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The United States loves small businesses – it’s official! That’s according to a survey by the Pew Foundation, which found that 71 percent of Americans view small business more favorably than any other institutions.
Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences. Their products and services are often niche; the target customer is very defined; and business operations are agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got put through to an automated call center? These seemingly small things come together to create a large competitive value.
Here are 10 tips that can help achieve the ultimate success for your small business:
What is Your Brand?
First, it’s important to understand that your brand is much more than your logo, merchandising or products– it is about the sum total of the experiences customers have with your business. This includes the visual elements of your business, what you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like, and the type of information you share in your marketing and on social media. All these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business.
Your Small Business Must Stand Out
If your brand is going to be strong, you need to be able to pinpoint what it is that makes what you do unique. What differentiates you from others in your industry? Don’t forget to weave what makes you different into your company’s messaging and marketing.
Have Great Products and Services
Word of mouth is often a small businesses greatest lead generator, so having great products and services that people talk about is a critical part of your brand and why you are in business. Even the most outgoing and charming small business owner is not going to succeed in bringing customers back, unless the product or service they provide delivers and exceeds expectations. Don’t lose sight of your product – keep refining it, testing new offerings, and making sure you always put product first, not the money it brings in.
Make Sure Your Customers Know the Face Behind the Product
One of the biggest reasons that small businesses fail is because of the persistent absence of the business owner. Without an actively engaged owner, employees lose motivation and structure, which can quickly lead to sloppy service, a poor product and customer churn. Yes, your business needs to be able to function without your constant presence, but it’s important to strike a balance – find ways to make sure your customers know you and connect with the face behind the business. Businesses really thrive when the energy of the owner is there.
Get Your Name and Logo Right
Your logo and name should be easily recognizable and reflect the nature and tone of your business as well as appeal to your target market.
Have a Distinct Voice
A great way to ensure your distinct brand message is delivered consistently across your business is to focus on how you and your employees interact and communicate with customers – in-person, on the phone and on social media.
Build Community Around What you Do
A successful brand is one that is trusted and respected by customers – building a strong community online and off can help you achieve this. Facebook and Twitter are great outlets for this, as is your blog. Offline participation in community activities such as local events, fundraisers, charities, as well as hosting your own events such as workshops or loyal customer events, can all help you build community and extend the trust you’ve earned to your brand.
Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service – a happy customer is a loyal customer. So make sure you aren’t making promises that you can’t keep. Stand by your promises.
Have a Value Proposition
Value, can help define your brand and differentiate you from the competition. Make sure that you define what your value is to your customers – it could be your great customer service, product quality, innovation, or any combination of these.