My upcoming business has a side project that requires reaching out to small businesses that do not currently have an online presence. Initially I was hoping to achieve this manually by looking locally and relying on word by mouth and so on. However that doesn't prove to be a scalable module. Any ideas or tips?
Here's one way:
You can optimize steps 2 and 3 many ways. Here is something I've done in the past with a local deals business (similar to Groupon) that converted really well:
Interesting question. Small businesses are usually the hardest audience the target and market to. Some of the common reasons are very busy owner with hardly any time to consider a new offer from an enthusiastic entrepreneur, not very tech-savvy (average age of small business owner in the US is around 50 years old last I checked), etc.
One of the most fascinating example of small businesses growth strategies (aka hacks) is Bellycard. I recommend that you read the full case study here:
In principle, they did the leg work in their home city of Chicago, but that's not all. First they approach a set of stores that had some shoppers traffic. By employing certain methods, they managed to get the first stores' shoppers to influence other business owners to work with Belly. The reason why the shoppers were driven to spread the word was because they got something in return, they were incentivized by the value of using Belly in every store.