The Hidden Gem

The Situation in Logan, OH

Logan, OH (pictured above) is a small town in Southeastern Ohio that has a population of about 7000.  The local residents named the town in honor of Chief Logan of the Mingo Indian tribe.  He and his band lived in this area at the time of European-American settlement. Ohio Governor Thomas Worthington established the community in 1816.[8]

During the twentieth century, Logan emerged as a major tourist destination. Today, many locals find employment in tourism-related businesses. Numerous residents operate bed and breakfasts or work in hotels or restaurants to meet the needs of tourists visiting the Hocking Hills State Park. Numerous natural wonders exist in Hocking County and in the park, including the Cantwell Cliffs, Old Man’s Cave, Cedar Falls, Ash Cave, and Rock House, drawing tens of thousands of tourists every year. With a population of 6,704 people, Logan was Hocking County’s largest community in 2000.

The Complication

However, 20 years later, things are a little bit different.  On 10/24/2001, Walmart opened a Supercenter in Logan, which put a huge strain on the local businesses.  Over the last 10 years that I’ve been in Logan, I’ve seen a plethora of small businesses start up with optimism, only to close a few months later.  

We’ve all heard this story time and time again.   It even has a name now – the Walmart Effect.

What Is the Walmart Effect?

According to investopedia.com, The Walmart Effect is a term used to refer to the economic impact felt by local businesses when a large company like Walmart (WMT) opens a location in the area. The Walmart Effect usually manifests itself by forcing smaller retail firms out of business and reducing wages for competitors’ employees. Many local businesses oppose the introduction of Walmart stores into their territories for these reasons.

Logan, OH is a shining example of a town that has been decimated by the local Walmart.

 

Question - How Do We Save Logan?

So, how do we fight this good business fight with the 800 lb. gorilla in our town?   Well, to put it bluntly, with our gloves OFF.  

 

Answer

So, how do we fight this good business fight with the 800 lb. gorilla in our town?   Well, to put it bluntly, with our gloves OFF.

Here are a few myths about Walmart that might help you (the small business owner) sleep at night:

Walmart is the cheapest solution – FALSE

According to Marco Terry in his blog ‘How to Beat Walmart if You Own a Small Business’, he says 

“Walmart is a business. And, like every business, its objective is to gain market share, increase revenues, and generate returns to its walmart price comparisonshareholders. They have their methods. And, like them or hate them, Walmart is very good at what they do. The fact that they are one of the most successful companies and have lots of satisfied customers is proof that they are great at what they do. No use or sense in denying it or complaining about it.

Fortunately, they are not perfect either.

I believe that most people think that Walmart is the cheapest store for everything. Walmart certainly tries to promote that image in its ads. However, my recent price comparison experiences prove that this is not always the case. For many items, I found that other retailers had either cheaper products, a better value – or both. That has been my experience with Walmart when shopping for tables, computers, and flat-screen TVs. Don’t believe me? Look at the price comparison on the right. In the case of that specific TV, Walmart is a whopping 24.50%  more expensive than Best Buy. That is just one example, and I have seen many.

Sourcing options are more available

Guess who can use alibaba now?  Just about anyone who has a business and is willing to buy in bulk.  Oh, and they are going all in on the American small businesses.  Read more about that here.

Digital Marketing (SEM)

Now here is my favorite thing to talk about.  Now that we live in a COMPLETELY digital society, it only makes sense to advertise your business online.  Find out what channels you have the most success in reaching your customers (or potential customers) and talk about how awesome your shop is.  When they show up to your coffee shop on vacation, serve them up with the best damn latte they’ve ever had and keep the likes, shares, and conversions coming.  

The key to marketing is all about consistency, but also trying new things and learning as you go.  Learning is one of my favorite things to do (in fact, I’m currently enrolled in a nano-degree program with Udacity to sharpen some of my digital marketing skills and concepts).  The more you learn about your audience, the easier it will be to market to them.  Take everything you know about them and use that knowledge to serve them up ads that are specifically tailored to their needs, wants, and interests.  

 

Case Study: Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium

When going into business, it is very important to have good reasoning for what you are doing (and why, how, where, to whom, and when).  For the purpose of this exercise, let’s use a local company here in town as an example.

  • What are you selling?
  • Where are you selling it?
  • Who are you selling it to?
  • Why are you selling it?
  • When are you selling it?
  • How are you selling it?

The Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium

The Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium is a coffee shop/B&B that opened up in 2018.  They are located on the way out to the local tourist attraction, the Hocking Hills, about 5 mins outside of town. 

Their mission statement:

We proudly offer the best cup of coffee in the Hocking Hills! From fresh brewed, to handcrafted espresso drinks, we strive to provide quality coffee. We have put a lot of thought into the sourcing of our coffees. Our coffees are fair trade, organic, shade grown and women owned and produced. Purchasing a cup of coffee from the Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium goes far beyond the cup of coffee. It supports sustainable practices and pay equity in growing regions. Our local roaster also supports economic development and women’s progress in Ohio’s Appalachia.”

What are they selling?

Coffee?  No, experiences!

  • Local-only products vs. Everyone products
  • Anyone can buy coffee, donuts, sandwiches, etc.
  • You are not in business to sell goods, but instead, memories.

When thinking about products, let’s break this down from a high-level perspective and divide it up into 2 categories focusing on “desire”:  things only locals would want to buy & things EVERYONE wants buy.  To differentiate between the two types of products:

  • “I own an HVAC company called Hunter’s Heating and Cooling and provide good pricing and service to the people in my town and surrounding areas” – LOCAL ONLY
  • “I own a unique antique shop called Hunter’s Treasures that people will travel great lengths to come visit.” – LOCAL & EVERYONE

So where does the Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium fit?  Definitely in the latter category.  Why?

    • In a tourist destination like Logan, OH, they have the ability to influence over 2M people per year to come back and get coffee and a sandwich after enjoying a hike in the hills.
    • The locals will visit the shop because it is close enough to town that it is not out of the way, but it’s far enough out that it is a nice change than the local Speedway Gas station.
    • Most of all, people love coffee and want the experience of sitting in a quaint little cafe in the middle of the hocking hills with their significant other or best friends

On top of everything else, they have a B&B that will attract out-of-towners to stay with them and they will most likely be eating at that coffee shop during their stay.

Where is the interest?

Tourists and locals.

  • 2.7M Searches for “Coffee Shops” in USA per month 
  • Most of the people searching for HH are in OH, WV, MI, IN, KY
  • Map below indicates interest from potential tourists

 

Take a look at the Google Trends snippet above – you will see that the majority of Google searches for the Hocking Hills, the local state park for which Logan, OH is famous for, peaks during certain parts of the year.  The above tells me that if I am a business owner in Logan, OH, the majority of people who are interested in my town are going to be interested between the months of April and August (tourist season).  

From December and March, I can expect things to be a bit slow in town, so maybe run some local specials to promote extra hard during that period of time.

Starting a small business is not an easy thing to do.  So keep things alive and moving by staying fresh with new ideas to keep business coming in.  

Who is interested?

Who should they be marketing to?  According to statista, everyone!  As you can see from the graph, the bars are quite even across the age board.

One thing to look at, however, is your affinity categories in Google Analytics.  In GA, there is an affinity category for “Home & Garden/Home Appliances/Small Appliances/Coffee & Espresso Makers”

It might even make sense to advertise to the folks at  “Sports & Fitness/Outdoor Recreational Equipment/Camping & Hiking Equipment”

Or “Autos & Vehicles/Vehicles (Other)/Campers & RVs”

How are they selling it?

So how are they selling this?  By doing exactly what their mission statement says:

Founded on the core principles of integrity, high quality and value, the JUGS painstakingly converted a historic home into a charming, one of a kind, boutique hotel, glamping destination. Complete with all the comforts of modern day living, while preserving the vintage charm of this peaceful, welcoming property.  

We proudly offer the best cup of coffee in the Hocking Hills! From fresh brewed, to handcrafted espresso drinks, we strive to provide quality coffee. We have put a lot of thought into the sourcing of our coffees. Our coffees are fair trade, organic, shade grown and women owned and produced. Purchasing a cup of coffee from the Hocking Hills Coffee Emporium goes far beyond the cup of coffee. It supports sustainable practices and pay equity in growing regions. Our local roaster also supports economic development and women’s progress in Ohio’s Appalachia.

How are they selling it?

The big WHY.  First, they probably want to make some money doing this, so we can check that box right off the bat.

Next, their mission statement outlines their love for equality – 

It supports sustainable practices and pay equity in growing regions. Our local roaster also supports economic development and women’s progress in Ohio’s Appalachia.”

Last, starting a business in a small town is a good nod toward the progress of the local economy and can only stimulate things in a positive way.

The Round-up

  • What?  Experiences & memories
  • Where?  Start with OH, WV, MI, IN, KY
  • When?  May – September, when people are searching the most
  • Who?  Everyone, but take a look at those GA Affinity categories
  • How?  Use that personal angle in your advertising taglines & descriptions
  • Why?  To bring in new business!

Finally, let’s bring all of this together, starting with the what.

So what are we selling?  Experiences and memories! 

Where are we selling this?  Let’s start with OH, WV, MI, IN, and KY.  Once we are seeing a good response, we can expand our advertising efforts into the other states out West, that we mentioned earlier.  Be sure to fine-tune all of your campaigns to only advertise in these areas geographically.

When?  Like we discovered earlier, the time of year when people are searching for our tourist attraction is between the months of May and September.  Use this time to capture the eye of each googler and serve them up an ad reminding them to visit your coffee shop

Who?  Everyone, but let’s look at those Google affinity audiences to fine-tune this category as well.  Social media platforms like Facebook, twitter, etc. all have “in-market” indicators.  Try to find things in common like camping, coffee, etc. to match up your ad with someone who might appreciate it.

How?  We are selling coffee locally, but making tourists pay for awesome memories.  Keep that cozy feeling when coming up with advertising copy.

And of course, Why?  To bring in new business.

 

Why Marketing Your Business Locally Is Important

About 10 years ago, I decided to move to a small town called Logan, OH.  This town is located in the southern part of the state and has about 7500 people.  It is the definition of Small Town America.  The thing that shocked me the most about living here was the unbelievable network of people who were all interconnected from school or church or other organization. 

I came to understand this  phenomena when I went to the store one evening and was greeted by multiple people by name who I had never seen in my life.  I found out later that these people had all gone to school with my wife (who grew up in this town) and identified me by following my wife on facebook.  

This type of social scenario was completely different that the social scenario I grew up with in Washington, DC, where you can remain anonymous, and your identity fades into the endless sea of people traveling to and from their jobs each day.  

In cities, B2C (business to consumer) marketing is huge.  Business owners (small and large) will utilize social media for online advertising and maintain good standings on Yelp and other ratings apps to keep their business alive and thriving. 

But what should we do in an environment where nobody goes unnoticed? 

Step 1: Get Involved

Remaining outside of social circles and waiting for things to happen to your business will only hurt you in the long-run.  The best way to get noticed is to get involved! 

  • Do something for the local schools.  
  • Start delivering your food to the local bars at night
  • Advertise specials for certain groups (Moose, Twigs, etc.)

These are only a few suggestions, but the main point is that if you are committed enough to open up a business (even if it is small) in a small town, you should be committed enough to join the community as well.

Give back.  It will be noticed.

Step 2: Know Your Customers (Audience)

When do your customers shop?  How old are they?  What time of day do they want your product?  Where are they located?  Are they local or tourists?  How seasonal is your product?  Do they want you year round or only during certain months?  Are they technologically capable or do they still look at newspapers?

These are only a few questions that you should ask yourself when determining how to go to market with your product.  Know your audience better than you know yourself, and you will never have any issues marketing your business.

Take a look at the Google Trends snippet above – you will see that the majority of Google searches for the Hocking Hills, the local state park for which Logan, OH is famous for, peaks during certain parts of the year.  The above tells me that if I am a business owner in Logan, OH, the majority of people who are interested in my town are going to be interested between the months of April and August (tourist season).  

From December and March, I can expect things to be a bit slow in town, so maybe run some local specials to promote extra hard during that period of time.

Step 3: Be Persistent & Be Creative

Starting a small business is not an easy thing to do.  So keep things alive and moving by staying fresh with new ideas to keep business coming in.  

Top 5 Marketing Ideas For Your Small Business

One of the main obstacles to small business marketing is coming up with the right strategies. Duct tape marketing tricks are nowadays not the only winning strategy for small businesses. The good thing is, along with old methods, there are five main ideas that any small business can implement to build a positive reputation. 

 

 1.  PPC Advertising 

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a model of online marketing that allows businesses to display their ads to targeted audiences, PPC ads are effective only when a business finds keywords, phrases, and long-tail queries that are relevant to the business. Once the keywords are established, a PPC ad can easily put your small business in front of the right people. 

 

2.  Social media marketing

Social media marketing has become inevitable. It’s currently one of the most used strategies for both small and big businesses. The best way to utilize social media is through engaging content. You should have a careful study of your readers and know what they like. This way you’ll have an easier time curating your posts. With social media, consistency is second to nature. 

 

3.  Video advertising 

And while many say content is king, video marketing proves to be an equally effective method of promoting small businesses. Visuals last longer in a reader’s mind and if well-incorporated, they can serve as priceless advertising avenues. For instance, when you can go ‘live’ during product launches or campaigns. Video ads are definitely cheaper and established social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook have a potentially wider reach than your local TV station. Win-win. 

 

4.  Email marketing 

Email marketing is another effective advertising strategy for small businesses. Most people visiting your website will not commit to your business at first. It is therefore important to find ways you can keep in touch once they leave. A simple way is to come up with free subscription services where readers only exchange their contact information. You’ll use the contacts to nurture leads and possibly convert them to potential customers. 

 

5.  Print advertising

Though technology is sweeping the marketing realm, the need for offline marketing is still crucial to small businesses. People are still attending local events, seminars, and business talks. Newspapers and monthly magazines are still churning out huge audiences. But even so, as a small business, you can come up with budget-friendly print advertising ideas like crafting flyers, promotional merchandise, and business cards. Having a mix of both digital and offline advertising sets you up for solid brand growth.  

Impact of Digital Marketing on Your Business

So the big question – how does digital marketing help our business?  Well, to answer your question, in many ways. Here are a few ways that using digital marketing and advertising can help your business get noticed by potential customers:

 

1. Social media advertising

This is a big one right here so depending on where you are and where your business is located this can be a very effective way of advertising your business inexpensively.  In many small towns across the country, rather than having websites, many businesses will utilize Facebook as a placeholder for their website and advertise their business.  

To make short work of advertising, Facebook offers various advertising methods including display (images), video, messaging, and more.  You can aim these advertisements at specific demographics including age, geography, employment, interests, education, groups, and much more.  Use this advertising capability to save you time by constantly promoting your business so you can focus on your core business practices.

 

2.  Google Advertising

Google ads are super affordable and very effective.  Want your business to be on the top of the list of search results when people search for a specific word or phrase?  Google ads can do that for you for a small price. Google also has a wide variety of other types of advertising methods including video, display, GMail (email ads that show up looking like emails), and more.

One of the best parts about Google advertising is that you can create “remarketing lists”, which are basically an effective way of advertising to people who have already expressed interest in your product or service by landing on your website.  Which brings us to our next topic:

 

3.  Retargeting

If you sell stuff online, you know advertising plays a critical role in driving people to your website. But what if they aren’t ready to buy when they first find you?  Then we use RETARGETING!  Yes! Have you ever visited a website for say clothing as an example and later on “randomly” saw an advertisement for that specific brand while scrolling through your Facebook feed or Instagram feed?  That wasn’t random and it is very intentional. It’s called retargeting and this is how we convert potentially interested people into actual customers.

These three methods are just the tip of the marketing iceberg, but can help you get started and on your way to bringing in new customers and expanding your brand awareness without breaking the bank.