Thankfully, the economy is bouncing back, which means that consumers are once again heading out and spending their money. There also seems to be an increased awareness of “buying local” and participating in events like “Small Business Saturday”. While this is great for small businesses, it also means that all small businesses need to get ahead of the game when it comes to being on the consumer’s radar.
- Be specific
When sitting down to develop the marketing strategy, it’s important to consider what specific niche the business fulfills. Now, it might be a little daunting to think of something along these lines, but don’t get discouraged. Every company is unique, and it’s okay to tell consumers what’s what with the business. I’m not talking gimmicks or tricks – just talk about what’s there.
Finding this specificity also helps consumers relate to the business and form a personal connection, especially if the reason for the niche is explained. For example, being committed to using only locally sourced meats and produce at a deli because the business owners truly believe in buying local is a great way to get consumers with similar values to come to the business. It seems obvious, but I’m going to throw this in anyway – be honest. The truth will come out and consumers won’t trust the business if they find out that the reason they choose that business was based on a lie.
- Don’t be cookie-cutter
When I look at the average strip-mall, I feel like all of the store-fronts look the same, mostly because they are all huge companies. One of the coolest things about small businesses is that they have more wiggle room when it comes to designing the store. Sometimes, it pays to stand out. Getting some awesome neon bar signs or having the name plate designed by a local artist is a great way to get people off of the sidewalk or road and in the door. Catching a customer’s eye is essential.
Almost everything is done online these days, and people really respond to person-to-person contact. Handing out samples outside of the store (and actually talking to passerby, don’t just thrust a tray of product at them) or making a real effort to know customers by name is a great way to foster that connection. Now, the same rules apply online – customers understand that companies have to send out blanket messages via Twitter or Facebook, but it pays to notice which users are on those sites most often. Tweeting them directly or offering them a discount for their loyalty is a great way to build those relationships.
- Do something selfless
Companies have a certain responsibility to the community in which they operate. It’s important for the small business to give back in some way, and it’s mutually beneficial. Whatever causes the small business chooses to support win, and the company gains positive exposure. It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant, nor does it have to be completely on the company’s shoulders. Charity 5K runs are always in need of sponsors, and other fundraisers always look for volunteers. Giving back to the community is a wonderful way to get the company name out there, and at the end of the day, it’s just a great thing to do.
Remember that niche we talked about earlier? Offer consumers a chance to learn more about it by offering education on the subject. This can be online or in classes at the location. This is a wonderful way to provide a unique spin on the business. Make sure that whoever is teaching the class is qualified, of course, but also try to do something fun. Run a winery? Have a “painting” class while discussing what goes into designing labels. Run a restaurant with local ingredients? Take some customers on a tour of the suppliers and then have a cook-off. Think of something that customers will enjoy doing, and it might even be able to get some press coverage as well!