Foursquare and other location-based social media platforms rely on the ability of users (consumers) to “check in” at a business’s brick and mortar location. But many small- and even medium-sized businesses today, like the readers of The SMB Collective, are “virtual” businesses.
The Virtual Business Defined
New England Multimedia is a virtual business. That is, we don’t have a storefront or an office space where we meet with clients. Most of the consulting end of our multimedia business is done over the phone, by email, or on location at a client’s place of business. The website and WordPress development projects are done in-house and uploaded to the internet, our video production services are all done on-location at the client’s place of business or elsewhere, and our design projects are handled via the web. Even our on-hold marketing and audio production services are handled using email and telephone, with the actual production taking place in-house in our recording studio. Once in a while, we’ll have a client who comes in to record, but for the most part, all narration and music is done by our own team.
When a client wants to meet face-to-face, we go to his or her place of business, or meet at a local restaurant or coffee shop — where we run into a lot of our local business colleagues and competitors doing the same thing. (Felicia’s and Panera Bread are two favorites around these parts.)
So, what’s a virtual business like ours to do when Foursquare and location-based social media platforms are all the rage? Solution: partner with a brick and mortar company who caters to our market.
How to Partner with a Brick and Mortar Business
Are you a virtual business? You can do the same thing. Here’s how to get started thinking about the possibilities:
1) First you have to define your market. Who wants or needs your services or products? For us, it’s usually entrepreneurs, nonprofits, churches, small- and medium-sized businesses, and the home-based self-employed “solopreneur.” Who’s yours?
2) Next, brainstorm the local brick and mortar businesses who cater to and serve your market, without being a direct competitor. Ours might be print shops, coffeehouses and restaurants where businesses and movers-and-shakers gather, Christian bookstores, and office supply stores. Where does your market shop or visit regularly?
3) What services or products can you offer to the loyal customers of that business? For New England Multimedia, we might offer the mayor on a certain date a choice of services: a free or deeply-discounted web video; a free 2-hour consultation on websites, WordPress, or social media; a deeply discounted WordPress site; a free custom on-hold message; a free custom YouTube or Twitter background; a free website evaluation; or any other number of internet marketing services and products. A product-based business (like a jewelry designer) might offer the mayor on a certain date a choice of jewelery pieces he or she has designed. A graphic designer might offer a free basic logo design or redesign, or any host of other services. What can you do to make your market want to visit — and check-in often at — the brick and mortar business you partner with?
That’s about as far as I’ve gotten with ideas, since I’ve only recently begun to think about how we might use Foursquare or other location-based marketing platforms. I have a few businesses in mind to offer to partner with, too.
How about you? What ideas can you offer a company like, let’s say, a sports beverage developer? An artisan who sells jewelry made of sea glass? A creator of blown glass beauties? A screenprinter who designs T-shirts? And after the ideas, what steps would a virtual or home-based company need to take next?