Over the last 3 weeks I've been part of a 5-week, 5-city speaking and book signing tour sponsored by Deluxe Corp called the Small Business Heroes tour. I'm excited about our next stop tomorrow which is Orlando and I've been thrilled to connect with and provide advice to many businesses in Denver, Portland and Austin. I was also thrilled to make my broadcast television debut with an interview on NBC news. I can never get over what a goofball I seem to be on camera but I was thankful for the opportunity and humbled by my interviewer, journalist and fellow entrepreneur Gregg Moss telling me he's a big fan of this blog! Thank you!

While the Deluxe staff on the tour are giving free presentations on many topics I've spoken and written about including Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, building Web Sites and lots of others, my presentation for this tour is on "local marketing" - how you as a small business owner can easily use the Internet to *successfully* gain visibility and sales within a local area at very little cost.

I am currently working on a whole series of articles around this topic and if you have a local marketing success story, I would love to feature your business here! So if you have a local marketing success story to share you can tell me about it here.

One of the most successful tools to market locally is - surprise, surprise - Twitter! Small businesses all over the country are successfully using Twitter to win customers.

How are they doing it?

Examples abound.

There's the Chicago based Domino's franchisee who sends personalized videos (think Old Spice Guy, but less naked) to people who tweet both praise and complaints about his pizzas, getting him praise on 87,000 Web sites and fierce loyalty from his customers.

There's the Santa Monica Hotel lounge that got 250 people into its lounge one night (to spend $$ on lots of other things) by offering free bubbly to it's Twitter and Facebook followers for "friending" them and then accessing a secret passcode.

There's the San Francisco massage and wellness spa that regularly fills it's open, unused appointments by offering last-minute, deep discounts to twitter followers.

The bottom line is - it works. But you have to know how it works and when it works -- Twitter isn't great for everything.

How can you make Twitter work for you?

All of these examples fall into the category of "remarkable" content either as:

1. An offer they can't refuse - deep discounts & free champagne sound like pretty sweet deals. So sweet that they grab your attention and make you want to patronize the business if for no other reason than to check it out. Of course it's up to the business to turn those newcomers into loyal customers but getting people in the door is far, far more than half the battle. The trick is to find an offer that is exciting, relevant to your business and affordable.

2. Content that is highly Personal and/or Strikingly Unusual - Ramon the Domino's pizza franchisee didn't have to spend a lot of money or offer deep discounts, he won loyalty with a secret weapon that is hard to copy or steal - his charm and personality. This is one of the areas that scares business owners the most - the kind of committment that Ramon shows to having a highly personal, highly communicative relationship with his customers. While this can be a home run for people who are lucky enough to have that personality, many business owners wouldn't want to go down this path.

However here's another example of a business owner who uses her personality and passion in a far less overwhelming way. The Pink Cake Box makes "extreme cakes" and the business owner simply posts photos of her cakes to Flickr. But the cakes are so remarkable and she's been doing it consistently for so long (years) that she has built a Flickr following that now drives 10% of her Web site's traffic.

The path you take depends on you.

Yes - you! And what resources are available to you including your own passions and skills. When you think of what to offer is it your personality (very time consuming) or a great deal (more of a financial investment)?

What can you do or offer?

Who is it exactly that you're trying to reach and for what purpose? Getting new customers? Keeping old ones?

Make sure you figure out the answers to these questions first. If you're not able to answer these questions, move on to something else. Perhaps local marketing and/or Twitter are not right for your business!

Discuss These Topics Live

If you're in Orlando on October 5th or Charlotte, North Carolina on October 12th, you can see me walk through these topics in more depth in person at noon. I've also been known to sign a few copies of my book as well as sit down one-on-one with businesses for a bit of highly personalized advice.

I hope to see you there!

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