Small Town Marketing In The Big City

October 24, 2018

Small towns and rural communities across the country rely on a strong small business core for their economic sustainability. This simple truth is the driving force behind “The Small Business Revolution–Main Street” program. Every year, we work with Deluxe Corporation to set one small town up for success with marketing expertise, financial guidance and a $500,000 revitalization to put toward six businesses and the community as a whole.

Being a part of this project meant living and breathing small-town marketing in preparation for the recent launch of the show’s third season. As thousands of nominations for next season’s featured town pour in, we’re seeing the challenges these communities and small businesses face straight from the source — and they are surprisingly familiar. The businesses in my own backyard of Northeast Minneapolis are facing the similar problems, and tackling them with a few simple, but effective marketing tactics. Here are what some of my favorite businesses are doing to bring a small-town emphasis on community to my favorite corner of Minneapolis.

Tell a Friend

I met an old friend for drinks a few months ago and the first thing I noticed was how great his hair looked. I asked him where he got his hair cut, and, without missing a beat, he slid a small card with Squared Up’s number and a big “25 percent off” on it across the table. I booked an appointment and he received an extra 10 percent off his next cut.

Sure enough, my experience was just as fantastic as my friends’ (did I mention that they give you beer or coffee and sometimes donuts when you walk in?), so I made sure to grab a few referral cards on my way out. Fast forward a few months, and I know eight people that get our haircuts there. In addition to making Northeast residents look fantastic, including Fast Horse’s own Joe Graves, it’s providing a great reminder of the effectiveness of word-of-mouth marketing in communities big and small.

Help Your Neighbor

The Coffee shops lining Central Avenue are all wonderful in their respective ways, and Hill Valley Café and Coffee is no exception. I could talk about the coffee or the relaxing ambiance (think used book store) for hours, but the most remarkable thing about Hill Valley is its relationship with Z Amore the adjacent vintage store, specializing in mid-century furniture.

Upon handing patrons a steaming cappuccino or café au lait, the barista produces a set of keys and offers the chance to check out the store next door, even if the owner is not present. If the customer finds a piece they like, the coffeeshop’s employees will go so far as to ring him or her up at the register on behalf of the store’s owner. Z Amore, in turn, directs its customers to the coffee shop next door, providing recommendations and coupons to customers as they shop.

This sort of relationship isn’t just neighborly — it’s profitable. If you work for or own a small business, you know that one sale can be the difference between a good day and a bad day. Referrals from other business owners are a valuable resource that entrepreneurs everywhere can benefit from.

Reinvest in Your Community

When I was deciding which neighborhood of Minneapolis to call home, I based the decision off two key factors: community engagement and beer. Last weekend’s annual Big River Brew Fest is the perfect example of why I call good old Nordeast home.

For $30, attendees could sample an unlimited amount of craft beer (responsibly), and all proceeds went to benefit East Side Neighborhood Services, an organization dedicated to promoting equity in Northeast Minneapolis. Over a dozen breweries located within a three-mile radius of the event were present. They took the opportunity to put themselves directly in front of their local target market, while also investing their time and inventory to directly benefit the communities they serve.

For more examples of businesses getting involved in their communities, be sure to head to to see the incredible transformation of Alton, IL. Or just take a stroll down your local main street. Who knows what you might find.