The big place where the small business owner can beat out the big businesses is their ability to have the owner of the business being adept at advocating personally. In small businesses, brand building and brand escalation start with and is powered by you! So how can you utilize, well, yourself to help your brand grow and succeed?
When my husband started working for a local casino, he had never met the owner. He met many patrons and the HR department of course, but he never met the owner.
Whom he met off and on was a friendly older man who drank soup in the café and chatted with everyone who came by. A couple of weeks went by before one of the more experienced members of the team asked my husband if he realized that the old man in the corner drinking soup actually owned the business (and many other parts of the city besides).
By checking in with the company in a friendly and relaxed manner, the owner instilled a sense that he was a real person, not a brand name and by doing that, it became much easier for customers and employees alike to approach him with questions and concerns. This in turn cemented him as a ‘great guy’ which then helped his business succeed.
If you ‘own’ your own business, it’s important to make sure you have a presence there. Check in more often and have a bite to eat or take a turn in the kitchen or at the register. And make sure that you are also on hand a bit with customer relations, such as by taking part in the social media campaign, answering questions, concerns and complaints directly, and helping everyone to know that you are there and you do care, even when you’re not in the building.
Of course, you don’t want to be your business all of the time-you could be sick, you could want to expand elsewhere or you want to spend time with your family. This means making sure you have good structures in place so that your employees can still work well and your customers feel satisfied even when you’re not around.
Advocate, Don’t Sell
Leave the actual selling of your products to the people, your employees to do it. Your job is to be the proponent of your business. From the streets to Facebook, make sure that people understand who you are, what you offer, why they should choose you, where you are and how you can help. Make sure that your business is not only known for its good qualities, but also for its ability to handle negative feedback, answer problems, and still come up looking great. You’re not a salesman; as the owner of a business-you’re the advocate and that means making sure that everyone knows about your business and why it’s so great!
You Need a Great Product/Service
Needless to say, you ought to have a great product before the money can come in! There is no sense in concentrating on the money first because if you don’t have a good product to sell, you’re not getting any money! Furthermore, you have to be willing to change your products as necessary, dump the ones that aren’t working and push your best ones so that people will keep coming back for more. Once that’s done, then you can concentrate on your cash flow.
A Plan for Bad News
The world of the internet means that what people are saying about your business is instantly viewable and can be spread to others at light speed. Your online reputation therefore is critical because it only takes a few shared negative posts that go unanswered to completely trash your reputation. This means that as part of your business plan and ongoing work, you have to establish a good online presence and make sure there are structures on hand to immediately deal with customer complaints.
Have employees on staff who can deal with complaints online, by phone and/or in person. Make sure that they are trained to actually handle the problems, not just pass the buck (and if they do have to pass the buck, make sure it can be done efficiently). Come up with plans to address problems immediately and make sure customers leave satisfied. And decide whether you need a separate person or people to handle the social media end of things. This is important because most small businesses at least have a Twitter/Facebook or Google+ presence and you need to be able to keep up with that.
In short, you need to have the structures in place to provide top notch customer service so that even people who complain may become customers based on how well you handled their issues. Don’t neglect or ignore bad news or complaints-have a plan in place to deal with them.
As a small business owner, you have a huge advantage over the large store competition: you are your business and you can directly deal with customers. This gives you an advantage because people tend to prefer to buy from people they know over big corporations (especially in today’s atmosphere of corporation distrust). Use this advantage properly and make sure that you become the best advocate and face for your brand, you have a fantastic product or service to build upon and you can handle complaints promptly and properly. In this way, you can build up your brand and your company and find success faster. Good luck!