Source: Small Businesses Strategies that work; open for consideration by the Small Business Owner/Operator and/or Family Owned Business Organization; aimed to provide an advantage in positioning small business in front of their desired audience.
Small Businesses need every advantage available to them in their wheelhouse. Across America, family owned small businesses have struggled with the invasion of big box retailers whom have strategically placed their store locations to purposefully draw audiences of consumers away from Main Street. So how does a Small Business Compete against this kind of capitalism? There are three areas of competency that Small Businesses can incorporate into their business strategy that are cost effective and keep small business owners out in front of their customer audience.
Relationship Building: Small Businesses are more reliant on client relationships more than ever. Common bonds and solid a presence in the community provide a strategic advantage for small businesses where the business owner can personally engage with clients. If your product and/or service are for a commercial business to business offering, joining a local chamber of commerce and/or a local business barter exchange will put you in an environment to meet direct with decision makers of your ideal clientele.
Your main investment is your time in networking and getting to know your potential client. You must be out front of your potential or current client and stay out front. If you cannot be seen, then people think you do not exist. It is not enough to just be listed on a directory and hope the phone will ring. You must extend the olive branch and take a sincere interest in the other party’s business growth needs, goals, and vision.
When these types of bonds are established, you will be surprised to how partnerships and alliances are formed. One example of such types of an alliance that can be mutually beneficial, say between a graphic artist/web design/marketing firm and a company that makes signs for businesses and letters vehicles. Though at first they may seem like competitors, both have their niche offering, and when a complete business marketing and advertising plan is put into action for a client; each business benefits from doing business with the client when they focus on their niche. These types of situations are where referrals generate income.
Education Opportunities: One of the best ways to establish yourself as a local expert is to host a local seminar on a subject matter that relates to your industry. For example if you own a local senior health care nursing home facility, and you wish to indirectly sell your facility’s services to potential consumers, you could host a seminar about elder care, and how to properly determine which type of facility will suit your loved one’s needs. Such a seminar can be hosted at the local library, firehouse, or community recreational center. Usually you can borrow the space for a small donation. Within an hour you can demonstrate that you are the local expert folks should seek out for advice. Your expertise will speak for itself, resulting in client flow.
Getting involved in a local education program can also help a business grow. You can volunteer to be a mentor in business or trade related educational enrichment program at your local high school or college. Your contribution to sharing knowledge with students does not go unnoticed, as parents of the students, other faculty, and even local media will recognize your donation of your expertise in uplifting future workforce.
Programs like Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA) and Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) are student education enrichment programs where students take an active role in understanding and practicing many facets of business, corporate, and industry standards. Many of these student programs offer work study situations, where a student obtains gainful employment at a local merchant, and must put to practice their class room practical into real life work situation. These programs yield student employees with a higher understanding about the importance of business operations, marketing, industry standards, and business ethics. If you are in search for student or part time help, this is a great place to recruit future employees.
Non-profit Community Causes and Fundraisers: There is significant value in lending a hand and/or some resources to local community causes. Cause marketing is a growing phenomenon that is accelerating among small to medium businesses and companies. A local business can donate their space for just a few hours to host a local fund drive or an event that allows for donations to be collected.
For example, if you are a hair salon, you may choose to help a local food bank, and for a set time and day, during a designated time you are open (usually 2 to 4 hours); you make a donation to the food bank out of all of your sales for that specific duration. In addition you could take up a collection of food for the food bank. Since you are providing a local public service that benefits a local non-profit organization, news media and radio stations will sometimes provide free air time if the message is all about the public service you offer.
Once the general public is in your door that is when you can provide them some take away information and promotional offers about your business. This form of good will can get you mentioned in newspaper articles; the non-profit community cause most likely would also provide a public recognition of your service. These types of community good will contributions creates top of the mind awareness with local audiences.
Some companies even allocate a portion of their profits to non-profit community causes. For instance, the product Extreme Kleaner (an environmentally friendly non-toxic biodegradable multi-purpose cleaner-degreaser) donates a portion of every product sale back into a fund to assist disabled and/or homeless Veterans; STEM Education; and/or the Arts. Consumers know that their purchase is making a difference in someone’s lives aside from just making a company profit. This has aided in this product sales to skyrocket. Look to adopt cause marketing as part of your business strategy.
Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. Burlum is also a career entrepreneur who lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in several areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also author of The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource-Water, Main Street Survival Guide for Small Businesses, and Life in the Green Lane-in Pursuit of the American Dream.