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Biz Bites: Tapping Into Culture, Trends & Local Events


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Bonus episode | Host Emily Washcovick does a quick deep dive into a topic affecting small businesses, sharing small but mighty changes you can implement in your business.

In episode two of our “Biz Bites” series, host Emily Washcovick explores how small businesses can tap into culture, trends, and local events to create a buzz and connect with customers. From large-scale, one-time events, like the Super Bowl, to small, neighborhood collaborations, discover tactical steps that can make a big impact on your business. Don’t miss this valuable guide to staying relevant and engaging customers, even in niche industries like HVAC and plumbing.

Hey there. I’m Emily Washcovick, Yelp’s Small Business Expert and the host of this podcast, Behind the Review.

Normally, on Thursdays, we drop episodes in your feed sharing stories with a business owner and someone who wrote one of their Yelp reviews. But now, we’re going to add something new. On Tuesdays, we’re going to drop what we’re calling “Biz Bites” episodes. Biz Bites are 7-10 minute episodes where I dig deeper into a topic affecting small business owners. And I’ll give you some tactical steps that you can use to implement changes in your business that are small, but could maybe have a big impact on future customers. 

So let’s dive right in. Biz Bites episode two: tapping into culture, trends, and local events.

I love this topic, and it honestly takes me back to my early days on Yelp’s business outreach team. In 2017, I went to Houston specifically to host events for business owners and to help them prepare for the Super Bowl coming to town. We wanted to make sure that they knew how to claim their Yelp page and fill it out, so that when people were searching for things to do during the week of the Super Bowl, they could appear and be found.

But beyond just helping them figure out those free Yelp tools, and how to make sure that they were visible online when Super Bowl traffic came to their city, it was also a good learning experience to teach them how to do grassroots marketing. And essentially customer engagement, surrounding a fun local event like the Super Bowl. 

And I get it, the Super Bowl is a huge event. We’re talking about thousands upon thousands of people coming to town and spending money within this really compact period of time. But, this whole lesson of tapping into culture trends and local events, really runs the gamut. It could be everything from a huge event like the Super Bowl down to a local event like the neighborhood block party where your business is located.

Or maybe there’s some sort of local holiday season thing that happens and you can essentially attach your business to that in a way that gets you more visibility. And gets you more customers through the door, or working with you virtually. 

So let’s break it down a little bit. First, let’s talk about some of those big scale events happening nationwide. Things that you know and can see from a distance are gathering momentum. And honestly, that’s actually what started this topic for this episode. Yelp dug in a little deeper to see the impact of Beyonce’s Renaissance tour on local economies. And I think we’ve all heard buzz about this this year, right?

Beyonce’s tour, Taylor Swift’s tour. These are all big things that took tours around the country to multiple cities, and we saw the same types of things happen in each city they touched down. Searches increased. Local economies were booming! To give you some of that data, when Beyonce’s tour was in New York searches for nail techs were up 178%.  In Chicago, searches for women owned hotels and travel businesses were up 44%. And when she performed in Philly, searches for LGBTQ owned shops were up 194%. 

What these numbers tell us is people get excited about things happening. And they want to shop locally to prepare for it. These searches aren’t just about how many tickets there were for the stadium and what bar or restaurant was closest to the venue.

These people are getting their nails done, their hair done. They want to go to local shops and buy gifts. They also want to see what that local area is like. Sometimes it’s people traveling just 20 or 30 minutes from the suburbs. Sometimes it’s people getting on a plane to come to your city. 

So what can you do when there are big events like that to be relevant and just have something fun for your customers? Maybe it’s a menu item. Maybe it’s just some window signage that attracts people to what you’re doing. But at a very bare minimum, you want to talk about how you’re attached to that local event on social, on your online listing sites. You want to spread the word and essentially use that event to make you relevant.

Now, this can also be related to things that are happening everywhere at once. Let’s take the Barbie movie, for example. I saw it in theaters. This was the type of thing that lots of people were doing, and it’s low lift, right? Many people are maybe just going to go to a movie theater, but a lot of people wanted to go out to eat and have fun pink themed food and drinks.

Some people wanted to buy fun pink items to wear to the local movie theater. And so if there’s anything big or small that you can do to attach to a big cultural phenomena, like the Barbie movie, do it! And it doesn’t have to be high cost. It doesn’t have to be this insane investment. Maybe you’re ordering napkins and straws.

It can be something simplistic, but it gives you something to market around. And it also gives you an opportunity to show your customers how to connect with you. If you are offering a special, put it on your social media and then encourage customers to share their experience when they’re at your business.

Let’s take it one step further and talk about that local, small, neighborhood stuff that you can do. Maybe there’s another business within a block or a few blocks of yours and you can have complimentary sales or offerings. I actually had a business I interviewed on the show last year and they’re a game business. They sell board games and they allow people to come in and play board games. They partnered with a local restaurant up the road that’s known for its in house brewery. And they were able to do an event where parents dropped their middle school kids off at the game store, walked around the corner, had their voucher for their first free beer and had dinner over there.

Now, again, this is small. It’s not a huge dollar investment for these business owners, but it’s something to market. It’s something to have a little buzz around. It’s something for you to share and say, “Hey, here’s what we’re doing. Come connect with us as a business.” 

And I want you to think outside of the box with this stuff, too. One of my friends here in Milwaukee owns a floral shop, and they’ve been doing this fun thing lately where they just look up random days of celebration, and they see how they can incorporate it into their business. The other day, it was National Hot Chocolate Day. Who knew that? But there’s National Everything Day.

So all they’re doing is keeping an eye on those fun calendars. Picking random days like National Hot Chocolate Day and making some connection to their business on social media. Again, this is a flower shop. They’re not setting up a whole hot cocoa bar or doing anything extravagant. They’re just posting on Instagram about it, telling you about a local coffee shop around the corner from them that you could grab a hot chocolate at. And then just making themselves relevant. 

Maybe some people will get a hot chocolate and stop in and buy a bouquet. But that’s not necessarily the only reason they’re doing it. It really just helps them keep a content calendar. It really just helps them keep a content calendar. It helps them stay relevant on social and have some sort of cadence for what they’re sharing.

The last thing I want to talk about as it relates to this stuff is seasonality. So, you know, some of you listeners might be home pros or service providers. And you’re thinking, well, Emily, what’s an HVAC business or a plumber gonna do around the Barbie movie or Super Bowl? I get that. But there are still fun things that you can do.

Let’s pretend you’re an HVAC business. You can send notes out about seasonality. “Getting too hot! You need us to make sure your AC is cranking.” “Holidays are coming. Make sure you remember how to turn that heat on and see that it’s running.” 

Whatever you can do to attach to something happening will help you have ideas for how to market your business and make yourself relevant.

The last thing I want to say is collaboration is one of the most powerful tools you can use as a local business. There are other entrepreneurs and businesses and brands that have customers that overlap with yours. So whether you’re looking at an event that’s happening, tapping into a big cultural trend or movement, Or just hosting a mini event yourself, there’s ways for you to get some buzz around your business and connect with customers to remind them that you might be a good fit for what you do the next time they need it.

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