With the Windy City home to an estimated 2,695,598 residents, there are plenty of opportunities awaiting canny entrepreneurs. Tapping into this market can make a business a household name, as well as create a faithful group of advocates who not only take advantage of a business’s services but draw in people in their network.
One way to get a business growing is by integrating its marketing initiatives with local events, community organizations and other local businesses. This can translate into revenue dollars for the company, as well as create a solid sense of connection and community. This can also lead to Chicagoans focusing their attention and resources, on a local organization, instead of taking their business to a company that resides outside the area they know and love.
There are a lot of different ways to get involved. Below, 12 members of Forbes Chicago Business Council provide the one locally focused marketing initiative they’ve successfully employed in Chicago to promote business growth. Here is what they recommend:
1. Partner With Other Local Startups
As we are a multi-sided marketplace, we have marketing initiatives that focus on multiple groups with very different interests and needs. We have made a point to network and explore partnerships with other local startups — those that either operate in the same space and have a similar target customer base, or operate in a different space but have a similar target user base. – Ben Margolit, Rentgrata, Inc.
2. Use Transit Advertising
Good old-fashioned transit advertising (we placed ads in the CTA trains and in one station) brought in a surprising amount of traffic. And this is only from surveying a small sample of customers to ask us how they heard about our new store. Social and influencer marketing were also very effective and helped cover our bases. – Anne-Marie Kovacs, Augmented Retail Company
3. Be Active In The Local Tech Community
Staying active in the Chicago technology community (through organizations such as the Illinois Technology Association and Executives’ Club of Chicago) has allowed us to do great work for our clients and then get organic referrals to new businesses. – Aurimas Adomavicius, Devbridge Group
4. Tell Unique, Engaging Stories To Stand Out
We launched an alumni blog series showcasing the success our graduates have had since being hired into various sales roles. They highlight their unique backgrounds, trepidations around pursuing sales jobs, and how we helped in numerous ways to lead to their present-day success. It’s a very genuine way to tell our story to help stand out from the loads of content out there today. – Brian Bar, Victory Lap
5. Attend Events And Build Relationships
Although we are a technology business, we are also a relationship business. We attend a lot of events for small business owners to hear their pitches and learn about up-and-coming startups. As a result, we meet a lot of entrepreneurs and get a lot of referrals this way. – Bobby Goodman, Truss
6. Organize Industry Events Or Tours
We sponsored and spoke at the “Digital Summit” tour in various cities where we have offices: Chicago, Atlanta, Los Angeles, etc. In each city, we found that these were an incredible two days of learning and networking with the best of the best in the digital/tech/marketing ecosystem. Through the Summit Series, we reached several decision-makers and started productive conversations. – Ross Freedman, Rightpoint
7. Tap Into Your City’s Inclination For Social Responsibility
Chicago may appear to be all about business-to-business and SaaS ventures with promising return on investment, but it also has a sweet spot for social responsibility. For example, in partnership with the Chicago Leadership Alliance, uBack and Techweek, we created the campaign TechweekGives. We brought together 50-plus Chicago companies to raise over $1 million in 90 days. – Ronny Sage, ShoppingGives
8. Encourage Users To Become Advocates
We have encouraged our users to become advocates to other partner locations. We ask them to tweet to other coffee shops about our service, so the other coffee shop will consider it. – Jonathan Treble, PrintWithMe, Inc.
9. Leverage Larger Networks To Communicate Vision
Veterans want to start businesses. As a veteran-owned business who has achieved relative success, I leverage groups with larger networks to communicate my story and vision to a captive audience with a simple message: You don’t need to be the sharpest tool in the shed to pursue a dream, rather to have the self-discipline to overcome obstacles, time and time again. – Carson Goodale, FanFood, inc
10. Recruit Locally
We’ve run successful transit ads throughout the city to build awareness of our brand and technology. Chicago has incredible talent, so we’ve worked extensively with Built in Chicago to recruit and market our services. – Darren Guccione, Keeper Security
11. Collaborate On Finding Talent With Local Universities
At the end of the day, it’s our people that will ensure our success. Establishing a strong relationship with local universities like Northwestern and the University of Chicago has allowed us to attract some of the best data scientists around. – Dan Wagner, Civis Analytics
12. Send Out Street Teams To Build Engagement
We sent out a street team to visit venues that have UPshow’s Social TV screens to generate excitement and engagement around the product. The street team would visit bars and restaurants to engage patrons in sharing on social media and being featured on UPshow’s Social TV screens. – Adam Hirsen, UPshow