7 Tips for Small Business Owners in 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic has not been kind to small business owners, and that’s something of an understatement. In the U.S. alone, almost 100,000 small businesses closed their doors permanently in 2020. The picture wasn’t all rosy for those that remained open, either. Consumers cut their spending and businesses trimmed budgets out of pandemic anxiety. Revenues dropped precipitously and many businesses survived only by the skin of their teeth.

As we move into the summer of 2021, things are beginning to look up. Vaccines continue to roll out around the world, the economy is reopening in many places, and consumer spending is starting to rise, climbing 2.4% in January after two straight months of free fall.

Business owners are hopeful that profits will climb again, but then again every small business owner shares that hope and is actively vying for new customers. You’ll need to use every tool in your chest to grab consumer attention and make your business stand out from competitors. Here are seven ways to improve your ability to grab a customer’s attention.

1. Upgrade your online presence.

Covid-19 drove online shopping to new heights and that’s one trend that isn’t going away anytime soon. Like it or not, the first place people go to check out your business is online. Even if they’re planning to buy from you in person, now’s the time to create a website if you don’t already have one.

For many potential customers, your website will be their first impression of your business. It’s critically important it be professional and engaging. Be sure to include all the basic information customers need about your business. At a minimum, provide contact information, pricing, business hours, street address and/or the area you serve, and delivery and refund details if relevant.

2. Express the unique personality of your company.

Consumers might buy from a business, but they prefer to have a personal relationship with a brand. If you want to create a loyal cadre of return customers, you need to express your personality in the form of branding. Your website is the virtual face of your business, so choose colors and fonts that express your personality, wording that conveys your tone, and content that communicates your value proposition.

Decide on the voice of your brand, namely the style you use in communications. Examples include formal, cheeky, fun, reliable, classy, etc. After making that decision, be sure to express your voice consistently on your website, social media posts, email newsletters, packaging, and paid ads.

3. Pay close attention to your reputation.

Reviews have an enormous impact on consumers’ decision-making about where to shop so you’ll want to invest regular slots of time in review management. Reviews are almost as influential as a personal recommendation. A full 94% of consumers said that a positive review makes them more likely to use a business. Additionally, 79% trust online reviews as much as a recommendation from friends and family.

Encourage customers to leave reviews. Always reply when someone mentions your business as people will judge you by your responses (or lack thereof). A simple “thank you” for a nice review demonstrates courtesy. Responding to a negative review with an explanation, apology, and/or an offer to make it right shows you care about your customers and readily acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake.

4. Over-deliver!

Superior customer experience (CX) is what turns your one-off shoppers into loyal customers and brand ambassadors. Delivering excellence in CX will make your company stand out in a big way. How about a few examples?

Outstanding CX means monitoring social media mentions for customers who say they love your coffee and then delivering a cup to their office in the middle of the afternoon. Amazing CX means that you include hand-written notes in your eCommerce packages. CX should always include helpful touch points such as sending customers a reminder to book their regular monthly mani-pedi.

The baseline requirement for excellence in CX means a commitment on the part of small business owners to respond swiftly to customer support questions. Businesses that obviously care about CX make sure that every customer service agent uses the customer’s name as he or she interacts with your business.

5. Have an opinion.

No one ever became memorable by sitting on a fence. However, a lot of businesses are scared to express an opinion nowadays for fear of alienating customers. When you do take a stand, it can help your brand stick in people’s minds. Research by Edelman found that 86% of consumers expect businesses to speak out publicly on societal or local community issues.

Offering your take only works when you choose something that matches your business niche. For example, a local cafe might fight to stop the closure of a neighborhood organic farm stand. For small businesses, taking action for local issues can be an excellent way to differentiate yourself. Just make sure you really believe in the cause you adopt. If you retract your statement later, you’ll only ruin your appeal to those who do agree with you.

6. Treat your customers as individuals.

Consumers today expect personalized interactions. Addressing customers by name in emails and texts is already a given. Consumers also expect communications that are customized to their geographic area, age range, interests, and more. Examples include remembering a customer’s favorite color, cookie flavor, or appointment time.

Take personalization a step further with dynamic website texts that greet your return visitors with a customized homepage based on their previous interactions. Consumers also appreciate the opportunity to customize your products and services to their taste so offer as many customization options as possible.

7. Leverage paid advertising.

Pay-per-click (PPC) advertising can be affordable, even for small businesses. Nowadays you can set your own budget and decide how much you want to spend. You can even target your ad to the right demographics. Customized ads on social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram work to bring new eyeballs to your business.

It’s best to experiment cautiously, at first, to see which ads and audiences are the most effective before you raise the stakes and run a serious PPC campaign. Read marketing blogs about PPC strategy to understand ad formats, conversion rates, ad objectives, and other key terms. Be lavish with your keyword research if you’re planning to use paid search ads.

Make your business turn heads in a crowded field.

Even if your business operates in a competitive vertical, there are still ways to make your business stand out and attract attention. By managing your online reviews, running an appealing website, expressing a memorable personality, taking a stand on important issues, applying tactical PPC tricks, and delivering excellent, personalized customer experiences, you can help your small business stand out for all the right reasons.

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