Small businesses are taking the world by storm.
What – a little too cliché?
Ok, how about this, small business aren’t making a comeback – they’ve been here for years (if you have a certain song stuck in your head now – you are my kind of people).
In all seriousness, small businesses are here to stay but better than that – they are thriving. Yes, the pandemic became the provider of natural selection and only the fittest survived. It also exposed the flaws and weaknesses for those who were succeeding. In other words, the pandemic gave us all a free SWOT analysis of our own businesses.
What became apparent to many was our “W” or weaknesses in terms of our online presence – the Achille’s heel to our growth.
For those who relied on in-person events, one-on-one sales over lunch, visits to the office, or other personal connections to create revenue (B2B relationships) – they had to pivot to a virtual world in order to flourish.
For many who relied on consumers suddenly struggling with job security and reliable income (B2C), they had to answer the prospective client’s “Why” more vigorously. The concept of elasticity, even if not understood by its economic definition, was being put to the test.
Plainly put – the ultimate line of whose business would see the following year and who would perish had been drawn in the sand.
Bleak but true.
BUT where there’s a will – there’s a way. For those who came out on the other side, now is the time to expand your business. You have been giving the business analysis of a lifetime. You know what does and does not work for your business. Now let’s take that and figure out how to get what you offer in front of those who need it the most.
Create an Online Presence for Your Business
Be it website, social media profiles, a local business profile on Bing and Google, get online! Those who did not have an online business and relied solely on local traffic learned this lesson the hard way. Remember, we are living in a digital world and rely on it now more than ever. From purchasing cars, to touring homes, to taking a class, to buying a new frying pan – we can do virtually anything online these days!
The internet has become the essential tool for businesses to connect to their customers. The average consumer relies on reviews and/or testimonials to comfortably move forward with a business.
And it doesn’t just stop there.
B2B relationships are formed by monitoring a businesses online presence, customer responses on social media, reviews on Google or niche related websites.
Creating a website provides an “online brochure” of who you are, what you have to offer, and why the person visiting should care. Your social media presence reassures them you are not a fly by night company and allows them to see the experience others may have with you.
As we become more of a “want what we want when we want it” society, having 24/7 support (whether virtual or monitored) for issues, inquiries, or sales has become almost expected. Chat options, email support, bot engagement – all part of expanding your virtual footstep to propel your business forward.
Cultivate an Online Persona via Social Media
Gone are the days of scheduling a post and not looking at your social media again until you feel like it.
Engagement is EVERYTHING now.
Not only that, Pinterest has personally taking it further and favors those who share original content over existing on their site with their new algorithm. Originality is their preference if you want your reach to increase and further your chances of engagement and clicks.
So, what does this mean in terms of social media? While social media profiles contribute to creating an online presence, it no longer stops there. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram don’t care if you share your latest tip on this or your latest blog on that. They care if you liked this person’s post, commented on this person’s picture, or clicked and shared this person’s video.
Social media is a “pay to play” game now which means they need engagement to grow their revenue. This is done in clicks and views. If you aren’t clicking and viewing, you are of no use to them and they live by “quid pro quo” (you engage vigorously on our site, we make sure your content gets in front of more people).
In order to make social media an effective tool in growing your business, you need to not only engage but find a reason for people to want to: share your comments, view your profiles based on your engagement, and reference you as an expert (or influencer) in your brand/niche.
Before doing this, the most important thing is to identifying your target audience. Once you do, find the influencers/experts in that audience and engage with their posts or find the groups catering to that audience and join.
Now, most importantly, DO NOT SELL!
Engagement is not about selling, spamming, pushing people to your brand. It is about creating authenticity with a dab of “authority” in your niche. The more you share your knowledge and provide resourceful/constructive/useful comments, the more your ideal client will migrate to you for information (i.e. the Awareness part of the Buyer’s Journey).
Find Out More about Your Customers
The best research for business growth is current clients and customers. They obviously decided to work with you so find out why!
You don’t need to wait until they are done with your services to ask them for a survey. Depending on your business model/structure, there are at least three surveys you can create to gather information for customer acquisition
Ask them about their coming onboard experience to determine what needs to be streamlined. Find out what is clunky, what works, what doesn’t (too many forms that can be consolidated into one), and where they almost said “forget it” – i.e. what created frustration or resistance during the process and WHY they decided to do it anyway (remember – your primary goal in customer acquisition is to answer their Why – this response is the equivalent to finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow).
Find out how the process is going so far, what they are enjoying, what they are finding helpful, what is working for them, what isn’t (they may not like using a ticketing system if they have questions), what they wish they had more of, what they can do without (they may like the Zoom calls but 3 a week may be a bit much), and would they recommend this service to others and why (i.e. language/keywords you can put into your sales copy and it would speak directly to your ideal client)
This is the place to gather testimonials for your business. If your client stays with you for a longer duration of time, you can send a variation of this survey at the end of the quarter, end of the fiscal year, or on their first anniversary of joining your business. If using this for an offboarding survey, the primary goal is to check in on their growth, how your services helped them, what they ultimately liked and didn’t like after going through the entire process, and either request constructive feedback for improvements or a testimonial that can be shared with your community.
By focusing your research of existing clients or warm leads (if you haven’t landing your first client), you can determine how to best attract new ones. Taking it once step further, when you successfully convert new clients into loyal ones, they become advocates for your brand which leads to WOM referrals, the most guarantee lead you will experience as a business.
Nothing will scale your business faster than WOM.
Important: the nurturing of new and prospective clients can be automated. Please do not take this as an extra task to add to your “to-do” list for every potential lead and newcomer. CRMs like ActiveCampaign, Infusionsoft by Keap, and Ontraport allow you to build automations that “kick-off” to a specific date or send after a duration of time. The surveys themselves can either be built using internal forms in these CRMs or external programs such as Google Forms or JotForm (both free options).
Improve Your Business Customer Care
Customer Services. Say it again – Customer Service. One more time – Customer Service. No amount of marketing, discounts, or engagement can do what good customer service can (or damage a business or reputation like bad customer service can).
As a consumer, customer service is everything to me. If I have a poor experience, I’m done. Why would I give my money to someone who treats me poorly? Why am I sharing this? Because I am not alone. More consumers are likely to share a poor customer service experience than a positive one. In that same breathe, more customers are likely to share an exemplary customer service experience than average.
Trade Joe’s is my ultimate example of exceptional customer experience. Don’t believe me, here’s why:
Reaching for a plastic container of chicken noodle soup in the fresh produce department, I accidentally pulled two forward. One came crashing down, split open, and poured all over my pants leg. I felt terrible about the mess I made and asked my family to grab paper towels so I could clean it up. Not only did several workers come over to see if I was ok, they promptly told me not to worry about it, cleaned it up, AND gave me flowers because they felt bad for my experience – THAT I CAUSED! To this day I will drive out of my way to shop at Trade Joe’s and recommend them to everyone I know.
Even in a bad situation, how a company handles its customers not only defines that relationship but any future relationships that may stem from that one person. Never write off one failed attempt at customer service as an isolated issue. It only takes one drop of concentrated toxin to poison a water reservoir.
Enhance the Image of Your Business through Social Responsibility
This one is my favorite! Yes, the primary goal of setting up businesses, large or small, is to make a profit but – what if you could take that profit and instead of investing it into marketing to grow your business, you invested it into your social responsibility efforts?
During the pandemic, SEVERAL companies gave back to their consumers to help during the hard times.
- USAA gave back $800 million in dividends to their members.
- Digital Marketer provided free certification courses for those who needed to quickly create an online business to generate income.
- Columbia Gas (who desperately needed a win after the explosions in Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence) paid off a month of utilities.
These businesses made headlines for their efforts to give back.
You can’t pay for marketing on that level!
By giving back to your community or using your brand to highlight causes (Habitat for Humanities, Junior Achievements, Boy and Girls Club of America), you are showing those who may be interested how you stand apart from the competition. What you do is not about lining your pockets, it is about making the world a better place.
Using your influence to further a cause also puts your brand in front of those who believe in that cause and want to indirectly contribute. Some companies even incorporate this concept into their checkout process and allow a portion of the proceeds to go to one specific charity or provide the consumer with a variety of options to allocate their donations.
The choice is yours.
The five ideas provided here are just a few of several ways to grow your brand and take your business to the next level. Take these for a spin and let us know what comes from it. We would love to hear from you.
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