The past year has been tough for most small, local businesses. Temporary and permanent closures have become a reality, while businesses that are still open are struggling to survive. However, the new year has been met with renewed hope as lockdowns and social distancing restrictions ease. Many businesses have also gradually adapted to sustainable strategies, such as shifting to e-commerce.
However, not all businesses can benefit from moving all their operations online. Businesses in the food & beverage, service, and retail industries would still need brick-and-mortar stores to stay profitable and competitive.
This could mean that business owners should rethink their marketing strategy and find creative ways to attract local customers without putting a dent in their already limited budget.
Whether you’re a budding entrepreneur or a small business looking to boost sales in the coming months, here are affordable ways you can keep customers coming in.
Update your storefront
You may think this wouldn’t matter much these days, but you might want to reconsider. Think about it. With few people coming out in the streets to shop or dine, it’s a lot harder to grab their attention and convince them to choose your business. But if customers see that you’re still putting an effort to pique their interest, they will want to see what you have to offer.
You don’t have to renovate your storefront or install new windows and doors, it can be as simple as getting a laser sign cutter and make your sign more eye-catching and colorful. If you’re on a tight budget, you can simply add some greenery to your al fresco or curbside area. You can also throw in some curbside extras such as a colorful and witty menu board or install bike racks to attract cyclists. Not only does it increase your curb appeal but it also opens up new opportunities to attract different types of consumers.
Have an online presence
Online visibility is one of the most surefire ways local businesses can thrive. In fact, by just having a website or social media presence, your business is more likely to succeed than those that are completely offline.
- Claim your Google My Business listing – Google My Business is a great place to start to build your online presence. This free listing service lets you claim and manage your business profile on Google. This way, your business will show up on local searches, put your location, hours, contact info, ratings, and reviews visible to potential customers.
- Be active and available on social media – Nowadays, having no social media presence could translate to not existing at all. An active profile on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like could up your trust ratings and boost your appeal. Now, more than ever, you should invest in community building campaigns that engage customers and encourage interactions.
- Run promotions & seasonal campaigns – To expand your reach and boost customer loyalty, you can use social media to run promotions, sales, and seasonal offers. Unlike most advertising methods, paid social is cost-effective and highly targeted, which means you’ll only be spending each cent on people who are likely to buy from you.
Offer delivery and/or curbside pick-up
Almost every business now has a pick-up or delivery option, from retail stores to Michelin-starred restaurants. Due to the pandemic, this option has been an essential strategy for keeping business afloat. To some, it has been a saving grace. Although you won’t have customers flocking to your physical store, you’d still have a steady influx of orders via delivery workers. But don’t get it wrong, offering takeout and delivery options is not a Band-Aid solution for the current crisis. In fact, businesses should have already adopted this strategy a long time ago. It allows you to widen your reach and increase your fan base, all while helping you reduce in-store service and upkeep costs.
There are many other ways to attract customers to your doorstep, and many of them don’t require a lot of money. Instead of taking a big risk to advertise on TV or radio, or speeding up your digital transformation without a clear strategy, you should first try low-cost alternatives and see if they suit your needs and goals.
And, of course, don’t forget to invest in customer service and perfecting your products. A lot of business owners forget that word-of-mouth recommendations are still the most effective and inexpensive form of advertising. And you can only earn these by investing in employee training, ensuring product and service consistency, and being receptive to your customers’ feedback and suggestions. As the saying goes, you can’t buy loyalty.