6 tips your small business can engage with the local community
Since the turn of the century, we’ve seen an increase in the mega-conglomerate, multi-store retail chains, that eschew a personal feel and service for something that can be easily mass produced.
Yet even against the backdrops of these international franchises, the importance of small businesses shouldn’t be understated. Not only do they perform an essential economic function and generate new jobs, but they are also the lifeblood of local communities.
The relationship between community and a small business is such, that both parties feed of their mutually beneficial arrangement. Customers love shopping somewhere that’s personalized and small businesses rely on that support to thrive.
Finding ways to enhance that relationship is necessary for any small business then becomes necessary, and so here our six of our favorite tips to help retailers do just that:
Open your retail space to the community
There’s no better way to ensure your business is an integral part of the community then by opening it up to the public.
Unless your business is operational twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, there should be no reason to not position your store as a thriving hotspot for local community events. Obviously, this requires you to navigate the free space your store has to offer – and/or make the necessary adjustments – but you can always cater events to meet specifications of your store too!
Large spaces can play host to regular guest speaker nights or even a monthly social/networking event. Whereas a smaller store could host book clubs or serve as a working space for artists, freelancers who may not have a place to work.
Whilst this does require extra time-commitment for the owner/manager, the opportunities to interact with your community on a further, more personal level is priceless. This extends to having potentially new customers into your store, who may never have visited otherwise.
Become socially involved
Becoming active participants in the goings-on of local communities, is a great way to build relationships and gain brand exposure. Whether it’s through participation in local community events, or contributing to a non-profit charitable organization, your involvement (and by extension your business) helps.
Engaging with the community at large, by just simply going out and meeting people shouldn’t be overlooked in its intrinsic value. Not only is it easy to do, but presenting yourself at community based events and functions presents a fantastic opportunity to integrate your business into the neighborhood.
Further still, if you’ve created a website for your store, writing up blogs (like this one!) and doing deep dives on your experiences at an event or festival, can build your online profile. Not only does it give you a platform in which to communicate with new and existing followers, but in utilizing SEO keywords, you can gain a higher search relevance within the community – i.e. people searching for that event, may come across your blog and your store as well.
Grow a loyalty/membership base
There are various factors local business need to consider when attracting new customers, but just as important is maintaining existing ones. One way of achieving this is can by implementing a loyalty program, that targets your most frequent customers.
We’ve established that the relationship between local businesses and its customers are a two-way street, and you’ll no doubt be aware of how important citizens of your community are in sustaining your store’s profitability. So why not ensure that their loyalty to you doesn’t waver, by offering VIP prices to them, generating strong goodwill in the process.
Other offers like discounts, special promotions and even giveaways, can also be used effectively to generate buzz, surrounding your business where such markdowns can spread like wildfire through word of mouth and your own marketing, bringing in even more customers.
Hike Tip: Hike POS offers retailers a robust loyalty program that makes implementing special deals a breeze. Start offering your best customers great discounts to keep them coming back, today!
We all know the big-name sponsors of our favorite sporting clubs, but just because you’re a small business doesn’t mean you should be excluded from sponsoring a team. Yes, we’re speaking on a relatively small scale, but just because you’re backing your local football team doesn’t make it any less of a marketing investment than a conglomerate sponsoring Manchester United.
There is no ceiling for positive exposure, and by incorporating your brand into something shared as sports, can be put you in great standing with the rest of the community. Having your store’s logo emblazoned upon the team’s jersey, and signs of your store plastered around a field, can generate unexpected interest, much like opening your store up to the community can achieve.
And in a local community market, these sponsorships can generally be cost effective too. Work with the team (and/or club, event, festival etc. – your sponsorships can reach a wide gamut of places, not just sports) to find the best cost benefit for your business and what gives both parties what they desire.
Take your business on the road
If you’ve feel like you’ve tapped out the local community in which your store is based or just want to expand your business horizons without breaking the bank, then taking your business on the road might just be the answer.
Consider setting up a mobile POS solution, whereby you can take a select few items on the road with you, ready to sell in a pop-up store. We’re at a point now within the retail industry whereby selling on-the-go in the form of a pop-up store are becoming the rule, and not just the exception. They’re a great way of expanding your business through the simplest means, and don’t have lingering costs associated with it.
Taking advantage of this can be a way in which you expand your customer base and perhaps even get a gauge of a new location to set-up a second store! Seek out also taking your store into trade-shows and expos, and introducing your products to wholesalers and keen buyers, using a sophisticated point-of-sale system to conduct sales on-the-go.
Hike Tip: With an integrated iPad POS app, Hike makes it easy for you to start retailing on your iPad. Take your sales on the road with you by saying hello to Hike’s iPad POS.
Know your customers
One of the great advantages a local business has over its superstore counterparts, is its familiarity within a community. It might not be as attractive as some of the options we’ve listed here, but it can be the most pertinent. Invest in building long-standing relationships with members in your community. Invest in creating an environment where the connections built in-store are just as important as the goods being sold.
Have your small business act as a conduit for the community at large, with its value and place wholly defined by its members. This comes through just good old fashion customer service, but should also extend to offering a personable experience where staff and customers know each other on first-name basis.
As we mentioned with the introduction of a loyalty program, repeat business is essential for a business to thrive, and it really should be the bread and butter for a local business. Create shared experiences with your customers, aside from the just the general courtesies that we associate quality customer service with, to fester a stronger, deeper relationship between customer and business.