If you're a small business owner or manager, your resources pale in comparison to those of large competitors. You probably can't fill the airwaves with commercials touting your company, and you don't have a brand that automatically tells anyone walking by or seeing your logo who you are.
What you do have, however, is flexibility. Small companies can operate in nimble ways that larger ones can't. One way to take advantage of that is to work with other small businesses.
On your own, you may be insignificant. Together, you can turn a lot of small shops into something collectively much bigger.
Each of these ideas works on its own or can be used as part of a broader strategy. In many cases, joining two or even all three of them will give you the biggest bang for your buck.
Look at all the businesses around you and figure out a way to group them together. It could be by shopping plaza, by neighborhood, or even by town.
Once you have done that, approach other owners or managers about joint advertising. This could mean commercials that tout your newly created grouping or ad buys in which everyone involved gets promoted. Be clever and find ways to make people want to check out not just your business but a few of the others on the list too.
Have a joint sale
Think of how cities hold restaurant weeks during which lots of eateries offer deals at a set price and the overall event gets promoted. You can do the same type of thing with any sort of business, and you can even turn it into an annual event.
An ad saying something like "It's back-to-school savings week in the Southwood district, and every store has deals that are at least 20% off" might get people to come out and sample lots of different types of businesses. And you don't need to limit a deal like this to retailers; you can partner with service providers and restaurants as well.
Offer mutually beneficial discounts
Sometimes restaurants do this with movie theaters, offering a promotion that invites moviegoers to bring in their ticket stubs and get a free appetizer or 10% off a meal. You can create synergistic deals like that, or you can simply use a "shop local" approach and offer discounts to customers who show a receipt from that day for a certain dollar amount from your partner businesses.
Be careful, of course, as you might not want someone who bought an ice cream cone at one store getting 10% off a couch at the next -- or maybe you do if that savings keeps the sale from going to a larger chain store.
Small business owners and managers should network with each other to come up with ways to work together. Even getting familiar with what's near you can lead to being able to help your customers by offering a referral. Be creative and open-minded when it comes to supporting not just your business but the small business community in your area at large.