How Can My Small Business Stand Out?
Did you know that over half of the American workforce depends on small businesses like yours? That means that more than half the people you meet are employed by a small business rather than a corporation. Since there are 30.2 billion small businesses in the United States, this is hardly a surprise. Small Mom and Pop companies like yours are more than just your dream come true; they are a staple of the American economy and help residents to find local work. You might not realize just how much responsibility you wield as an entrepreneur.
You can see how important it is to make your business stand out. This doesn’t only mean that you need to look appealing to prospective new customers, but also that you are a company that takes itself seriously and is a solid place to work. Since you’re up against so many other small businesses in the country, drawing attention to yourself for patrons and employees is no minor task. You need to project a presence that will attract the notice of the whole community.
Now you might be asking yourself: How in the world do I do that? Don’t worry, friend. Whether you’ve been in the industry for decades or are just finding your footing, there are plenty of handy tips for getting your business noticed. Between mixing up your marketing strategies and making it a great place to work, here are our favorite ways to make your business stand out.
Offer Company Parking
How many times have you dreaded visiting a certain establishment simply because the parking lot is a mess? Whether it’s too tiny to make a proper turn, is in terrible shape thanks to poor asphalt paving, or is completely nonexistent, proper company parking does more than offer convenience to your patrons and employees.
Consider whether your parking lot could be considered a liability. You have business insurance and you are unafraid to use it, but why take out a claim when you can avoid one altogether? Ensure that whatever company parking is available to you ticks the following boxes:
- The concrete is smooth and clean, without patches or potholes. If it’s riddled with cracks and other blemishes, you should probably contact a concrete supplier. It might be time to have the entire parking lot redone.
- There is ample room for making turns, backing out, and allowing more than one car at once. We understand that you might only have access to so many parking spots, especially if your business is situated in a downtown area, but try and configure it the best you can. A too-small parking lot can lead to more fender-benders, dents and scratches, and unhappy customers that hate to visit your facility.
- You have at least one parking spot designated for drivers with disabilities. The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) carries strict requirements when it comes to parking spaces, and you are required by law to designate a certain number of van-accessible spots.
It’s no secret that concrete and parking lot reconstruction costs a lot of money, and we understand that it’s not always practical to do it immediately. These things require a budget and a plan, and if you have neither of those things then it’s probably a better idea to wait. However, don’t ignore your parking lot. It is one of those small things that is actually quite a big thing and can deter patrons from wanting to visit your business at all.
Take Advantage of Digital Marketing Services
If you know anything about digital advertising these days, then you have probably heard of search engine optimization, or SEO. These eight syllables sound daunting and scary, but SEO is actually relatively easy to use and is likely something that you are already doing. If not, it’s easy enough to learn and use.
Search engine optimization is exactly what it sounds like: Using search engines like Google to optimize the likelihood of being found online. You can do this by including specific keywords in your website content that are more likely to be searched for by users. For example, if you are the owner of a pet grooming company, search terms might include things like “best groomer near me,” “local pet grooming,” or “pet grooming services [insert your city or county here].” When you insert these keywords or terms into your content (blog posts, welcome pages, etc), your website is more likely to “float” to the top of search engines — which, consequently, helps others to find your business.
If the concept of SEO confuses you, or you would rather have someone else handle it all, consider outsourcing to find an SEO specialist. People who are trained in SEO know how to use big data gleaned from Google and other websites to their advantage, helping your business to grow and for users to organically find you while searching the internet. You can find SEO specialists in the form of content creators, copywriters, and freelance writers.
Make Your Business a Shade Greener
Green technology is an attractive selling point for many people, especially in the wake of recent world events. The entire world has found that less can be more when it comes to technology, and as the phrase goes, “We are the virus.” Cut down your own wasteful or outdated technology and help your business to go green, relying on fewer natural resources.
One way you might consider doing this is to invest in solar energy for your business. Solar energy harnesses the natural power of the sun, storing the excess and letting you use it to power things like business lighting, office machines, and appliances. Take a good look at your current lighting installation and decide: Can it be improved? Solar panels are still a relatively new technology and can vary in price, but imagine having zero electrical bill. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
Don’t forget about the everyday ways that you can go greener, too. If you like the idea of making changes, but your business doesn’t have the budget to do so yet, think of smaller, yet effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint:
- If you can’t afford to replace your entire business lighting yet, think about motion-activated lights. Many schools and office buildings are already using this technology; it detects whether or not someone is in the room based on movement. If there is nobody sensed in a room for a certain duration of time (meaning that there has been no movement detected), the lights will automatically switch off. Although this can be a tad bit annoying if you’re doing quiet work at your desk, a quick waving of your arms will “wake” the lights back up.
- How many recycle bins are in your office? If your business has access to paper and cardboard recycling, by all means, make sure you’re using it. Recycling services tend to lean one way or the other: They will either pay you for donating your excess, or you will pay a small monthly service charge. Regardless, being able to recycle paper that would otherwise end up in a landfill is a great way to make your business a little more eco-friendly.
- Another strategy might be to eliminate paper altogether. Paperless offices are becoming increasingly more popular in the United States. By keeping all your files digital, capping how many pages can be printed a day per employee, and altogether changing your business’s paper culture can make a massive difference. Paper seems like a commodity when it comes to running a business. If you try the paperless route for long enough, you will wonder soon enough why and how you wasted so much money on things like printer paper, toner, and envelopes.
Make Your Business a Competitive Place to Work
A company that treats its employees well is a competitive place to work indeed. High turnover and poor communication oftentimes lead to strife and frustration in the workplace; if employees are not given many good reasons to stay employed with you, why should they not look elsewhere for greener pastures? Avoid falling into that trap by making your business a fantastic place to work through a great benefits package.
Health insurance plans are a major reason that staffers will stay at their jobs. People with good health insurance feel confident that they are taking care of themselves, as well as their families. Offering a package to onboarding staff members is a great incentive to not only draw in a wider applicant pool but also motivates employees to stay long-term. Although this can be a high-ticket item, insurance is so important to job-seekers.
Holiday pay and personal time off (PTO) is another huge benefit that will get you more applicants. Everybody wants to feel like their time is valuable, and being forced to work long hours with no reprieve is frustrating. How are you proving to your staff that you value their time and hard-worked hours? Create a system for employees to accrue holiday pay, PTO, and vacation time. You love your free time as much as anybody else does, do you really think your employees don’t feel that way too?
Provide Amazing Customer Service
It doesn’t matter what kind of business you run, the universal truth is that poor customer service does no favors for you. If you have a call center full of rude, unpoised agents that don’t give your callers the time of day, you’ve got a serious problem. One startling statistic is that 91% of unhappy customers will simply leave and never return when they feel they are treated badly at a business. This means that your unhappy customers only have a 9% chance of ever coming back to do business with you again.
Recognize that customer service is a HUGE part of running a business. You might be the brains behind the operation, but without your customers, you are nothing. Ensure that you are providing excellent training, have a clear chain of command, and that your employees have a step-by-step guide on how to handle difficult customers. The more knowledgeable they are, the less likely your staff will be to come to blows with an unsatisfied customer.
Beyond employee training, it’s also a good idea to have clear policies set in place. Customers like to see that you have considered their needs and that you have strategies for taking care of any business disputes that might come up. Some policies that you should definitely have in place might be:
- A maximum 24-hour response turnaround. It doesn’t matter how big or small an inquiry might be; the quicker you respond to a client, the quicker you can properly serve them. Consider your own expectations when it comes to working with another business: If you send an email and do not hear back for several days, does that look like quality service to you?
- Listen before speaking. Does this sound like a no-brainer? You’d think so, but the truth is that listening can become a lost art if you’re not careful. Our kindergarten teachers tried so hard to tell us that listening should always come before speaking, but that is not always the case. Ensure that everyone who interacts with clients understands that your policy is not to steamroll; it is to find a mutual solution to a problem.
- Provide more than one way to get in touch, or “omnichannel support.” This means that clients have lots of different ways to interact with you: Telephone, email, social media, etc. The more ways that you allow clients to reach you, the better you can serve them. Plus, omnichannel support is a great way for you to stay organized, track business disputes, and get them resolved as quickly as you can.
Working to get your small business noticed is a never-ending battle. If you’re seeing a slump in foot traffic, or you feel like you’re not seeing as many new faces as you used to, it might be time to try another method to get your name out there. It isn’t only advertising that helps your business to stand out; awesome customer service, proper employee training, and placing value on your staffers and patrons are also other techniques to make your business stand out.
Make it a priority for your business to have a stellar reputation. It takes time, money, and dedication, but before long you will start to see that boom that you love seeing. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s worth every moment you spend making it happen.