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Marketing Through Community Involvement

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With the summer and fall seasons, comes a lot of local events.
There are community gatherings, summer and fall festivals, farmers markets and even fundraisers like walks and runs.  A glance at my local community calendar, in the Northeast, shows scheduled events from here till November.

I am sure your store gets hit up for donation requests for these events, so instead of just donating, why not get involved by branding your store at these events and reap the rewards it will bring.

As a local business owner, it is important for you to be involved in these types of events. They lend themselves to loads of marketing and networking opportunities- most are at a very low cost and some are even free.

Take for example a community festival. Many small businesses have booths at these events and offer things like coupons, raffles and giveaways (don’t forget to put your business name on the giveaways).  Most importantly at these types of events, is that you can talk to a large number of people about your business and your passion.

This starts to create a reputation for you as the expert and people will start to correlate you as such.  As a local pet store, it is a good idea to be known as a specialist in something, it could be nutrition or even grooming.

These events are great for generating WOM, or word of mouth, advertising. WOM is one of the best marketing activities you can ask for, it is free and trusted.  People typically trust other people’s opinions and referrals.  No wonder Amazon puts such a focus on building their customer reviews of products.  The consumer is selling the product for them.

When attending events, don’t forget to bring your favorite furry friend, they are a magnet for people and good conversation starters.

When donating a raffle to a cause, be sure to choose something that will generate a store visit. It could be a free grooming session or even a gift certificate. The point is that you are getting them into your store.  Just make sure that when you have them there, you do what you can to retain them as a customer.

Another great event that I see many small businesses participate in are charity walks. There are usually a few employees that come out for the cause and they come uniformed in t-shirts with their business name and also donate a raffle prizes. This is a great way to build up camaraderie with employees also.  One idea is to have your store employees get involved with maybe a little friendly fundraising competition for the cause.

Getting involved with a local animal shelter or humane organization is another great way to get involved locally throughout the calendar year.

These types of organizations welcome the help and it is a great way to feel good about what you are doing while getting press for your store. Just be sure to choose your cause wisely as there are a lot to choose from and some are more reputable than others. Once you find a cause, or multiple causes, to partner with, you can start offering adoption and fundraising events in your store every month.

As an avid 5k runner, I can say that most runners at these events are the ideal independent pet store’s target market. They are typically health conscious, for them and their pet, female and own pets. I always get a race bag giveaway that typically has a t-shirt and a few coupons in it for some local stores. I never, however see one from a pet store. This is a perfect opportunity.

There are a ton of great community events that you can get involved in as I barely scratched the surface on some ideas. The point is to just make sure you are taking the time to at least participate monthly in something. Just remember to take plenty of pictures and post about all of your great activities on your social media sites, web site and e-blasts to customers. Engaging in all of this will start the WOM flowing.

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