As a small business owner, you should consider it your mission to learn as much as possible about your customers.
Because customers who shop small, shop local and support startups are unlike any other type of customer. Many times, they will go out of their way to shop specifically at a small business over a big chain store. They feel that small businesses just have more “heart behind their art.”
But this isn’t automatically the case.
So how do you get your small business to the point where customers go out of their way to buy from you?
Check out these 15 powerful ways you can begin to earn the trust of these small business fanatics.
1 ::: Blogging
A well-executed blog establishes your brand as an industry leader and a knowledgeable resource. And who’s more trusted than someone perceived to be a leader of the industry?
If you always keep your audience in mind while writing, blogging can be a great way to get a lengthier message across to those who will appreciate it most, while also giving a substantial boost to your website’s SEO rankings.
Remember: Do your research through tools like Google Trends and pay attention to what consumers are searching for in your industry.
Address those topics in your own original tone and relate it back to the benefit(s) that your business or its product can provide to the customer.
2 ::: Communication is Key
Make sure your customers always know what’s going on in your company.
You don’t have to give them all the details, but keep them in the loop about new discounts and deals, new employees they’ll be working with, etc.
They’ll appreciate the thorough communication, as it’s still rare among many organizations these days.
3 ::: Superior Customer Service
This is something I’m very passionate about at 10ton Gorilla Media.
Never forget who you are in business for. Sure, some folks start a business merely to make money. But rest assured, your customers will know where your intentions lie.
We’ve all seen real-life examples of customers who will remain loyal to a brand with an inferior product, simply because of the superb service they received.
Bend over backwards, forwards and backwards again for your customers.
You’ll be surprised how far it will take you.
4 ::: Partner Up
An easy way to gain the trust of your customers (or potential customers) is to partner with another company who has already established a strong trust with this audience.
Some ideas about how this could look:
Team up on a social media contest or giveaway
Co-sponsor a charity event
Partner on a new product or service
Whatever the approach, just make sure the endeavor benefits both parties, is important to the consumer, and aligns with both brands’ values.
5 ::: Face-to-Face
No, I’m not going to suggest FaceTime-ing your customers (although maybe that’s not a bad idea).
I’m referring to good ole-fashioned face-to-face interaction.
In a world that seems to live online, we all still (hopefully) have real lives in the real world. If your small business doesn’t include a brick-and-mortar storefront where you can interact daily with your customers, there are still other ways to spend time with them in person.
Set up a booth at a tradeshow. Go to industry-related events and just talk to people. Anything to let your customers see that you’re a human and that you care about their needs.
6 ::: Respond, Respond, Respond
I’m always amazed at the amount of unanswered questions and inquiries I see around the web. Everything we do as small business owners is meant to acquire and maintain relationships with potential customers who will eventually pay for our services.
And yet… so many companies seem to blatantly ignore these calls for help, as if it’s the “cool guy” thing to do.
Sure, there are infinite bots and spammers out there who will obliterate the comment section of every one of your posts. But it’s not difficult to differentiate between them and a genuine customer.
You can thank all of these companies who ignore their customers online. They just made it easier for you to earn your customers’ trust.
When your industry audience has been conditioned to expect the cold shoulder from brands they are trying to purchase from, your small business will stand out above the rest just for responding to them in a kind, understanding and helpful tone.
7 ::: Reward the Customer
Everybody loves to be a part of the “in” crowd.
Your small business can build a good amount of trust with your customers just by offering exclusive rewards and discounts on your website, social media or by sending them directly to an email list.
The key word here is exclusive.
If the offer is available to everyone, then the special feeling of having access to it is greatly diminished for the customer.
On the flipside, if only a small group of people are selected for the reward, those who were chosen will respond with a level of trust and admiration for your small business—feeling as though you now value them above those around them. It’s a powerful thing!
8 ::: Support a Good Cause
As I mentioned earlier, supporting a good cause or charity is something you can approach as a partnership with another relevant company in your industry, or you can choose to go it alone.
Need some inspiration? Check out this list of Nashville's Greatest Nonprofits and Charities.
Joining up with another business may make it easier to plan, organize and promote. And again, any time you can associate with another trusted company, it’s going to help out your good reputation among customers.
However, keep in mind that any partnership will also steal some of the “spotlight” from your own small business.
A good cause is a good cause, sure. But what makes it even “good-er” is making it work simultaneously for your own success.
Want to take this a step further?
Invite your audience to come out and join the cause or participate in your event. More-so than any of the other ideas on this list, this may be your best bet in building a trusting relationship with your clients.
Because you are now building or participating in something side-by-side, you both have a stake in the same cause. Your customer now sees you as a caring acquaintance or friend.
And who doesn’t want to do business with their friends?
9 ::: Monitor Hashtags
Following relevant and industry-specific hashtags on Instagram or Twitter is a great way to understand your customers.
It allows you to spy and conduct your own market research on what potential customers are seeking from a small business such as your own.
For example, I like to stay up-to-date on hashtags like...
small business owner
start up life
love what you do
mom and pop
Because 10ton Gorilla Media is an agency built specifically to serve small business owners and startup companies who need additional resources, these tags give me great insight into how I can better serve my customers.
10 ::: Build a Community for Your Small Business
Like blogging, starting your own Facebook Group or Google+ Community is a great way to present yourself as an industry expert in a way that doesn’t make you look salesy or self-promotional.
This is also a great way to bring the market research to you.
You’re essentially creating an environment where your customers will grow comfortable discussing your products or services, and it’s all happening directly under your nose.
11 ::: Thank You Notes
Have you ever been told that print or “traditional” marketing methods are dead?
Check out this stat: According to a study performed by Canadian neuro-marketing firm, TrueImpact,
“Direct mail requires 21% less cognitive effort to process than digital media…
suggesting that it is both easier to understand and more memorable.”
Still think I’m crazy?
The fact is, living in such a digital world only means that an “old school” approach like sending a handwritten note to your customer, thanking them for their business, will probably impress the heck out of them and be hugely memorable for them at the same time.
Any little personal touch reminds your audience that there is a human being at the helm of your small business, and that this human being cares about them in some way.
12 ::: Be Transparent
Transforming your cold, heartless company into a warm-and-fuzzy entity has never been easier, thanks to social media.
Don’t overthink this one.
Simply be yourself but in a slightly more intentional way. Put the emphasis on showing your personal side, but always in a way that relates back to your business and its core values.
Make sure you study these 4 steps on how to develop a consistent social media strategy.
Don’t be afraid to take your customers “behind the scenes” to see the inner workings of your company. When you invite them to see beyond the curtain, it removes a lot of the mystery and doubt from your small business and allows a customer to begin trusting you.
13 ::: Get Your Customer’s Back
Another way to earn your customers’ trust is to take a strong interest in their lives.
Don’t be creepy about it.
But when you notice that one of your customers has a strong interest or passion in something, it’s a good move to let them know you’ve got their back and that you support them (assuming you actually do).
Comment on their social media posts and encourage them. Offer them advice if you happen to know a little something about the topic. In this case, it doesn’t even have to have anything to do with your small business. Try connecting with them on this more relaxed level instead.
14 ::: The Numbers
Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find a statistic on how effective statistics are.
Nevertheless, the point here is that it’s hard to argue, doubt or distrust a cold, hard stat. Therefore, including them throughout your marketing approach is a great way to build trust with your clients and support your message.
Don’t expect people to take your word for it!
15 ::: Human Element
Assuming you are, in fact, a human, one of the most important things you can do in your marketing is to give it a “human element.”
According to the Georgia Institute of Technology, “On Instagram, photos showing faces get 38% more Likes than photos not showing faces.”
So be sure to shake up your content mix and marketing materials with plenty of beautiful selfies and behind-the-scenes candids of you in action.
The ability to connect with your customers and earn their trust is one of the most powerful and most understated advantages you have over your larger competitors as a small business owner.
Putting even just a few of these suggestions into place will mean you’re on your way to building an audience who inherently trusts you as a small business owner.
We’re happy to help you get started! Send us a quick note and tell us where you’d like to begin.