In today’s world, where there’s a megamart on what seems like every street corner, it can often seem like there’s no way for local business owners to catch a break. Any service you could possibly offer is already available from some multi-national corporation. Even if your products and services are superior, is it really possible to get your business’s name “out there?”
Fortunately, the internet makes it much easier for local businesses to connect with the population around them. With a little knowhow and some effort in the right places, even small, local businesses can establish an online presence and even grow the business to where it’s not just local anymore.
We’re here to give you a head start on the knowhow part. You’ll have to supply the effort yourself.
Obviously, your customers are your main source of revenue, but they can be much more than that. If you actively engage with them, building relationships of trust and developing those relationships, then they will naturally want to let their friends know about your business as well. Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective ways of sharing a message, so it’s important to connect with your client base. This can be through promotions, by inviting user-generated content for your website, and even through your regular, in-person interactions with them. The key is to build meaningful connections, both online and offline.
There are dozens of social media platforms available these days, and local businesses can use them as an effective way to engage with their customers. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat—each of them is an opportunity to connect. Don’t just flood your social media pages with promotional materials, though. Interact with your followers. Post questions that invite a response. Respond to questions and comments that your followers post. Do some research and find out which social media platforms are most popular among your target demographic. For example, Snapchat is extremely popular among younger customers, but it really hasn’t caught on with customers over 40 or 50. Make sure that you are spending your time and resources effectively in your social media efforts.
If possible, assign one person at your business responsibility for managing your social media profiles. This will create a sense of continuity across the posts and help it to feel more like they are interacting with a human and less like they are being “handled” by a faceless entity. Post content that your followers will want to share with their friends and families, which can bring in even more followers and expand your base.
Speaking of which...
If you want to keep people coming back to your website and social media pages, then you have to give them something to come back for. Create content on a regular basis—at least once or twice a week, or even more if possible—and make sure that it is something that will interest your customer base. Whether you are providing legal advice in Lincoln, Nebraska or pool designs in Jackson, Mississippi, you can generate content to catch your customers’ attention. Blog posts, how-to videos, and even memes—no matter what you offer, there’s always something you can make that will bring in viewers.
While word-of-mouth is one of the most effective ways to let people know about your business, that doesn’t necessarily mean literally. According to one study from BrightLocal, 88 percent of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations from their friends and family, particularly if there are several reviews to read. In addition, positive reviews can improve your company’s ranking in online search results.
When you have a positive encounter with a customer, encourage them to leave a positive review of your company online. Be sure to take ownership of your online profiles on sites like Google and Yelp, then direct them to those sites and ask them to leave a positive review to recommend your company to other potential customers. Many times, if the experience has been a good one for the customer, they will be happy to spread the word.
It’s tough for small companies to catch a break when they’re surrounded by such big competitors, but remember—those big competitors weren’t always so big. They started off small, too, and were able to grow by marketing their products and services. The same is possible today, perhaps even more so, thanks to the internet. So build your online presence and let customers know about your products and services so that you can build your business into something great.