By Felicia Guthrie
Looking for ways to stand out among your competitors – big and small?
As a small business owner, it can be tough to compete with the “big guys” and your smaller competition alike, even now, when so many are urging for consumers to #ShopLocal. It can also seem intimidating when you have limited resources as well.
So how do you stand out from your competitors while working with a limited budget or resources? Let’s take a look at 6 tips to help YOU stand out from your competitors.
#1: Provide Excellent Customer Service
If you don’t provide excellent customer service, how do you expect to build customer loyalty?
There are so many ways you can “better” your business when it comes to customer service. It often starts with customer feedback. I know the idea of feedback, especially when coming from an unhappy customer, can be intimidating, but it’s not so bad. Whether you have a website option for reviews, or you’re doing social listening, or gathering feedback in some other way, both positive and negative feedback can help you. Feedback gives you the chance to learn what your customers think you’re doing right and, of course, where you can improve. It also gives you the opportunity to acknowledge your customers’ opinions and to build stronger relationships.
While working in retail, one place I worked at really prided themselves on customer service and would encourage sales people to invite customers to leave a review highlighting the service and people/store location. This not only gave the business valuable positive reviews for their website, but it also gave them the opportunity to recognize staff members who went the extra mile or made someone’s day.
#2: Create an experience
Customer experience includes everything from the product or service you’re offering, to the people behind your business.
You should be asking things like:
- What is the purchasing journey or experience like for your customer? Is it easy to navigate your website?
- Do you respond quickly?
- What do you offer that is unique?
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to creating an experience for your customers either. From special events such as trunk shows featuring live music to offering personalized appointments and services, offering your customers a beverage (like water, tea, or coffee) while shopping, and even giving customers a gift for their birthday. As a customer, wouldn’t that little extra thing make you feel great?
#3: Reward loyalty
So many places offer loyalty deals and discounts and so can you! For example, you can create a point system similar to Craig’s Cookies. After a customer has x amount of points, you can offer a freebie or discount. Or you can create loyalty cards/accounts which offer a discount, like 5-20% off – even “a little” can go a long way.
Notice someone who’s been giving you a lot of love or customers? You can even find a way to reward them, or you can create a referral program. Here’s an example of when a small business blew me away: There’s a brand that I follow closely on Instagram. I regularly purchase product from them, but I also engage with all of their content regularly on social media. One day, they sent me a DM (direct message) on Instagram telling me they recognized me as one of their top ten “best” (engaged) followers on Instagram and because of that, they wanted to send me some goodies as a gift. Needless to say, I was super excited. When I received the package, I was floored. Not only did they gift me much more than I had anticipated, they also sent me a lovely and personalized note of thanks. For them, it probably wasn’t much, but for me, it solidified my love for the brand!
#4: Be visible
Okay, we’ve said it again and again: PEOPLE CAN’T BUY FROM YOU IF THEY DON’T KNOW YOU EXIST. Seems obvious, but it has to be said. So, make sure you’re present in the spaces that your customers actually occupy. If you’re not so sure where they are, you need to do some more research into your target audience.
Here are a few ways to gain more visibility:
- Attend/organize masterclasses, webinars, event nights. For example, MAC Cosmetics has makeup masterclasses and we at SongBird often offer masterclasses for small businesses. Some restaurants may offer wine and paint nights (even virtually), or cooking classes. Get creative.
- Be present on social media. You don’t need to be present on every platform, but you should be present on a few, and they should be chosen based on your target audience. We know resources can be limited, so being selective with where you’re present is better for your time and your budget. Not sure which platform to join? Check this out: How to choose the right social media platform for your business
- Boost your posts or account on social media – this one will require a budget, but fortunately, you can set your desired budget. You can even start with under $10 a day.
- If you don’t have a website, consider getting one. Over the last year, we’ve seen how important it is to have a digital presence, and a website is a great touch point to have, even if it’s fairly basic. If you’re a small business owner in Ontario who doesn’t have a website yet, you could be eligible for a free online store build, check out Digital Mainstreet for more information.
#5: Be social
Sometimes people forget this part but it’s so important, be social! Like and reply to comments, retweet, repost, share, and take part in conversations! This will help nurture relationships and grow your customer loyalty and your audience.
#6: Get your audience involved
Lastly, get your audience involved! Brands like GoPro do this all the time, for example, they share user generated content, and you can do it too! Ask for people to share photos or videos using your products or services then share their content. Create a unique hashtag on social media, encourage customers to use it, and make sure you check out the content you’re tagged in.
There are so many ways that you can stand out from your audience and if you need a little help, we have tons of FREE articles to help you make your brand sing. Of course, if you’d like to work with us, book your FREE 20-minute consultation.