Small businesses are constantly fighting the big dog in their industry. We all know about Starbucks and we know what to expect when we go there, but what about that great coffee and tea place around the corner? They might craft a much better chai latte, but even in your own town- have you heard of them? When you are a small business owner, you take pride in what you do and try to deliver the best products and services to your customers. While you’ve got your nose to the grindstone, however, you just may be missing out on some key ways to attract customers to your business and away from the big name company. Here are a few ways to bring your brand to the forefront in your area and with your target audience.
1. Community engagement
Getting out there in your community gives you the opportunity to meet people and give back. Most likely, you have carefully chosen the location of your small business and the community probably had something to do with that decision. Sponsoring an event or after school program is a great way to get some notoriety and allows you to network in a more casual setting. You can also volunteer with projects like Habitat for Humanity with coworkers then post pictures on your social media page. Create a buzz around what is going on in your community.
How can you give back to people who fall under your customer umbrella? The holiday season holds a lot of opportunities to give back. Donating Christmas gifts during the holidays to children or nursing homes is a great idea and shows your passion for the community. Organize a canned food drive or serve at a shelter with co-workers. Create customizable giveaways for your clients. If people associate your business with humanitarianism, you will have a leg up on the competition.
2. Create an Experience
This is what really sets small businesses apart, isn’t it? We love to go into our favorite boutique and have a conversation with someone who remembers us. It makes customers feel valued and it doesn’t cost a dime. The experience a person has at a huge department store and the experience they have at a local boutique are quite different. Make the experience your customers have desirable and memorable. Creating an experience is a strong and successful marketing strategy.
These one-on-one experiences also allow you to really listen to customer feedback, as well. You may be able to provide customers with something that is missing from the big brand’s experience. Listen to what they have to say and they just might tell you how to beat out the competition.
Make sure anyone who requests information is taken care of quickly. If you give out a business card and get a prospective client’s number in return, give them a call within a week. Make sure you are also staying in front of your current clients. Send updates and, when appropriate, personalized notes. Yes, larger companies can “personalize” an email promotion by dropping in your first name, but they don’t know the face behind that name the way a small business owner does. Staying in touch in this way reminds people about your company and gives them the impression that you really care about their business. The fine line of over sending has to be walked, however. Make sure you are keeping in touch enough to remind them you are there but not too much where they feel pestered.
4. Go Digital
As much customer and community engagement as you do, you can’t get away from digital marketing. Prospective clients need to be able to find your site online when they search for you or your type of business in your area. Your website needs to be updated and easy to navigate. In addition to your website, show up on your followers’ newsfeed. Join social media groups in your community. Sponsoring your content isn’t expensive and can really supplement other marketing efforts. Using social media doesn’t have to be too far removed, however. Respond quickly to questions customers post on your page and have fun contests for prizes- this is putting your advertising dollar in your customer’s hand.
Find the best free marketing tools and take advantage of them. There are marketing tools that cover a vast array of digital marketing types. This will really jazz up your online marketing efforts without a large investment.
With your digital marketing, especially on a small budget, it is important to have a 12-month strategy and stick to it. Plan each month with recurring efforts, such as weekly blog posts and bi-weekly social post. Build the content of these around bigger campaigns you have going on such as promotions or community events you will be attending.
5. Have the Resources
These ways to attract clients aren’t overly expensive, but once you hit the ground running you may realize you want to buy a few marketing tools or refresh your website. If you don’t have the budget for that, make sure you know how you can get the resources necessary to allow your small brand to make a big impact. Small business loan companies, like Kabbage, specialize in lines of credit for small businesses based on their business data, and not just a credit score. You can have the cash you need in minutes. When you are only paying for what really need, it makes expanding your budget far more approachable.
GadellNet is an award-winning IT consulting firm that provides full-service technology solutions to small businesses. Since 2003, we have been delivering efficient, profitable and happier workforces. GadellNet’s best-in-class engineering team is highly successful at implementing and maintaining value-add hardware and software technology.