How to market your business on the Garden Route

How to market your business on the Garden Route image

We recently hosted a marketing workshop in Knysna for a group of 20 business owners. They ranged from those with business ideas yet to launch, to those who have been trading for 30 years. They came with questions around how to reach their target audience, spend their money effectively and navigate the ever-changing digital landscape.

Emma and I were able to speak from both city and small-town experience, as I moved to the Garden Route four years ago, after a 12-year stint in the Mother City.

Our interaction with guests confirmed our conviction that running a business in a small town has its unique challenges and require a tailored approach to really lead to tangible results.

Here are five sure-fire ways for businesses along the Garden Route to take their marketing from good to great: 

1. Do what only you can do

When you first start your business you naturally do everything. This is often because there is no-one else to do it for you, but also because you can and want to. Nothing is quite as exciting as starting your own business.

However, as your ‘baby’ grows, it’s important to realise that there are only 24 hours in a day, and that you might not be able to do everything on your own anymore.

Our advice is: do what only you can do. Don’t waste precious time doing things that others are better skilled at. Focus on what you are excellent at doing. Maybe no one else can lead and give direction to your business as well as you can. But, someone might be able to do your finances, or build your website.

Getting help in the right areas of your business can bring great relief, free you up to think bigger and give you the ‘team’ dynamic that you might be missing, without having to hire permanent employees.

2. Have a clear plan

Benjamin Franklin once said: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” We couldn’t agree more. Although there are fewer competitors in a small town, every business needs a clear plan around how they are going to market themselves and communicate with their various target groups. It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it needs to be well thought out and followed by your whole team.

This can be more challenging for established businesses, as they might have been able to just open their doors and have their number in the phone book 20 years ago. But, as one of our workshop guests shared, even a small town community is changing in the way they engage with one another:

“My business greatly relies on ‘word of mouth’ referrals, due to the nature of legal work. This worked well before Knysna experienced a great influx of new people and when we only had a few attorneys in town. Now, many people arrive without knowing any trusted locals to ‘refer’ them to my business. The internet is now their ‘trusted voice’ that they look to. That means that I can’t afford to not also be seen as a ‘trusted and respected’ lawyer online.”

3. Be consistent

Effective branding is about telling your story consistently to the right audience. Every part of your business tells a story. From your shop branding and business card, to how you answer your phone or emails, your vehicle signage and your Facebook page.

Make sure you’re always telling the same story and that it accurately reflects who you are. This involves having a clear corporate identity (CI) that is applied consistently to all ‘touch points’. People are more likely to refer friends and family to a brand that is consistent.

4. Be both professional and personal

People are drawn to what is professional. Many Garden Route businesses, however, fear that if they become too ‘fancy’ and professional, they might lose the personal touch and sense of small-town familiarity.

The good news is that you can achieve both, and we highly advise that you do! With design being more accessible than ever, it is easy and affordable to put a professional image out there. Appeal to the growing population coming from Johannesburg or other bigger cities, with a responsive website, active social media presence and beautiful monthly newsletters - but always keep the tone informal and true to who you are.

Then incorporate a personal element to your business by regularly being the friendly face across the counter, calling your faithful clients on their birthdays, or supporting local community projects.

5. Be authentic

Be intentional about reminding your customers why your brand is unique and different to others. As a town grows it draws big corporate companies. Your local grocer can easily be trumped by a national grocery chain store opening across the street, as they offer a wider selection and lower prices.

Be bold about your unique selling point and the value you add to your customers’ lives. An effective way to do this, is by sharing positive testimonies of existing or past clients on your website, or on your social media profiles.

People connect with personal stories - be it that of a customer, or even yours as the owner. Always be authentic and real as this builds trust and loyalty.

Marketing your business in today’s ever-changing digital world can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Yellow Door now has a Garden Route and Eastern Cape footprint, which brings ‘big city’ thinking to small towns. So, if you’re a business owner and you need a fresh perspective on how to market your business, be sure to contact me at or 082 345 7030.


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