Competing with big box stores can leave many small business owners feeling overwhelmed. Everyday it seems that there is a new social network or advertising service that is “guaranteed” to grow your business by 1000%. Most aren’t worth the price you pay but there are a few, highly effective, methods and services that you should not hesitate to try. Below are the 6 most effective and affordable things a small business owner can do to make the biggest impact for the least amount of money.
- Learn how to use social media effectively.
If you learn how to use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and LinkedIn, then you can use them as an easy was to get free publicity for your company and use them to do your own self-promotion. It is actually possible to connect most of these social networking sites together, so you can post 1 time and have that single post show up on all your other social networks this way you can get maximum exposure for minimum effort.
- Create a unique inviting atmosphere in your business.
By differentiating your business in terms of the look and feel, as well as customer experience, will positively impact both your staff and customers. Try to add personal touches to every point of customer contact, and if it’s feasible, reward your staff when they go above and beyond during customer interactions. Ask staff to contribute their ideas regularly. If your staff enjoy working for your business, they will be more likely to encourage their friends and families to use your business too. Your customers will be able to tell whether the staff feels empowered, because the staff will create a more positive environment.
- Engage with your local community as much as possible.
There are many ways with which you can engage your local community. You can sponsor an existing local event, create a local event, or you can try to engage with local product or service providers. Try to source and sell a few local products, even if they may be slightly more costly than the rest of your products. Through local sourcing you will help to support the local economy and build strong relationships with other locals.
- Start a loyalty card program for your customers.
Starting your own loyalty card program can be very inexpensive and very easy to manage and it rewards customers for returning to your business. For example, when a client spends over a certain amount (say $10), give them a loyalty card, which they can use to collect stamps. Every time they spend over this required amount of money, stamp their card. When they have 10 stamps, you can offer to redeem this for a $5 discount on their next purchase over $10. Ultimately, they will have to spend over $110 in your shop to get $5 off (a discount of about 4.5%), but people will keep returning as they will feel like they are working towards something. If the above example isn’t plausible, try something more suited to your products, such as “buy 10 coffees, get one free” or “have 5 haircuts, and get a free color or style treatment.”
- Join a joint-marketing program such as “Certified Locally Owned”.
This will help you to get your business noticed, and can help your business become more trustworthy in your local community, compared to big-box, chain stores or franchises. People really do care about their local community and they choose to shop at locally-owned independent business as a way of making a difference. With a program like “Certified Locally Owned” you get a certificate, web badge, mobile website, directory listing and QR Code-enabled window cling to help local shoppers as well as local online shoppers easily identify your business as a locally owned business. Many programs can even provide you with banners, other promotional tools and even consulting on how to supplement and existing local / buy local program or create your own shop local / buy local program from scratch.
- Get your business listed on Yelp.com.
List your business on Yelp and then encourage all your regular customers to give you a positive review. More and more people turn to Yelp before going shopping or dining. They pick a local business based upon other customer reviews. By adding your business to Yelp, you have a much better chance of being discovered by local shoppers.
It can be seem overwhelming for a small business to stand out in a crowded marketplace, however, as long as you implement at least one or two of the ideas presented here you will be able to promote your business, attract new customers and retain existing customers easily and cost-effectively.