17 years ago, my dad opened a pizzeria in a small town where he had no family, no friends and no connections. But somehow he was able to build a strong, lasting reputation for himself and his brand within our community. He knows everyone and everyone knows him. Whether they be the customers that he greets each day; the teachers that he’s donated pizza to; or the local businesses and organizations that he’s sponsored. (Needless to say, my 3 siblings and I were immediately labeled as “Anthony’s kids” once they found out our last name…)
In all, he has undoubtedly made a big, positive impression on my community. And now that I’m a little older and little wiser, I know why.
Of the 314 million people living in America, 71% view small business more favorably than any other institutions, including religious organizations.
This impressive number is attributed to people inherently feeling better about shopping locally. Yes, we are supporting our community and promoting local commerce. But more importantly, we love going to our favorite sandwich shop and sheepishly answering “yes” when the counter girl asks us, “The usual?”. We develop relationships at these mom and pop shops that we could never have with a nearby Walmart. It’s safe to say that small businesses hold a strong competitive advantage over chain stores when it comes to customer service,community involvement and brand equity.
So how do you, as a business owner, take this opportunity and turn it into revenue? Well we have 10 tips to get you started:
1. Know Your Brand, Inside and Out
Firstly, you need to spend some real quality time with your brand. Have a nice dinner maybe or sip wine with it in front of the fireplace – we won’t judge. The important thing to gain from this is that, just like a person, your brand has a personality. And once you realize what that personality, it’s your job to express it. Everything should be an expression of your brand, from your decorations and music to your promotions and social media. This also includes how your employees act and the customer experience you offer.
2. Name + Logo = Identity
Take time to create a name and logo that truly speaks to your brand’s identity. Besides your own face, this is the face of your brand and what people associate with it. If you still need a logo, check out this Color Emotion Guide to find which color best suits your brand!
3. Always Be Improving
Once you feel like your business is running smoothly – something is wrong. We strongly believe in the motto “Invest, Innovate, Disrupt” by Connected Ventures. It basically plays homage to the fact that your business should always be improving itself because bets are, your competitors will be doing the same. When you’re sending out newspaper coupons and using the same old punch cards for loyalty – your competitor is using the mobile Connected Commerce app for customers to collect rewards, coupons and deals all at once on their phone. We know it’s hard to keep up sometimes, but that’s why we make these posts! #wegotyourback
4. Network: Face First
We know that in the beginning small business owners have a lot on their plate. But one of the best ways to help establish your business is by networking – in person. Yes, I know everyone is online yada, yada, yada. But the truth is, people still value face-to-face interaction a lot more than you liking their new status on Facebook. Remember, part of your edge as a local store is the human appeal, so get out and see people!
5. Shout Your Strengths
This is your opportunity to stand out among competitors. No, you should not brag. But hints here and there about your 100 year old brick oven can definitely do you some good. Don’t be afraid to remind customers why your method, purpose, products or service make you unique and desirable.
6. Consistency is Key
Now that you know your strengths, you need to communicate them consistently across all of your marketing platforms. When Subway decided to make it’s tagline “Eat Fresh”, they stuck to it. There was no “Eat Fresh Sometimes” or “Eat Well”. Why? Because people get confused and the best way to break through the noise is consistency and repetition. How do we know it works? Because no person in America can help but fill in: ” ____________, Eat Fresh”!
7. Be Involved Because You Care – NOT TO SELL
My dad has sponsored close to a hundred local causes and has probably donated thousands of pizzas over the years. He’s done it for school events that my siblings and I were part of, for teams we were on and for groups we were in. He did it because he wanted to support his kids and show his community that he cared. And even though none of my siblings still attend those schools – he still actively donates and sponsors as much as he can. Bottom line is, if you are going to get involved with your community. Do it because you and your brand support it. You will create a strong, loyal customer base if you do.
8. Be Clear in Your Messages
This may seem obvious, but many small businesses fall short. Make sure that any promotional material you send out is clear. For example, a coupon that says “2 Ice Creams with 2 Toppings for $5” can probably be taken as ‘2 2-topping ice creams’ or ‘2 ice creams with 1 topping each’. This can create disgruntled customers when they realize you meant the latter and they want the former. And BAM – you lost a customer.
9. Keep Your Promises
Never tell someone you will do something and not follow through. Not only will you break their trust, but you have also damaged your and your brand’s reliability. If the owner cannot keep his promises, people will assume that neither can your business. To help you do this, write notes in your phone or on a calendar each time a commitment is made. It could save your reputation.
10. Make a Value Proposition
Lastly, gather everything you know about your brand’s personality and make a solid Value Proposition.In essence, a VP will tell your customers how your business solves their problem and why it’s better than your competitors’. This is a great resource to help you build a great Value Proposition – Useful Value Proposition Examples