Rural Business Promotion – On or Offline?
Living rurally is definitely different from living in urban areas for many reasons. When thinking about promoting your small business, there are a few things that are important to consider as being challenges and benefits.
Advertising In An Area Of Low Population
Reliable access to the internet can be one of those annoying differences between rural and urban areas that put a damper on promoting a business to your ideal customer. Luckily, depending on what area you live in, it might not matter that much. Promoting to the locals is often best done by using paper advertising.
As a social media manager for rural small business, I don’t always advocate for my own services. It all depends on the area you live in and why people are coming into your town.
In very small communities, posters on bulletin boards are still used to notify locals of what is going on – even with the younger crowd. Word of mouth is quite a good promotional tactic for small, service based businesses such as electricians or carpenters. Often, many businesses don’t even really have to advertise at all.
Where we live, only the larger businesses such as contractors and hotels do much paid advertising in the local newspaper or online. Everyone else relies on non-paid advertising. There are many people working on their own as sole proprietors who just get to know people in the area and get more than enough work from that. So actually, their best advertising tactic is in-person sales of their service and word of mouth.
In our village, which is a tourist town, most businesses can use social media to their benefit because the majority of sales is done during the spring/summer and weekends when cottagers and tourist come in. These tourists come in from up to 4 hours away and have access to good internet services. So they can find out whats going on here by using the internet as long as a business is using it properly.
Many organizations here still use only posters pinned to bulletin boards simply because they have not realized the benefits available to them in using digital advertising. They also spend money on advertising in the local newspaper, which is useful to a degree but limited as well to the older newspaper readers. The younger groups are not reading the newspaper with as much regularity. This poses a problem for some of these organizations, who are also made up of locals who in our area are all older residents of the village.
What is Appropriate?
Each town or village will need to determine on its own what is the most appropriate and cost effective means of advertising or promotion for them. Since most social media is free it cannot hurt to have a presence there. However, the thing about social media is just that – it is social and needs to be updated with regularity. The cost of using social media if you do not have the ability to post regularly is mostly in paying someone to do it for you. This can be a problem for communities that are not really going to benefit from using it, as it can be costly to pay someone to be a manager.
If a sole proprietor or volunteer of an organization can do the work well her/himself, then it won’t hurt. But not updating your social media often – at least twice a week – will not do you any favours in increasing your credibility.
It is impossible to know whether or not internet service will actually improve in rural areas or not. Some places may improve while other may not. This is also something to take into account when working on a marketing plan or deciding whether or not to actually do the extra work to post online.
Either way rural businesses are not going anywhere anytime soon. It’s just a matter of figuring out what is the best thing for you and your rural small business.