In a world of businesses—large and small—vying for attention from consumers, how can small businesses stand out? Here are four ways that you can take your business from shop on the corner to talk of the town.

Improve Your Review Profile

If you want your business to shine online, you need a sparkling review profile. Whether the reviews are found on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or other industry-specific sites (though you’ll want reviews on all of these and then some), a strong review profile will not only boost your SEO but garner the trust of potential customers and clients. 

The first step to improving your review profile is to claim and complete your profile on different review sites. For Google, you will use Google My Business to monitor and manage your reviews. Other sites will also allow you to create a business profile. Once you’ve claimed your business as your own on Google, Facebook, and Yelp, seek out industry-specific review sites and build your profile on those. Do as many as you can, beginning with the most popular and working your way down.

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The next step is to respond to the reviews that you already have. This shows that your business respects customer feedback, which encourages others to post their own reviews. You’ll especially want to respond to negative reviews—but make sure you do so in a way that shows your business’s professionalism. When you graciously handle a negative review, others are more likely to second-guess or look past the criticism.

Finally, having a lot of reviews is nice, but what is even better is having consistent reviews. Instigate a strategy to continually request reviews. Do this by incorporating a request for reviews into other elements of your business plan. Send out emails, label packaging, create a page on your website—do what it takes to make reviewing top of mind for your consumers. And make sure that your review process is simple and convenient.

Find the Right Location

Having a solid location should be an integral part of your marketing plan. Though there are many questions to ask about each location you consider, you’ll be able to answer those questions better if you know these three things: your market, your neighborhood, and your competitors.

If you know who you want to market your services or products to, find a location that will make you as accessible to that market as possible. Check the demographics of the area you want to set up shop in. Are the people living there the kinds of people who you could do business with?

When you have a neighborhood in mind, get to know it better. Are there other retailers nearby? Maybe a school or a convention center? What is around you that can drive people to your business or make it more accessible to them? What is the neighborhood’s atmosphere, and is it compatible with your business?

It’s also important to know who has come before you in a particular location. If you’re looking at a storefront that has turned over too many times, it’s probably a rough place for business.

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Finally, know who your top competitors are and where they’re located. When competitors are near each other, it not only creates more traffic but it but allows them to learn from one another’s strategies. Plus, you can reap the benefits or your competitors’ time and money spent. They have been targeting and drawing in the types of customers you want, so if you’re just across the street and have a more appealing product or service, your more-established competitors will drive the quality customers right to you.

If your competitors have a well-established brand, you can use that to instantly gain recognition about what you do and highlight differences (this works for businesses of all sizes — we do the same thing using our industry’s Xero vs. Quickbooks debate).

Work with Your Community

To inspire your customers’ trust and gain local visibility, work with your community. Look for ways to engage with individuals and organizations—and do so inventively. Know the needs and culture of your community and find ways to serve and participate in them. A personalized approach will show your awareness and support of the community.

An easy way to begin is to find events to participate in; then run booths at the events or help sponsor them. Another way to boost your business in the eyes of the locals is to support local charities and host fundraisers. Choose organizations relevant to your services or products to strengthen that association in the minds of your customers. Or, reach out to individual community members who are struggling by providing scholarships. This provides a personal touch that shows how much you care about those who keep you in business. Finding ways to give back will prompt others to see your business in a new, positive light.

Turn Your Customers into Your Marketers

Your customers can be your best marketers, and you don’t even have to add them to your payroll! But to have anyone recommend you, you need to first create the kind of above-and-beyond service/product that’s worth talking about. Then find ways to really connect with your customers. One way to really up the ante of your business is to align your company’s and your customers’ values. If you support a cause that your target market cares about, they will be more likely to buy your products and recommend you to others.

If you can create and then highlight the unique nature of your business and make using your products and services the best experience possible, you will establish loyal customers who will want to share their experiences. A Nielson study shows that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than any other type of advertising.

Digital reviews and recommendations work just as well as (if not better than) the traditional grapevine. Encouraging customers to share their experiences via their social media profiles can be a great way to leverage your most loyal advocates.

Though your business should naturally be worth talking about, this isn’t to say that a little extra incentive doesn’t go a long way. Creating a referral program to reward recommendations will give people the extra push they need to recommend your business. You may also want to consider using influencers to start the conversation about your business and generate buzz.

When you combine great service, quality products, and tempting incentives, your company’s name will spread and your business will thrive.

Have other ideas for effective small business marketing in 2018?  Please share your insights in the comments, and we can all learn from each other!

About the Author

Jaren Nichols is the Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.

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