If there’s one thing that all successful small business owners have in common, it’s an appreciation for their customers. Without the support of the community around them, locally owned businesses would find it nearly impossible to compete with their big-box counterparts and national chains. This month’s season of love is the perfect time to show some local love to the customers and community who support your small business.
Create Expert-Level Content
Chances are, your business is your passion – and your unique area of expertise. Let members of the community know they can trust you for expert advice by sharing your knowledge with them. If your hardware business has a blog, share how-to articles and videos there to give customers a hand even when they’re not in your store. If you run a popular downtown bakery, post weekly recipes on your social media profiles to keep followers engaged.
Sharing valuable content isn’t just good for the people who read it – it’s good business, as well. High-quality content improves your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) score with sites like Google and Bing. Not to mention, it’s an opportunity to build trust with your current and potential customers.
Reward Customer Loyalty
Offering the right inventory and professional customer service is no doubt a formula for success, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to give customers an extra reason to come back. According to Ciceron, customers who are engaged in some kind of loyalty program buy 90 percent more frequently and spend 60 percent more per transaction.
Consider starting a loyalty program for your customers. When they make a purchase, ask for their email address so you can send them a discount code or coupon for their next purchase. Or, give customers a punch card that you can mark each time they shop. When they get to 10 purchases or a certain dollar amount, offer them a freebie. You can also join a local rewards program, like the Retail Alliance’s Be A Local LOVEVA program for small businesses and shoppers in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. If you’re located elsewhere, check with your local Main Street program or chamber of commerce to see if there’s a local loyalty program you can leverage.
Make Local Recommendations
Because small businesses rely on the community for support, their owners come to know the community pretty well. Particularly if your business sees tourist traffic, be prepared to make recommendations of your favorite, locally owned spots nearby. In conversation, tell your customers about the new sandwich shop around the corner that makes a great lunch. If a customer can’t find exactly what he or she is looking for in your store, suggest a similar local business.
To take your recommendations even further, consider partnering with the businesses you recommend. Maybe that sandwich shop around the corner will hand out small flyers about your business with its receipts. That similar local shop you refer some customers to may be able to return the favor by sending customers to you every now and then.
Spreading local love comes naturally for small business owners, who know the community and its businesses better than most. Chances are, you already make recommendations to your customers and support the community in other ways, from sponsoring a youth soccer team to volunteering at the local soup kitchen. Whether it’s February 14 or in the middle of June, this kind of community support sets local businesses apart from the competition.