-a-longs, wellness, even craft classes, Jill has put her boutique on the map as the de-facto community center of Fort Greene.

Of course, your events and workshops should depend a lot upon what kind of business you have. For example, if you’re a small law office, you might hold some open office hours for basic legal question. Or, if you have a restaurant, why not hold a cooking class featuring one of your signature recipes? Own a bar? How about a weekly “how to make the perfect [insert favorite cocktail here]”? Think about your, or an employee’s, area of expertise and let that be your guide for coming up with business promotion ideas.

It’s also worth thinking about what other products, events, or activities people associate with your goods or services. Can you host an event or workshop that extends the value of what you provide? For example, Borderlands, a San Francisco bookstore that specializes in mystery, horror, and science fiction, collaborated with Don Herron, who (with some advance notice) runs a Dashiell Hammett walking tour. Hammett wrote The Maltese Falcon, among other things, making a literary walking tour of his and his characters’ stomping grounds, something any serious fan of crime fiction would love.

3. Hold a Contest

“Hands on a Hardbody” production, courtesy of Jeffrey Schmidt

How do you create the best possible win-win situation? Easy, hold a contest.

The idea of a contest or raffle may seem outdated and even bring back memories of the 1997 documentary “Hands on a Hardbody,” which featured a dealership contest for a brand new Nissan Hardbody truck. The person who could keep his or her hand on the truck the longest, won. Originally a business promotion, it became a film, and then even a Broadway musical.

The hardest part is coming up with a prize. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; it could even be cool t-shirt if you’re not prepared to give away a full-size Chevy pickup. The details of the contests can be as varied as you like and should really depend on what your goal for the contest is. For instance, do you want more social media followers, or are you after sales? If it’s the latter, you might tie contest participation to a minimum purchase. If you’re still stumped, our friends over at ThriveHive have a great list of ideas for every type of business.

4. Partner with a complementary business

This is more generally known as cross-promotion, or co-marketing, which means teaming up with another business to create a promotion that benefits both of you. The key is to collaborate with a business that doesn’t directly compete with you.

There are plenty of ways to collaborate with another business. You can give each other a little space for a display in your stores, share discounts or frequent-buyer cards, or go in together on a booth at a local event or trade show.

But, really, any promotion you can do alone, you can do with a partner: referrals, events and workshops, contests, and so on.

Townsquared member Grace Kang, owner of Pink Olive, a whimsical gift and lifestyle boutique in New York, invited a new local florist who didn’t yet have a physical space to do a pop-up in her shop. It turned out to be a great fit, got both businesses loads of attention, and was a tremendous success. 

Coming up on the blog this week is an article that will focus on co-marketing with a nonprofit.

Once you’ve got some easily-executed promotional ideas, you’ll need to consider the last piece of the promotion process puzzle—getting the word out.

Leveraging your promotions

If you run a small business, there’s no such thing as extra time. So, whenever you take the time (and money) to run a promotional campaign, you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of that investment.

Here are some ways to ensure you’re taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by a promotion.

Social media and promotions

Social media is a great indirect marketing channel; it gets your business name recognition and allows you to communicate quickly and easily with your customers. Whenever you run a promotional campaign, make sure it’s easy for people to follow you on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, or whichever social media tools your customers use. You can even create a hashtag for your promotion—or have a contest that takes place on Facebook or Instagram. Go wherever your customers are!

Get customer emails

Email is a direct way of letting your customers know about the value proposition of your business. Always, always, always take every opportunity to add new emails to your list. Whether it’s a clipboard by your cash register, or having customers subscribe to your newsletter, email is a great way to keep your current and prospective customers in the loop about any promotional offers you have.

Extend the reach of your promotion

Don’t limit promotions to your customers! Let them know that they can invite their friends to participate in your offer, as well. This way, not only are you rewarding existing customers, but you’re also rewarding a new customer. Simply put, having your customers refer new folks to your business helps grow the reach of your business, while deepening relationships with your existing customers.

You’re in it to win it!

Remember, promotions are a reward that goes both ways. Relationships matter, they’re what keep a business sustainable and growing. The point is to offer promotions that give, and ultimately, create real value for your existing and prospective customers. It’s all about keeping a conversation going with your customers. Ensuring that they know you value their business and are willing to show it, every step of the way.


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