Everything is online now, and this year’s events have only shown how essential it is for any business, regardless of size, why being seen and heard online matters. In my community, everything from going to a nearby restaurant to getting a haircut to picking up a coffee now requires some form of online interaction.
And while this is great if you’re a heavy smartphone user for me, it can also be incredibly frustrating if the business you’re interested in engaging (i.e. spending your hard-earned money) with isn’t doing a good job of getting your attention or making you want to be a customer. The weirdest thing is, it isn’t that hard to stand out online, and it doesn’t take a lot of money either.
Don’t believe me? Here are five ways any small business can stand out without spending a penny on advertising.
Think of the internet as one big address book. Are you giving every website and social profile which is asking for it, all the information they’d ever need? The first major stop-gap customers have with engaging a business is down to a lack of information on the most basic details.
A prime example, which I see all the time, is with cafes and restaurants on Facebook and Instagram. Many will post pictures of their food looking delicious, but won’t have basic information like their address, opening hours and how to book a table in their profiles.
Think of every profile and entity like an application form. If you stop and spend just a few minutes filling out the information in detail on something like your Google business profile (that’s the one customers search for on Google Maps) people are going to be more likely to hit that call or email button and get in touch.
Have a Clear Message
There’s a reason why big brands last; they all have a message. In most cases, they leave it to branding experts to make that message, but you don’t need a marketing consultant at hand. Just take this nugget of information from UK brand agency Pearlfisher:
“Designing for life means understanding how people’s needs and desires are changing.”
If you can’t provide a simple and clear message about what your company is about, people are going to look elsewhere. It’s why a trendy coffee shop with a tiny menu is more appealing to folk than a Starbucks with 100 different options on the menu. Keep things simple to understand, especially when it comes to ordering or reservations.
When you can order a pizza in two or three taps, buying something from a local business should be just as concise. Don’t make anyone jump through hoops due to poor messaging.
Break Your Website
I know that businesses have tight budgets, and now that we’re more reliant on online sales and bookings, not providing a fluid user experience on your website is bad.
If you’ve been tinkering around with building a website or paying someone to make one, come at it like a customer on your first time. Make your way through the site in every way imaginable and see if there are dead ends. If you can find one, chances are potential customers already have. And going back to information overload, always make sure your business and contact information is up to date.
Ask What People and Friends Think
Staying on the theme or websites and social profiles, you might have your branding and how you show products makes everything look like a million bucks, but who’s to say other people think your messaging is tone-deaf, or products don’t look right?
Ask your colleagues and friends what they honestly think about how you present your brand, and where they see shortcomings. Sometimes honest advice from a friend is more valuable than paying a business advisor, as you’re more likely to value a friend’s opinion more clearly.
If they say that your website doesn’t look great, or the log you’ve been using is confusing, don’t get annoyed, as it’s the easiest way of seeing your business with a fresh pair of eyes. Just make sure you’ve followed a clear branding plan first. This article from HubSpot breaks down branding a small business in great detail.
Just because your community can’t all get together, it doesn’t mean every business has to be its own island. If you’re running a business, go to your neighbouring businesses and see if there’s anything you can help with. Make a point of showcasing as such online and asking that business to post/tweet/story etc. all about it.
It equates to free local advertising in people’s social feeds which you’d otherwise be paying for. Not only does it make your business look good without having to sponsor anything, but it can also drum up new business.
Get More Business Advice and Tips
Thanks for reading this post. I hope you found some of the tips helpful and can use them in a practical nature. If you’d like to find more ways to push your business forward, read the latest business posts from the blog, with articles covering everything from branding to finance.