Despite potential inflationary pressures, the economy continues to chug along as many consumers are flush with cash and eager to enjoy purchases they might have delayed. Small businesses are well-positioned to reap the benefits, with 82% of consumers saying they would choose a local product over a national brand. Here’s what you can do to take advantage of this sentiment and position your business for success.
1. Staff up
Maintaining adequate staffing levels is key to customer satisfaction and productivity. However, this might be easier said than done: In a survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), nearly half of respondents reported having job openings they couldn’t fill.
If you’re running into a similar problem, you may find success with non-traditional employees whom other workplaces might be overlooking. These may be people with gaps on their resumes from caregiving or those who sought early retirement and now are eager to return to the workforce. Or they may not have the requisite degree or direct experience, yet still could be the right fit with some training. The key is to look for “transferrable skills,” such as problem-solving, teamwork and customer service experience that would make them an asset to your business.
Once you have new workers on board, keep them there through a supportive work environment. While you may only have so much latitude in your compensation, see what other appealing benefits you can offer, such as flexible hours or professional development opportunities.
2. Secure potentially necessary funding now
As inflation rises, it’s likely interest rates will too, which can hamper cash flow and profits. That’s why locking in a loan now at a fixed interest rate could be a wise maneuver. Having funding available allows you to take advantage of opportunities to make your operations more efficient and profitable. For example, you might use the extra capital to expand to a different location, purchase updated equipment or obtain elusive inventory.
A small business loan might be the ideal way to shore up your balance sheet so you can avail yourself of new avenues in today’s fluctuating economy. Talk to your business banker about options that are right for your company’s goals.
3. Focus on customer satisfaction
It’s always more cost-effective to keep the customers you have rather than chase new ones. And yet, now could also be a prime time to build new relationships as consumers explore fresh patterns or routines. But whether you’re wooing a new or returning customer, it’s critical to instill brand loyalty by making them feel appreciated when they purchase your product or service.
Thank them for their business and devise unexpected ways to surprise and delight them – it could be as simple as adding a small gift to a delivery or sending a handwritten note. Ask for feedback on your company – it will make them feel valued when you seek their opinion and could provide insights that will make your business stronger. And if a customer leaves a review or comment, make sure to address it, either by thanking them for their loyalty or responding (and rectifying) a concern.
4. Expand your online presence
Ecommerce will continue to play a key role in consumers’ shopping patterns – and even most of those who eventually make an in-person purchase start their search online. Building a functional website might be easier than you think – platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce make it seamless for even non-technical people to get an online store up and running and offer a variety of customizable templates to reflect your individual brand.
If you provide a service rather than sell a physical product, rely on your website to help establish your brand and introduce visitors to your team, your mission and how you can help them solve their most vexing problems. A resource center can educate your potential customers and demonstrate expertise and authority.
5. Bolster your marketing
Social media marketing remains a top way to reach customers, but the options can seem daunting if you’re not sure where to start. Whether it’s marketing on Facebook, Snapchat or Reddit, your first step should be to identify the channels that reach your ideal customer and focus on developing engaging content there. For example, if you sell primarily to businesses, LinkedIn might be the right place to build a reputation as a thought leader. If your product is highly visual, try Instagram; or reach a younger demographic with a fun demonstration video on TikTok.
Of course, you can and should eventually have a presence on multiple channels, but starting small and interacting more deeply on select platforms is preferable to spreading yourself too thin on too many. Take the time to post quality content regularly, engage with followers and like and share other content that reflects positively on your brand.
6. Capture customer information for yourself
While social media is an important channel, remember that the platform effectively “owns” your followers. Often the rules of engagement change as their algorithms filter out more organic content and aim to convert you to an advertising buyer, which can quickly consume a marketing budget.
An additional – and ultimately more effective – way to build relationships with customers is by initiating a proprietary list of your own. In marketing parlance, obtaining contact details is known as acquiring “zero party data,” which is when a customer proactively shares information – like their email address, text number, product feedback, etc. – with you. Usually they’ll do it in exchange for an incentive, such as a resource like a whitepaper or a coupon code, which can be a win-win.
Your small business can flourish, even in an uncertain economy. Now’s the time to take the right steps to put you on the path to success. Would you like additional advice and strategies for your small business? Visit Valley’s Learning Center for tips on starting, managing, marketing and growing your business – no matter what stage you’re currently in.
1. Mint.intuit.com. “Buying Local Statistics for 2021: Survey Finds 70% of Americans Shop Small.” January 11, 2021. https://mint.intuit.com/blog/money-etiquette/buying-local-statistics-survey/.
2. NFIB.com. Small Business Optimism Index. March 2022.