One often-overlooked source of subscribers for online businesses is their local community. We can get so focused on the online world that we forget we live in a town or city full of potential customers! Here are some simple ideas for building a huge list by marketing locally. Start with one or try them all then keep adding to your methods as you go for the best results.
 
1. Write a column for your community paper that offers tips and advice for your target audience. If your topic is of general enough interest (like gardening, parenting, business, etc.), the paper may be interested in publishing it with a link to your website.
 
2. Create a simple flyer and print several on brightly colored cardstock. Laminate them and post around town where subscribers can see them, such as on public bulletin boards or in laundromats or the town library. For best results, limit the text to a short blurb and your subscription URL. For instance, if you target crafters, your poster could read, "Free Craft Tips!" and the URL. These will last longer than plain flyers and cost less than printed signs.
 
3. Join local networking groups, chambers of commerce, and service groups. Not only will you break the isolation of working mostly online, you'll also be exposed to dozens of potential partners, advertisers, and customers!
 
4. Contact a local radio station and ask if they'd allow you to sponsor a contest for their listeners. Radio stations are constantly looking for promotions and prizes, so your chances of a “Yes” are high! Direct listeners to your website so they can enter the contest and include the stipulation that everyone who enters will be added to your mailing list.
 
5. Search for places your target audience frequents and promote your mailing list there. For instance, if you target parents, contact area hospitals and pediatricians and let them know you have a free mailing list that offers parenting tips and information, and ask if they could include a flyer in the packets they hand out to new moms.
 
6. Don't forget your local Craigslist. Craigslist – the online version of the local classifieds – has become such a huge draw that even Internet newcomers seem to know about it – and visit! Take advantage of this free ad opportunity. Just be sure to list your ads in the appropriate locations and follow all the rules to keep from being flagged.
 
7. Get in conversations. We often don't take advantage of opportunities to tell others about our business, assuming that because it's online, “ordinary” people won't be interested or understand what we're doing. That's a big mistake – people are people, and you're as likely to find your next customer next door as you are on the Internet. Get over your hesitation to tell others about your online business. Explain what you do and ask if they or someone they know might be interested in your product or service.
 
8. Speak! Local service clubs, hospitals, women's groups, senior centers, and the like are always looking for low- or no-cost speakers. Pick an area of your expertise that will be of interest to the group, and contact them about holding a seminar or talk. Make sure to bring your business cards or promotional items.
 
Stretching outside your comfort zone is a sure-fire way to expose yourself to new prospects. Think of everyone you come in contact with as a potential subscriber to your list, and realize that if they need what you sell, you're doing them a favor by solving their problems. 
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