We've assembled a list of some helpful small business tips. Let us know what you think or if you have any additions at https://www.facebook.com/wisconsinbuyslocal
1.) Be Social!
Social media can be such a powerful tool when used correctly. If aren't doing social media or don't keep up with it, you're doing yourself a disservice. Social media is a place for you to share exciting information, news, specials and more with existing and prospective customers. Many businesses have found that platforms such as Twitter and Facebook become a natural extension of your customer service channels (people want to give you feedback and ask questions from their mobile devices, and social media is the path they are using). There are countless resources online that explain how to get started with social media, best practices and engaging content ideas. There is also a large variety of Wisconsin-owned businesses that can assist you in your online marketing.
Don't forget that platforms like Facebook and Twitter also allow you to run paid ads that can help you inexpensively reach new customers. I recently helped a business run a Facebook outreach campaign with paid ads. The business has over 20 locations state-wide, and has been in business for over 25 years. But over sixty percent of the Facebook users surveyed from the ads responded they had never heard of the business. A high percent of that 60% said they were now interested in stopping into the stores to learn more or change their purchase habits. To me that is incredible marketing penetration, and if memory serves me that ad campaign cost under $1,000. In other words, we learned that other marketing channels were not reaching the business' ideal customers, but with Facebook ads the business could target ad, location, and even consumer interests.
2.) Hang Out At The Right Place
This is just a quick tip regarding your social efforts. There are many social networks, both online and offline. To make the best of your networking, make sure you network where your customers are. Offer business services? Maybe a chamber of commerce or LinkedIn is the place to be. Sell consumer goods or services? Perhaps volunteering and Facebook are best. The point is - network and advertise where your ideal customer is located, and don't waste time and effort on marketing channels that aren't relevant to your customer.
3.) Always Wow Your Customers
There was a fun book I read years ago called The Purple Cow that emphasized how important it is to find and wow "sneezers" - that is, people who will virally spread how great your business is to others. But before you can attract sneezers you must have something for them to spread. What things can you do to out game your competition? Handwritten thank you notes? Always having an extra positive attitude among you and your staff? Going the extra mile? Offering a superior product or service? Everyone knows the 80/20 rule. But I'm a big believer in the 2/10 rule: If you provide sub-par service, your customer is going to tell 10 people. But if you wow your customer, they will sing your praises to 2 people. My 2/10 rule proceeded social media, so I guess in today's world with online reviews, social media, etc, it's actually probably the 20/1000 rule. Always Wow Your Customers!
4.) Referrals - Ask For Them
Sometimes we get caught up in the moment of being praised for our hard or quality work from a great customer and forget to take the next step to grow the relationship. Your great customers are your sneezers -- ask them for referrals! Whether it's in person to person referrals, giving you a positive review online, or liking you on Facebook referrals can be so powerful. Leverage your customers and who they know.
5.) Actually Talk To Your Customers
Years ago I worked retail and ran a small store that offered consumer and business products and services. We had a strong end-consumer base, but really lacked business to business relationships. I trained our entire staff and incentivized them to ask every customer tactfully where they worked - and most importantly to always and genuinely be interested. On raw (but invaluable) occasions we got a magical answer that the customer (just popping in for something small) was the head of this, the purchasing manager for that, the HR manager here, or a decision maker over there. Our staff was trained to plant a seed or an offering to the customer. Simple things like "how could we help your business?" or "we can offer special group offers for your employees just because you're another local business". It was amazing the B2B relationships we built by using this tactic. Simple, effective, profitable and most importantly it built solid and mutual business relationships.
Till next time - Onward Wisconsin!