How can local businesses succeed outside of Small Business Saturday?
I am from a small town – Mooresville, IN. Most of my family still lives there or in the surrounding area. My dad has been the mayor and currently sits on the town board. Small businesses are essential to making the community grow. Of course, now there is a Wal-Mart, Lowe’s and every fast food chain imaginable within 5-10 minute drive.
It’s sad to see small businesses close down when the big ones move in. But, do they have to?
What if local businesses had a marketing department or advertising budget that could compete with the chains? There was a local coffee shop in the middle of town that we worked from when we were visiting. She made the best soup and great pastries! My parents ate lunch there often. Then one day, we called to find out the soup choices and she said she had to close. Just not enough business. Her passion was cooking and hosting – she was great at that. But she had no idea how to market her business.
How can small businesses survive in a tough economy with little to no marketing budget?
1. Word of Mouth – ask for referrals, give a discount for recommendations.
2. Use social media – be active and involved on Facebook and Twitter. Social media is not free but can be cost-effective. Utilize Facebook Ads.
3. Be involved in the community. Take advantage of being involved in local events and fairs.
4. Have a website – a good one! Make sure that your site is easy to navigate and says exactly what you do or offer. Keep it updated with great content.
5. Make sure your company is listed on Google, Google Places, Yelp, Urbanspoon, Angie’s List and other sites that are relevant to your industry.
6. Talk about your niche – what do you do different because your small – more flexible, less overhead, less red tape…
7. Create professional business cards – not from your home computer! You don’t have to spend a fortune but it’s not the place to go cheap.
8. Use tools that make you appear bigger: Google Voice, MailChimp to send Newsletters that link to social media sites, HootSuite to post to all social media sites from one page.
9. Update your LinkedIn personal and business page. This is the professional social networking site – don’t neglect it.
10. Get organized! We love Google Apps to share documents, calendars, videos and presentations. We also love 37Signals for projects and contact management.
What have you done as a small businesses to compete with the Big Boxes?