For small business owners, a new year means new opportunities. Especially after a busy holiday season, the start of a new year is a chance to reset: to set new goals for the bottom line, to reconnect with the community and to get ahead of the competition with a strategic marketing plan. With a year of opportunity on the line, it’s important to start planning for success in 2017 long before the clock strikes midnight on 2016.
Celebrate your local brand
By and large, consumers have caught the small business bug. Last year, ComScore and UPS found that 93 percent of shoppers prefer small and local businesses. These local-savvy consumers appreciate the unique products and community-oriented nature of small businesses. In other words, small businesses have a unique advantage in the modern-day marketplace that’s crowded with powerful and recognizable national chains.
As you head into 2017, make sure that your customers and your community know that your business is locally owned. This can be as simple as hanging a “Come in, we’re local,” sign on your storefront or as involved as joining a buy local group in the community. Above all else, it’s important to speak up when getting to know your customers. Find more tips for building your local brand with this blog post.
Pay it forward
Clearly, consumers appreciate a small business’s commitment to the local community. Oftentimes, this commitment isn’t for the customer’s benefit, but it’s nonetheless a commitment that builds trust among local consumers.
In the new year, challenge yourself and your team to find a new way to give back in the community. Maybe you host a charity event at the store, or perhaps you sponsor a local Little League team. Diversifying your “Indie Acts of Kindness” can help you learn more about the community and interact with new audiences.
Consumers have long used mobile devices and the Internet to search for products and businesses before going to a brick-and-mortar location. But developing a mobile presence isn’t just about getting consumers to head to your business – it’s also about convincing them to make a purchase while they are there. According to a survey from SessionM, 90 percent of consumers may use their smartphones while shopping in a brick-and-mortar store. In doing so, they’re often comparing prices from store to store, looking up product information and checking online reviews.
Developing a mobile presence, including a mobile-friendly website or app, can help small businesses to level the playing field with national chains. Going mobile may have seemed intimidating or expensive in the past, but local-friendly companies like SnapRetail offer solutions that make the mobile process simple.
While you’re updating your business’s digital assets, consider implementing an e-commerce component. Like responsive, mobile-friendly websites, e-commerce capabilities can only further help your business compete with national chains and big-box retailers. In addition to SnapRetail’s easy-to-use platform, services like PayPal and Etsy can become valuable tools for a brick-and-mortar turned click-and-mortar.
Revamp your social media strategy
At this point, you probably have a Facebook page for your business – or, you’ve probably at least tried to set one up. No matter what stage of the social media strategy you’re at, there is almost definitely something to tweak or revamp. That’s because the social media platforms themselves are constantly changing: Facebook’s algorithm gets more complicated, Twitter’s audience changes and capabilities like live-streaming become more mainstream.
Particularly if you don’t want to invest in a new website or app next year, social media can be a cost-effective way to boost your business’s online presence and engage with fans. First, start with an audit: See what people are saying about your company, either in comments or in reviews on the page. Find out what content is most engaging for your fans. Then, post that type of engaging content regularly on the platform that is most relevant to your audience. For instance, B2B companies may find more success on LinkedIn than Instagram, while consumer-facing brands may rely heavily on Facebook. Once you’ve determined what works for your business, streamline the social media process with a single platform that integrates all the channels you want to engage with.
Get serious about customer reviews
If there’s anything that rivals the power of word of mouth, it’s customer reviews. According to research, 88 percent of consumers trust an online review as much as a personal recommendation. These consumers are likely scrolling through sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook to find reviews before frequenting your business. As a result, it’s important not just to be aware of what people are saying about your business, but also to encourage your best customers to add to the conversation.
Chances are, your most loyal customers have already told their friends, coworkers and neighbors about your business. Still, their recommendation can go even further online. Consider offering customers an incentive – such as a discount or freebie – for leaving your company a review online. You can also ask to share a testimonial of theirs on your website, e-newsletter or social media page.
Make the most of the new year with a resolution that propels your business ahead of the big-box competition. With technologies like social media and mobile websites, the playing field for small businesses and national chains gets increasingly level. Plus, services like SnapRetail, which offers website, email, e-commerce and social media solutions for small businesses, make success all the more attainable.
Independent We Stand is dedicated to helping independent businesses across the country engage their communities and encouraging customers to buy local. If you’re a business owner, get buy local resources, tips and news by registering for a business membership. Your business will also be included in our ‘locals only’ search engine and mobile app. If you’re a consumer, take the pledge to buy local to join the movement.