It would be very easy for me to rattle off the some new tech contraption, such as the PX92918339282yhn2q9y34 software platform, with a 98393y39 mobile extension app module, an automated 94723432PMFEDDHD starter kit to tack onto a CRM autodialer, with email automation 9w293w49shfs encoders for 100x daily auto blasts, and an anti-spam tech drive. Oh, and don’t forget the 95415ahbsofahsd5465461doansd ad blocking reversal mechanism, which will yield a .00000000000000001 chance any of this nonsense above will get past the 985651616941616161619 bit encryption mumbo jumbo…..
Whew! That was a tongue twister! For a small local business however, there is really only one, time tested, tried and true, secret sauce, numero uno, cream of the crop, top secret key to small business success….. Ready for it??????
YOU! You are the most important marketing tool for your business, and it doesn’t matter how fancy tech tools you waste your money on, none of them will ever be able to do, what you can for your own small business. Large scale businesses are a different story, but if independent small businesses owners don’t market themselves, they will not last. That’s the reality!
Here are some tips to consider:
Be a Human - Walk down the street in your local community or business district and strike up random conversations with folks in your area. You know, a good old fashioned “face to face” conversation. You never know you are going to meet and you never know who the other person knows. Be open minded and invite a local business owner or community leader to have a cup of coffee, take a client to a baseball game, attend a random networking event, join a meetup group, volunteer at a non-profit event, show up at a chamber breakfast, ask to be invited to your local BNI group meeting, have an open house or a sidewalk sale. At the end of the day, people do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust. Hence, it's imperative you create relationships and engage with everyone you meet. Use your imagination, get creative and come up with some fun, fresh ways of engaging with local residents and other small business owners. The worst that could happen is you make a new friend.
Listen to your Customer - With the prevalence of mobile devices and ubiquity of Internet connections, it has become easier than ever before to conduct direct surveys to existing and potential customers. In fact, small business owners no longer have to rely on local marketing agencies or hand out paper surveys to learn what the customers are thinking or saying. Adhering to the “voice of the customer” is an essential piece of small business success, and a reliable way to avoid major blunders.
Connect with your Customer - Ever since the Industrial Revolution, perhaps even more so during the current digital and technological advancement, the “gap” between the producer and consumer has greatly widened. The once prevalent communal relationship of the local store owner and neighborhood buyer is no longer the same- we never know who made our pillows, backpacks, and even our milk, all of which we bought at large retail stores as Walmart. Furthermore, as we purchase various items via online distributors as Amazon, even the “hello, how-are-you” interactions have disappeared.
Recent consumer behavior research has shown, however, that there is great value in connecting with the customer at the most personable level. For instance, Starbucks has successfully built their coffee empire in the last decade by requiring their employees to ask for the customer’s name, and write it on the cup. Apple stores allow its clerks to roam freely on the floor, with their phones to function as cashiers, to meet and greet customers individually. All of these efforts are closely related to building a strong and genuine brand by investing in a sustainable relationship with the customers.
Why does this matter? Because small business owners have more flexibility in managing their businesses both comprehensibly and in detail, they can make faster and more accurate decisions to create a personalized and authentic experience for their customers. Rather than competing on price or cost-reducing strategies against the “big firms”, CEOs of small businesses should spend more time thinking about ways to intimately connect their brand with their local and online consumers, open houses, free tours for children, and sponsoring local events and teams could be some viable options. After all, customers want to be treated as people, not as sales numbers.
Nurture Current Customers
Many small business owners are so focused on obtaining new customers, that they often overlook the customers they already have. Focus on maintaining and supporting the customer base you've already acquired as you look for new ones. You can achieve this through helping them to solve problems and becoming their go-to source for information. Establish a relationship with your customers and make every effort to engage with them. You can also offer discounts to your loyal customers to encourage them to continue buying from you. Hiring competent and skilled employees will also be a wise decision, as hiring the wrong personnel can cost you dearly. You should ensure that you always provide quality products or services to ensure that you satisfy your customers. Also, give free offers occasionally and send thank you notes that you have written by yourself. This will give your business a human face that is likely to resonate well with the public.
Here comes a curve-ball, so get ready for it. PUT DOWN THE PHONE AND GET OFF THE COMPUTER!!! Facebook and Twitter will survive without you, I promise. Walk down the street in your local community or business district and strike up random conversations with folks in your area. I don't mean set up a Facebook chat, or Instagram thread, I mean a good old fashioned conversation where two people actually talk with each other face to face. You never know you are going to meet and you never know who the other person knows. Be open minded and invite a local business owner or community leader to have a cup of coffee, take a client to a baseball game, attend a random networking event, join a meetup group, volunteer at a non-profit event, show up at a chamber breakfast, ask to be invited to your local BNI group meeting, have an open house or a sidewalk sale. I could ramble on for hours, the ideas and opportunities are endless. We live in a robotic world, where everything and everyone seems to be automated. All things being equal, people do business with and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust. Hence, it's imperative you create relationships and engage with everyone you meet. Break out of your comfort zone and stop hiding behind your computer. Use your imagination, get creative and come up with some fun, fresh ways of engaging with local residents and business owners. The worst that could happen is you make a new friend. Technology is a necessary evil, yet a double edge sword. So get out there and mingle!
Small businesses can still use technology to make their businesses run efficiently, but those small business owners who prioritize human interaction in their operations will have something no automaton or technology will ever match.