In an age where ecommerce giants rule the business world, is there a place for small business owners or are they just tumbleweeds moving with the wind? Check out these strategies to boost sales and build customer relationships by creating a local feel to your small online business.
While big companies have taken the lead in business for a long time, smaller operations have started to leverage strategies to show big business that there’s a new sheriff in town. With slogans like Keep Austin Local, Think Local, Homegrown, Rely Local and The Localist, many cities and states are promoting their local businesses, and for good reason.
Studies show that local businesses help build a community in many different ways: providing extra support to the community, reducing environmental impact, creating better jobs, investing in the community, putting taxes to good use and encouraging local prosperity. So what does being a local business represent? And more importantly, how do you create an online business that shouts “I’m Local!”?
Having an online business can make you global, but taking a local approach can be a more sustainable and lucrative strategy in the long run. Here are three areas that can boost your local cred, as well as some tips on how to improve them:
Your product is your passion
Expressing yourself as a local business means being rooted in a love of your product, and using that love to create trust and loyalty with your customers. Local businesses often specialize in one specific product area due to knowledge, interest and devotion to a product, and this focused enthusiasm is exactly what big companies tend to lack. So don’t be shy! Brag about yourself, your products and why you chose that specific business.
Here are a couple ways to promote your passion:
- Give your customers a bio: Tell your customers about yourself and your product. Tell them why you chose to start your business and emphasize your passion behind it. This is your chance to create a connection with your customers. Share your similarities with customers who are thinking about investing in your product. Your goal is to create customer relationships rather than inspire a one-time purchase.
- Let them know you’re the expert: Let your customers know how knowledgeable you are about your products. Sharing your expertise and devotion gains a customer’s trust. You can do this by including biographies of your skilled team members (while also mentioning their local roots), adding photos of your team in the field and keeping a newsletter with relevant and up-to-date product information.
- Promote products that are made locally: Where was your product made and how was it made? Are you making custom products or was it made somewhere in the U.S.? Providing information on where and how your product was made, especially if it’s a custom product, is a big advantage. Big ecommerce companies usually don’t show their products’ original location or manufacturer, so know that customers appreciate and feel secure when buying from a familiar and local manufacturer.
Utilize internet and email tools
Local businesses secure the majority of customers from positive personal experiences in shop. When looking to simulate the power of face-to-face interaction online, don’t fret: The internet has your business covered. These internet tools and strategies will strengthen your customer relationships and help display your interest toward your customer’s happiness:
- Build hype through Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest: The internet is an ocean of tools for your online business, and it’s up to you to use them. Just because you’re selling to customers across state lines doesn’t mean you can’t provide them with local products. Use Facebook and Twitter to promote new products and their development process with examples like these: “Come see the new lineup of dresses created by our local University fashion design graduates,” or “Check out our line of guitars made from locally grown spruce and maple trees.” Create and post eye-catching boards on Pinterest showing customers where you get your product from, who’s making it and the unique process of how it’s made. If your customers can connect smiling faces and alluring images to the product, it will turn the buying process into a much more memorable experience.
- Get customers talking about your product: By now you’ve realized that showing your customers that you care for them creates huge appeal toward your business. Creating product review pages, a Q&A section, a blog or live chat page shows your customers that they can get information directly from the owner. Although it’s tough to be available for your customers 24×7, you can guarantee that their feedback will be addressed and answered ASAP. This strategy helps you bond with your customers and creates a personal and friendly experience for them. It also strengthens your customer base; there’s no better way to increase brand loyalty than by having a customer refer your product.
- Personalize your emails: Email can be used for a wide variety of effective ecommerce strategies when tailored to meet your customer’s needs, so be sure to use them to the fullest. Brand your communications and make a couple references to your business’ locality, and maybe even offer them promotional offers and coupons on local products after you have a feel for what individual customers like.
As a local business, another advantage you have over ecommerce giants is something less concrete: a guarantee. You can guarantee that each and every one of your products has been inspected by someone who loves what they’re selling rather than someone who has to meet a quota. Passion, confidence and quality assurance for your product all revolve around a guarantee. Guaranteeing your product shows that you want customer satisfaction.
Here are three reasons why product guarantees will help give your online business that local vibe:
- A barrier to purchase is removed: Tasting, seeing and testing a product before you buy it pushes most consumers to their point-of-purchase. As an online business, customers only have the option to see photos and read descriptions of the product. Provide a “100% Guarantee” image on your webpage. This shows confidence in your product and assures customers that they can test the product before making a final decision.
- Inspected by the owner: Providing an x-point inspection to back your product builds assurance in your customers and strengthens your selling power by personalizing the inspection. Include a hand-signed inspection certificate from yourself or one of your trained expert team members to ensure quality of your product and personalize the experience by matching a name to it.
- They help promote strong business ethic: The web is a place where consumers are suspicious because they can’t get hands-on experience with the product that they’re searching for. A guarantee indicates that you’re more interested in providing customer value rather than gaining profit. Even if a customer requests a product return, this is an opportunity to build a relationship by showing your strong business ethic. Be personable and stick to your word, and customers will appreciate the fact that you’re in it for their best interest. In the long run, providing this service can promote customer retention in what would have been a one-time customer.
Promising a guarantee represents all that is a local business. You’re delivering a product that you love selling and making to a customer who will love using it just as much.
One of the biggest advantages of buying from local businesses is that customers are contributing to the community as a whole. If you buy local, then local will buy from you. This notion helps weave and promote a big web of small businesses aimed at making customers happy, rather than appearing like your focus is solely on profit. Going up against the dominating ecommerce companies is tough, but as a small online business you have a special set of skills that are unique to your kind. By instituting passion, hard work and love for your product you can build trust and strengthen customer relationships. By showing concern for your customer’s happiness and being available for your customers, your online business will flourish and be a prized addition to the selling power of going local.
-Reed Daw, Volusion