For many small business owners, the same struggle persists throughout their careers: How can I increase sales? Between balancing growth with quality, and competing with corporate chains, it can seem as if there is no time left in the day to formulate an ongoing sales plan. But as it turns out, the most effective sales plan involves much more than an ad in the Sunday paper. The best strategy utilizes a healthy combination of community engagement and online marketing efforts to increase traffic to your store, which will ultimately lead to more sales.
Identify your return customers
Have you heard of the Pareto principle? It states that 20% of the causes lead to 80% of the outcome. What does this mean for small business owners? Essentially, 20% of your customers account for 80% of your business. Those customers who visit your store regularly, interact with you on social media, and promote you to their friends; these are the 20% that have the biggest impact on your bottom line. So it's imperative that you not only nurture these relationships, but also attempt to turn every one-time customer into a regular at your store.
The two biggest influences on creating and maintaining regular patrons are customer service and quality products. Unlike large corporate chains, small businesses are known for their personalized experience and great customer service. Take the time to interact with all of your customers, and make friendly customer service a must with your employees. At the same time, creating high-quality products will differentiate you from your competitors. Almost no product is completely proprietary, so set yourself apart by committing to a high standard of quality, even as you continue to innovate.
Join a local business association
As a small business owner, the local community is your greatest resource for opportunity, and the best place to join the conversation is through a local business association. These organizations become the collective voice of small and independent businesses in your immediate area, and help you overcome the many hurdles of owning a business. They also provide local business directories to consumers, allowing shoppers to more easily find your store. More than anything, local business associations work hard to encourage the community to support the local business community.
What if there isn't a local business association in your area? Don't let that stop you from joining the community. Reach out to your fellow small business owners to organize community events like a "shop local" block party, or a day of charity outreach. Whatever it is, make it a point to get active in the small business community, and establish connections with local consumers.
Revamp your Facebook fan page
Even if your website is basic, you can have an amazing Facebook page at almost no cost. With just a little time and effort, you'll increase your web presence and start drumming up interest in your business.
- Facebook is an image-drive platform, and most successful small business owners are those who regularly display their products on their fan page and encourage others to comment. The first step is to put up a great cover image, the easiest solution being to simply go outside and take a picture of your storefront.
- Ensure all of your information is correct, including website, address, and phone number, and write a description of your business. After that, take some time to seek out small businesses in your area on Facebook and like their pages. This will encourage them to like you back and increase your visibility to their fans.
- The rest is posting, posting, and more posting. Get on a schedule to post something -- an image, a question, a fun quote, on a daily basis. Keep it professional but light, and always engage with fans if they comment on your wall.
- Be patient. You might not see immediate returns on your time spent on Facebook, but it will help you establish credibility and a positive online image if you stick with it. And eventually, those online fans will become in-store customers.
Related: Get help with your online marketing and social media efforts.
By getting social, both online and offline, you will not give your business some great exposure; you'll become a more recognizable brand to the average consumer. This is the first step in becoming a go-to place for local shoppers, ultimately increasing sales and growing your business.
Author Bio: April is the marketing coordinator for Scott's Marketplace. She combines her marketing and writing experience with a love for supporting small businesses. She writes, bikes, and uses a coffee press, but not in the pretentious way. Connect on Google+
(Image: adamr via freedigitalphotos.net)