In a world of large national firms and globalization, the idea of starting a small business or home business can make you feel like a small fish in a big pond. Just remember that before you can obtain worldwide appeal, you have to build your reputation a little closer to home.
The community in which you conduct the bulk of your business must be supportive if you ever want to strive to reach higher levels of success. For that to happen, you have to focus on giving your customers what they want. Once you have built a loyal following of local customers, then your business will have the reputation it needs to branch out.
The following are 6 old-school ways to build your business rep in the community.
1. Get Noticed
Advertise and market your services accordingly. Get involved with a few community events or sponsor some community projects. The idea is to make the local audience notice your company.
People like to do business with a company that has an interest in the local community. You should also look into joining any networking groups in your immediate area, to help improve your company’s visibility.
Establishing relationships with other small business owners is equally important. Many small businesses will refer people to fellow small businesses for needs they cannot fulfill themselves.
Networking with other local business owners, exchanging business cards and attending functions or open houses that they sponsor, helps establish you in the small business community. It is important to remember that volunteer work should be done with an organization that you have sincere interest in and should not be personally rewarding.
Don’t limit your business to donating money or goods and services. Give of yourself and donate your time by taking an active role in community organizations such as sitting on the board of a charity or hospital.
Volunteer your time and even your employees’ time to a charitable cause or community program and others will notice.
In business, there is a direct correlation between quality and reputation. The better the quality of the product or service, the better the business’s reputation is going to be.
Before you start your business, research the competition and determine how you can take your product or service to the next level, and then take it another step higher. When you can guarantee a customer that he will be satisfied and you deliver on that promise, you are building a reputation of excellence that will help ensure your customer base will always be there for you.
5. Customer Service
How you handle customer problems will have a direct influence on how customers feel about your business. This is where smaller, newer companies have the edge over the large conglomerates.
Many service teams for large companies have a reputation of not caring about the customer. Offer the customer a better experience, and soon you will find more people are using your products and services, and fewer are using those offered by the bigger competitors.
A written testimonial from a satisfied customer endorsing your business can be a powerful tool if used properly. Display them on your printed material, in-store and on your website so prospects know you have plenty of satisfied customers.
Don’t be afraid to ask for a testimonial or a referral after a job or order has been completed. People rarely take the time to write about a positive experience unless you ask them. Get in the habit of asking happy customers for testimonials and it will be a subtle way of suggesting you’d appreciate their referrals down the road.
Old-school tactics still work. Referrals and word-of-mouth marketing are the lifeblood of most successful businesses. Many of these tried and true techniques are still being used today and when combined with social media tools, can be one of the most effective marketing strategies available to small business owners.
Yo Noguchi is an experienced freelancer, guest blogger, and frequent contributor to a blog hosted by Benchmark Email, one of the world’s global providers of email marketing services.