Affiliates agree that getting the word out about their SourceLink networks to entrepreneurs and business owners is one of their highest priorities. To support our affiliates, we’ve recently held three virtual discussions on marketing in March, May and July.
In May, Abby Smith and Jessica Toms from CruxKC, SourceLink’s marketing partner, guided our discussion on how to build a successful marketing plan. First, they advised us to determine our goals, which can vary from developing brand awareness and promoting an event to building relationships and generating leads. Then, identify our audience – entrepreneurs, current resource partners, potential resource partners or community stakeholders. Next, check out the resources that are available and confirm the best channels to reach our specific audience and meet our goals. Helpful marketing management tools such as MailChimp for email and Hootsuite to schedule social media posts can automate the process. Marketing plans should be approached from a holistic and multichannel perspective to ensure that all marketing efforts – from websites and blog content to social media, newsletters and email communication – tell the same story, and that results are being measured accurately.
Getting the word out – successful strategies
We then asked affiliates to share their best practices during our May and July marketing conversations.
ChiBizHub in Chicago experienced 320+ percent growth across all channels in a single year. Small business manager Jazmine Garcia develops strategic partnerships with people, businesses and organizations with strong social media following to reach broad audiences. Pro tip: partner with local and state elected officials who canvas neighborhoods. Give them your print collateral to deliver directly to local businesses.
Sparkyard in Fort Worth, Texas shares exciting events, resources, recent blog posts and their podcasts in their monthly newsletter. Outreach specialist Kendel Rogers and network builder Marco Johnson have worked hard to build their mailing list and their recent newsletters to achieve a 36 percent open rate. Pro tip: build your mailing list organically via social media, existing clients and resource partners, event attendees and visitors to your website.
Colmena66 in San Juan, Puerto Rico has built a dynamic YouTube channel with thousands of views. Digital marketing strategist, Natalia Alicea Morales develops successful YouTube content by answering a need and using relevant keywords. She recommends searching for existing content on the same topic. How have they done it? Which title works best? How is it promoted? Then she determines what channels to use to reach the audience that will view this content. Pro tip: A/B test titles and recycle content.
Sarah Mote, marketing director at KCSourceLink in Kansas City and MOSourceLink, recommends boosting video marketing since readership of blogs and newsletters have declined. Pro tip: use YouTube as a search engine. YouTube is the number one platform for people to search how to do something, and it’s a growing platform. Find content that people are using to solve problems on YouTube and create your own to distribute to segmented audiences.
The GRID in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and NWI BizHub in Northwest Indiana use Innovators in Action and Small Biz Spotlight video series on their websites to promote local businesses. Toni Van Doren, business solutions coordinator at The GRID, and Maranda Fishback, community engagement coordinator at NWI BizHub, find that business owners love the free publicity and videos provides traction to your website. Pro tip: creating videos is a great way to start marketing outreach for small organizations with limited capacity.
Launch Network partners with public libraries in the 21-parish region of North Louisiana to spotlight the free resources libraries offer to business owners and entrepreneurs in their social media, and provide libraries with a “Top Ten Books for Entrepreneurs” list. Network builder Preston Langley reports that libraries are receiving a great response and they are appreciative resource partners! Pro tip: Purchase some of these titles for libraries to display. Rotate the display among libraries.
IASourceLink utilizes a chatbot to provide immediate customer engagement on their website 24/7. Sprout guides visitors through a series of questions to help locate the resources they’re looking for. Viewers can find funding information, licensing assistance, registration assistance, tax information, how to start a business information and more. Pro Tip: Kyle Coogler, program associate at University of Northern Iowa, suggests keeping the questions simple and avoiding use of open questions.
Did you say audio marketing? Cameron Cushman is director of innovation ecosystems at UNT Health Science Center/Sparkyard and is host of the Innovate Fort Worth Podcast. In his biweekly “How I Built This” type of podcast, Cameron shares the stories of the city's leading innovators, entrepreneurs and investors—and highlights the resources available to bring ideas to market. Pro tip: Keep the podcast short (20-30 minutes) and transcribe the podcast to blog posts on your website.
Final tips from the pros in our affiliate network: Be specific in your marketing efforts. Go where you can uniquely reach your audience. Research social channels your audience uses and refine your content over time.
SourceLink affiliate conversations
In 2020, SourceLink organized monthly virtual conversations to provide support to our affiliates during the COVID-19 pandemic. We continue to provide special interest conversations on topics such as marketing, in addition to our Quarterly Conversations, as an exclusive benefit for affiliate members. Agendas are built from suggestions by our SourceLink community of network builders and give us an opportunity to share best practices and collaborate with one another. For more information about becoming a SourceLink affiliate and joining our conversations, contact Dara Macan at email@example.com.