8 out of 10 small businesses fail. Obtain organic growth without spending capital.
Business owners have a business to run, employees to deal with, capital to purchase, accounting and the like. If you own a small business, achieving growth may seem daunting, but with a little effort and research, your company can thrive, organically.
10 non-monetary marketing strategies to help small, local businesses succeed.
1. Marketing Strategy
It’s been said that when a business starts to fail, marketing is the first to go. It’s true that some marketing is very expensive, but organic marketing is free – it just takes a little effort.
Have a goal:
Successful small business owners take the time time to research, ask and train themselves on current marketing practices. They test many forms of media; social, website, email campaigns, google and have an outcome in mind. All of these platforms have analytics from different campaigns and the successes with each. Make use of these free tools! Learn them and get to know how they can communicate your brand effectively. Pay attention to what works…rinse/repeat.
Remember to utilize Search Engine Optimization for your website. This will create an inbound marketing and get you qualified leads. It’s like business walking in the door.
Here is a great blog on social engagement.
Communication contains many functions. I will focus on a few here:
Face to face: Yes, you heard it. Talk with your customer in the flesh! I know it’s totally antiquated, but it must be done. We all love our techie stuff, but NOTHING can take the place of good old-fashioned rapport.
Social: It goes without saying that you should have a social media plan in place. Do something different, something interactive. Many small business owners allow employees to post updates to social media on behalf of the business. Pick and choose wisely, but with the right plan, an employee can convey a great message which forces the user to take a second look.
Did you know Facebook has a business/analytics page? Click here.
Publications: A great way to get your business a little boost is to publish an infotorial. These can be paid, but sometimes, in a smaller town, publications will allow the content free. Do – offer compelling information on a topic and happen to mention your business in a clear concise way. Don’t – detail blatant advertising, or spammy types of content.
Video: Statistics are showing that video (www.youtube.com) is influencing how and when we make decisions. Customers trust this media and not only that, “it impacts purchase intent,” according to Google.
You can view a great blog by Google and how video influences your audience here.
Websites: If you don’t have a website, or an outdated website (whelp…), do it and get it done now. There is so much to be gained by having a web presence. Three things: one, create a website that is responsive and can be viewed on mobile devices. Two, make sure your site has basic search engine optimization. Three, keep it simple with calls to action.
Perception is reality. Right? Establish differentiation for your business or products even if it’s not there. I don’t mean lie, or be deceptive. Create a reason your customers think their purchase is better than the next.
Example: I have a client who sells a very boring product yet she is hugely successful in Evergreen. The products are easily available online. What is her shtick? She calls it products with a purpose – donating on behalf of each product sold. This isn’t earth-shattering and it’s been done before, but who does she donate to? A LOCAL charity. That makes the difference and it’s a feel good reason. Her differentiation is EMOTION.
Your Product/service: Okay, so you have a trendy product. That’s great, and you might do extremely well with that..for a while. Why not integrate other staple services or products into your trend while it’s on the rise. Give your business longevity.
Market Trends: Find out other trends related to your business. If it’s another complementary product, capitalize. educate yourself on the relationships between customers and products and well…other products. Where else are they shopping? What are they interested in? What do their family members like? Adjust your plan accordingly. Keep your business fresh.
This one is easy. Listen, pay attention and be willing to modify. Don’t let your ego get in the way of making changes. Be open.
6. Local Rewards
Offer the locals in your community rewards.
Credit card companies take a percentage. your overhead is costly. Your employees want higher wages. All of these things are understandable and reasons why you charge what you charge. Reward your returning local customer with something…points, special gifts, a free dessert. Throw a bone every once in a while. If you don’t, your customers become passively adverse to your establishment. They may not actively ban you, but they won’t recommend you. A little something goes a long way. Look at the bigger picture in this regard or you will slowly drive business away.
Customers are a great source of information! How do you obtain feedback? ASK! Listen to customers and clients. It’s the reason we have two ears and one mouth. Ask about different products and the benefits. A customer is usually willing to give…well a lot of feedback. Good or bad, don’t let your ego get in the way of really understanding the concepts of whatever the customer says. The most important lesson to learn here? Adjust your business based on customer feedback.
Facebook Business offers many tools for small business insights. It’s worth the time to understand how customers interact.
I walked into a local business in Evergreen to buy ski equipment. The employee at the time was super nice, and more importantly VERY intuitive. She befriended me and engaged in meaningful conversation but knew when to back off. While browsing, she mentioned, a 20% discount. She read me, up sold, had the owner come out and say hello – I took the bait. I didn’t mind because it is a local business and I’m giving back to the local economy. We hugged when I left. Not only that, but she encouraged me to come back for the next sale.
A month later that same store offered a 20% discount on a Saturday, which I missed. The following Sunday I dropped by – different employee – and asked if they would still honor the discount. The answer was no. I left.
An employee can make or break a deal. There is nothing wrong with asking customers how they were treated and promptly offering an incentive.
Customers feel good when finding a good sale or discount. Empower employees to make decisions at the point of purchase even if it’s only a 5% discount. REWARD LOCALS. (didn’t I say that before?)
Provide consistency with everything related to your business. This goes for accounting, pricing, employees, products, even your downtime…you name it. your business will run so much smoother when you can create a sort of harmony with all the variables.
We are creatures of habit. Your customers will keep coming back if they know what to expect. If that salad you served last month was a hit, keep it on the menu for goodness sake!
10. Forward thinking – a conclusion
There is nothing more off-putting to a customer than an antiquated space, or non/bad use of technologies.
Use business tools to optimize and organize your time. You might find that what takes you 2 hours to accomplish, you can do in 2 minutes with an app or tool.
Stop using paper unless absolutely necessary. For example, I use Adobe Acrobat (the full version) to sign contracts with clients.
Keep your office or storefront looking new and fresh.
Hope this helps your local and small business endeavor. As a customer in a small business community, I encourage you to constantly think of innovations and have fun with it. Did I miss anything? Contribute and be a part of the conversation by commenting below.