The Top 5 Small-Business Musts
5. Social Media
Social Media provides another way to connect with customers. But recent research has shown that it has little impact on purchase decisions.
Don’t expect it to increase sales. As I’ve said before, social media is a conversation with your customers. It should be used to strengthen existing customer relationships and give a little taste of your personality as a business owner. Don’t let it replace other areas of advertising and customer service.
But it’s an important place to be. Anymore, your customers will expect you to be using social media. Participate, be on Facebook, use Twitter, use Foursquare, offer specials to customers. Engage with your audience.
The following social media platforms are the most popular today, though they are not perfect for every business. Most can find a way to incorporate a Facebook Page or a Twitter Profile, but Foursquare requires a physical location with foot traffic. Have a plan before you get started.
A Facebook Page is an excellent addition to a company website. A great place for comments, conversations and contests. It’s all about content and frequency. Update your Facebook Page every day. Updates, News, Commentary, Jokes, Questions, Photos from recent events, the options are endless. Just try to have some focus.
Need help creating a Facebook Page for your business? Click here for Mashable’s guide to the new Facebook-Page layout.
Twitter provides a way to alert customers of news, specials, changes or insight into the company. Or maybe a business quote of the day. Be creative. Twitter is also a great place for contests.
Business owners can also use Twitter to stay up-to-date on industry news. Follow related companies or industry experts. You’ll have access to all of their tweets on your home page.
For my post on Twitter, how it started and where it’s headed, click here.
Need help using Twitter for your business? Click here for Mashable’s How-To on Twitter.
For businesses with a physical location, in particular ones that have heavy traffic, Foursquare is a fun mobile application that rewards customers for visiting your store. Reward check-ins with a special discount or offer. Or Offer your most frequent customer, which Foursquare dubs Mayor, with the highest prize.
Unlike Facebook Pages and Twitter profiles, Foursquare is user-generated. In fact, most business listings on Foursquare were added by the users themselves, not the business owners. Are you already on there? Check it out at Foursquare.com.
For a business owner, Foursquare requires the least effort to keep going. Users check-in on their own. Unlock specials that you’ve created and compete with their friends on the Leaderboard. In addition to the new Explore feature. To read my in-depth post on Foursquare, click here.
Need help using Foursquare for your business? Click here for Mashable’s How-To on Foursquare specials.
A blog is a great way to share your expertise in your field. To brand yourself as an expert.
It’s also a great way to stay on top of trends, new information and stay connected with your industry.
There are a number of blog services that do not charge for use. Three leading blog services are WordPress, Blogspot/Blogger and Tumblr. I use WordPress to host this blog, though I pay an annual fee for the domain, ericsadblog.com. The free domain would be ericsadblog.wordpress.com. If you don’t want the wordpress extension, you can buy a domain name for small annual fee.
Keep your content focused on truth, on topics that matter to your customers. Do not sell your business on your blog. That will happen organically after you’ve branded yourself as an expert in your industry.
The best part about YouTube — other than those funny cat videos — is that you can do it all. And it’s free.
Build a YouTube Channel. And link either Informational Videos or How-To videos for your industry, making your YouTube Channel a great resource. Or better yet, record the information and How-To videos yourself. Creating the videos yourself adds a very personal touch. It allows the viewer a look inside the business. If you link videos other have created, users will remember them. If you create the videos, the users will remember you.
2. Get on the Street
Slow business day? Well don’t just sit there, hit the streets! Talk with your customers one-on-one. Offer samples, coupons, ask questions. What better way to get customer feedback than talking to them? Thinking of implementing a new menu item? Or changing your store layout? Ask people on the street. Some won’t want to talk to you, but don’t worry about it. Focus on the ones who do.
Even just talking to people –small talk —putting your face in front of the business. Then your customers aren’t just shopping at the store on the corner, they’re shopping at Your store on the corner, Tom’s Store, Mary’s place, Wendy’s coffee shop. It makes it personal. You want them to connect with the business on a more personal level than just a simple trip to the grocery store.
We remember people, not stores. Think of one of your favorite businesses. What are its employees like? Friendly? Do you know any by face or name? Had any conversations with them? If so, I’ll bet you remember the person and the conversation.
One of my favorite retail stores is Best Buy. I love the products Best Buy carries. But I also love the customer service. The way they greet me with a simple “hello” every time I walk in. Best Buy employees are also very knowledgable and accessible. They aren’t trying to sell me; they’re trying to help me. It’s something I remember, and in part it keeps me coming back.
Advertising isn’t just for national brands. Local businesses need it more than anyone. It isn’t enough to just open your doors and hope people come in. Advertising informs, possibly entertains, and reminds customers that you’re there, and that you have the products they want and the expertise to service them. Advertising Builds Companies. It brands them as the place to go.
Believe it or not, it’s possible to generate word-of-mouth. It’s called advertising. When you advertise your business with audio, and advertise the same message often enough, you’re using word-of-mouth to build buzz about your business. Audio like TV and Radio. The key is frequency and getting your message to the same audience.
Online banner ads, newspaper ads, magazine ads — or any other print ads — offer a way to reach consumers in the market today, or the day you run your ad. But it works much differently than a TV or Radio ad. Know the basics before you get started.
Search marketing is another way to reach consumers who are searching for your products and/or services. Making sure your website is well optimized and contains all necessary information — skip on the fluff — that best portrays your business.
If you don’t know how to build a solid website or make it search-engine friendly, find someone who does. Because being visible when customers are searching for you is an important step in acquiring new customers via the web.
What are you waiting for?!
So get out there, talk with your customers! In person; in the ads; in your blog. Be friendly. Be yourself. Have fun. Interaction is key. Show people how much you love your business and what you do. Because if you do it well enough, they will too. But don’t focus on selling your business; that will happen organically when people see how much you care about it. Sincerity is easy to spot.
The common thread with this Top 5 Small Business Musts — in case you missed it — is Interaction. Interact with your customers. Interact through Social Media, Blogs, YouTube, In-Person and in your Advertising.