Revenue is the lifeblood of any local company. But dealing with the shifting small business landscape is getting harder by the day. Managers and owners have to account for an array of new social platforms, online directories, payment options, review sites, ethical considerations...the list goes on.
But with new hurdles come new opportunities. Companies that can adapt, leveraging new technologies and trends, will drive greater exposure and profit. Adaptability, especially when it’s built into the fabric of a business, also provides a key competitive advantage.
In this post, you’ll learn about six practical ways to build customer awareness, boost satisfaction, and drive profits.
1. Maintain a Social Media Presence
Approximately 90% of millennials worldwide are active on social media. That’s a colossal number. No advertising opportunity in history matches the one currently presented by social media.
Platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter can be leveraged by small businesses to target highly-specific sectors of their target markets, and even offer personalized offers and incentives.
What’s more, many customers use company social media accounts for a variety of practical tasks. These include checking opening hours, booking appointments and ordering deliveries, seeking customer support, learning about new products, and more. Ensure that you’ve covered all these bases with your social accounts and that customers can reach you through a variety of touchpoints.
2. Optimize for Local Search
Local search can generate significant amounts of new customers for small businesses. For some companies, a high ranking in local results can mean the difference between success and failure.
Local search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most overlooked sources of new customers for small businesses. Furthermore, it’s incredibly easy to take advantage of local listings. Creating a Google Business Profile is a straightforward process. And boosting rankings, through a mixture of citations in directories and customer reviews, is also something that is well within the scope of most SMBs.
Don’t overlook the power of Google in this area. 50% of all Google searches are for local information.
3. Streamline Everyday Tasks Like Appointment Scheduling
Most small business employees are already overstretched. And menial tasks sap time and resources even further.
That’s where automation tools come in. They enable SMBs to streamline routine tasks while reducing costs and, often, increasing customer satisfaction.
An appointment scheduling website, for example, allows customers to schedule and reschedule dates without the hassle of making a phone call. Automated SMS reminders, which can often be sent through scheduling apps, are another example of how companies can save time with customer-facing tasks.
Artificial intelligence, which often seems like a distant technology, is also helping to streamline processes for small companies. AI-driven chatbots, for example, can now help customers find answers to common questions without having to interact with a real customer service representative.
4. Incentivize Referrals
Customers generated through referrals have a 37% higher retention rate than non-referred customers. What’s more, referral marketing is one of the most cost-effective and successful strategies available to SMBs. It’s by far the best way to leverage an existing client base.
If you’re not already running a referral strategy, now is the time to start. A host of software solutions take care of the technical aspects of running a campaign. These apps make it possible for existing customers to generate unique codes and receive rewards whenever someone is successfully referred. Remember to offer attractive discounts and bonuses to ensure success.
5. Ask and Respond to Reviews
According to a study by Bright Local, 93% of customers consult reviews of local businesses before buying a product or service. Without any doubt, reviews are an essential driver of new customers for SMBs.
So how can you go about generating more reviews? There’s one proven way: ask for them.
Build automated emails into your customer journey that request reviews. Even better, offer an incentive, such as entry into a prize draw or a discount voucher, in exchange for leaving a review.
Some business owners might dislike this strategy because of the prospect of negative reviews. But this is faulty thinking.
Negative reviews can actually be good for business. Research shows that a small amount of negative reviews helps customers evaluate negative aspects of a product or service and decide if these factors are important to them. A glut of five-star reviews can also make a business profile on Google, TripAdvisor, Facebook etc. look fake. [Gr]
6. Generate Consistent Customer Feedback
Have you ever received a feedback card after you’ve finished a meal at a restaurant?
I’ll be you stuffed it in your pocket then forgot about it. When you got home, it went straight in the bin.
Customer feedback is a powerful tool for ensuring that your business stays on track. Feedback is also useful for creating positive, incremental changes that improve the quality of your services over time.
But most feedback strategies simply don’t work. There are many reasons for this, but over-long surveys that don’t’ offer a prize will quickly sabotage customer feedback faster than you can ask, “How would you rate the service out of ten?”
Reach out to customers after they’ve used your service or product and ask them to answer a short survey form in exchange for a reward.
Tiny, incremental changes can drive significant results for SMBs. All of the tips in this article are straightforward and easy to implement. Building these strategies into your processes will pay big dividends in the longer term - you’ll have happier customers and there’ll be more of them. Which is what every small business wants, right?