Growing and sustaining a small business is all about your village. Sure, having all the followers, likes and foot traffic in the world doesn’t pay the bills. So, how do you build a community that not only engages, but buys from you too? Today, in article 08 of this Brand Discovery series, we’re digging in to make this connection.
Before we dive in, first thing is first. Critical to any initiative involved with expressing or growing your small business brand, is the strategy that lies behind it. Just in case you're new to this blog series and creating a brand strategy is on your to-do list, I have a gift for you. Flush out the key components of your brand strategy with the killer Brand Strategy Discovery Workbook from 01/ How to DIY Brand Design: Strategy Discovery:
With a laser focused brand strategy foundation in place, you're ready to hit the ground running. Here are four keys to building a loyal village for your brand that also grow your business. Guys, this is like a bullet list on steroids. Not only are we looking at these four keys in detail, we’re also breaking down exact tools and strategies you can follow to immediately implement them. Get ready to rock:
4 KEYS TO BUILDING YOUR VILLAGE
1. BE AUTHENTIC
You do you, got it? Listen up, the “it” factor YOU bring to your small business is hands down one of the top reasons your clients and customers keep coming back. Infuse your personality into the brand of your business. Let customers get to know you. Pull back the curtain to share what goes into what it is that you do or offer. The more connected your village feels, the more they engage. The more they engage, the more opportunities they’ll have to build trust and loyalty with your brand. The more they trust your brand and the value it delivers, the more confident and loyal they’ll be in purchasing from you. Being authentic is a two-way street, though. We’re in business to make $$, yes, but if all you’re doing is sales-ing and spamming your audience… friend, no one is going to buy. Let your colors shine so your village can get to know you. Be sure to open up and get to know your village right back.
Get social: If you have social channels, behind the scenes content is a huge trending tool for engagement right now. If you’re on Instagram or Facebook, use stories to share behind the scenes snapshots or clips. On Linkedin? Use brief, compelling insider tip videos on your feed. While we want to be real and authentic, don’t lose being professional in the process. Make sure that the slices you’re sharing are still relevant and valuable to your brand in some way.
Get personal: Off the screen, there’s no replacement for a genuine smile or remembering someone’s name. Personally, I genuinely love to connect with others, so the smiling part is easy. The names, well, I have a visual brain so while I rarely forget a face or interaction, I have to work realllly hard at remembering names. But it counts. Go the extra mile to have a real human conversation with prospects and/or patrons so the next time you connect, you greet them by name and can pick up a genuine conversation. Want extra points? Collect customer birthdays with your client contact information so you can send them a birthday card. Go ahead and send holiday cards too – maybe one on the Fourth of July or Grandparents Day just to stand out and make your customer smile 😊. These thoughtful gestures can extend your village for miles.
Get involved: Small businesses are the life blood of so many communities. With that comes responsibility. As solopreneurs, creative entrepreneurs, consultants, real estate agents, f+b concepts, wellness practicioners, shop owners, photographers, and everyone else who I left out... it's our responsibility to be involved in our communities too. Whether it's sponsoring an ad or event with a local school or non-profit, joining your chamber of commerce or local business alliance or school board -- find an avenue where you can contribute to your community. In the process, you'll build relationships. People will get to know you, what you do and that you're a pretty cool human who believes in the community you work in. I mean don't jump into these groups doling out business cards. Be you, care and be a part of something. It will feel good and get your name out there at the same time.
2. BE VALUABLE
// HOW: The value you deliver to customers, social followers and/or the humans that walk through your door is all about your unique value proposition. (Pssst, don’t skip that workbook. Write yours now. I promise it’s gold: Brand Discovery Workbook) Whatever you do, do it well and strive to make a valuable difference. It’s communicated to your village through the quality of your products and services, the way they feel after consuming your brand (i.e. purchase, content, experience, etc.), and what they got out of it.
Create opt-in’s with incentives! This basically means eating ice cream with a cherry on top. There are plenty of places to get ice cream, but you want people eat the ice cream YOU sell. So, the “opt-in” is your village’s opportunity to eat your awesome ice cream (read: convert). The “incentive” is the cherry on top that gets them to take a step through your door (read: “do the thing” that grows your business). You’ve probably read about doing an opt-in on your website. An easy example of this is offering a freebie content piece (checklist, infographic, e-book, worksheet, workbook, etc.) or coupon in return for a prospect to fill out a form. The strategy for this implementation is to (1. Be valuable) by solving a problem or need for your target with the free content piece so they (2. Business grower) provide you with data/leads connected to a goal you’ve set for something like growing a subscriber list, business leads, consults, etc.
Where are my brick and mortar business peeps at? You most certainly can do “opt-ins” too. Obviously, it’s a little different here, but the goal is to again offer the cherry on top to your customers for an action you’d like them to take that matches a village building business goal like:
Grow your contact list from store / office visitors: Think of your checkout counter like the opt-in form, only this time you have the added bonus of not only making the offer, but being able to talk to the human customer too. Be cool, you got this. Have a “something” to offer in order to collect customer contact information for your email list. It could be a coupon, something consumable, a freebie, merch, etc. As you’re checking out, mention the offer. In a perfect world, they say, “Sure!” and give you their deets, you give them the “thing” and you’re cooking with gas. Whatever the case, your strategy is to (1. Be valuable) by offering a “nugget” in exchange for a (2. Business grower) desired action.
Grow the in-store sales: Think of your highest margin product(s), menu item(s), service(s), or a certain total dollar amount sale that you want to reach per customer. Whatever the golden egg is, throw out a cherry on top for any purchaser of that item. It could be a freebie on top, a follow-up return business incentive, a percentage discount… bring on the savvy ideas. Then, communicate the offer as you welcome the patron through your door. For this implementation, the strategy again is to (1. Be valuable) get that premium product in the hands of the customer with an added perk, by (2. Business grower) fostering business purchases for products that grow your bottom line.
3. BE CONTAGIOUS
// HOW: Forget the build it and they will come mentality. It’s a fairy tale. If you don’t give people a reason to knock on your door AND come back, they won’t. Be SO GOOD at what you do (or sell) that every review is five stars. Be SO VALUABLE at what you offer or deliver, that your customers can’t live without you. Be SO AWESOME that every customer will tell others to pick up what you’re putting down.
Offer a Referral or Incentive Program. We’re talking bring a friend, friends and family coupons, giveaways, next purchase discounts… you name it. Especially for newer small businesses building their local empire, you have to put out incentives for people to try you out, to come back for more and to get their friends to drink the Kool-Aid. Sure, you’ll get some coupon crazies who only want a discount or freebie. That’s part of the game. What you get in return is the opportunity to share your brand with one more person who will talk about their experience with you – coupon nut or not. Word-of-mouth is huge brand power. I love to explain “branding” as what people say about you when you leave the room. Referral and incentive programs take this idea to the next level. It puts that conversation to work by allowing others to see your business for themselves. What you get is the opportunity to grow your village at the same time.
4. BE RESILIENT
Okay lovelies. It’s not all rainbows, butterflies, booming subscription lists and record sales. If it was, everyone would run their own SMB, right!? Haters gonna hate and you’re going to make mistakes. Not everyone is going to love your business and that’s okay. That’s why you have an ideal target market. You’re not going to be for everyone and that’s the point. Also, if you make a mistake, own it. Then, fix it with care and efficiency. How I’ve worked through bumps in the road with some clients is why they’ve remained loyal with me since I began this Morgatize freelance journey back in 2011. If you genuinely have your client’s best interest at heart it shows across everything you do.
As for the naysayers who drop judgement, you’re going to have to love them where they’re at. It’s super easy to sit back and judge from a place where you’re not the one under the spotlight. It also isn’t a place where you get anywhere from – whether you’re the one judging or obsessing over what everyone is thinking. In being a small business owner, you have to believe in yourself. Trust your gut and that voice in your head. It’s gotten you this far, right? Then, trust your loyal village of supporters. They are your direct source for constructive feedback. Engage with them to learn what’s going well, what you can do to better serve them and (most of all) to find joy in what your doing… because you’ll see the sparkle in THEIR smile when you’re doing it well. Also, you never know when said naysayer will turn around and drink the Kool-Aid too. So, put your big-kid pants on and keep pouring. Being resilient in your business shows your village you’re in it for the long haul.
Surveys are an excellent tool to both proactively and re-actively check in with your village for feedback (p.s. I love surveymonkey.com). Send surveys regarding a specific or new product / service, after the completion of a project or visit, etc. Likewise, if there is a problem or kink in your business, put together a concise, generalized survey around that pain point. Structure questions that will provide constructive data and feedback to help you solve the issue. Also, set up your survey for responses to be anonymous as this often increases response rates. Then, pop a link to your survey in an email to your client list. Encourage your list to contact you directly if they’d like to discuss the topic personally. Here, you’re offering an opportunity for your village to be heard, to remain anonymous while doing so OR to engage directly if they wish. In return, you’re getting critical feedback to improve and grow your business.
When following these four keys to building your village, you'll feel the traction click. Just be sure you're always on point in delivering value. If you burn your customer on a crappy offer, lack luster product, incentive that doesn’t deliver or a conversation that just went wrong… whelp, it all back fires. I know you have great things to give and some awesome ideas brewing. Keep your focus there. Take all that deliciousness, run with it and be consistent.
Next up in the DIY Brand Discovery Blog series, we’ll run down a must have tools list for building your brand. Keep with me. I will see you there.
Brand Discovery Blog Series:
[You're Here!] 8. How to DIY Brand Design: Building a Village
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9. How to DIY Brand Design: Must Haves Roundup
10. Exclusive Brand Showcase: Stay Tuned!