Simple gestures can have an everlasting impact. When coming of age film, Say Anything…, was released in the late ‘80s, few anticipated that a small scene in the final act would become so iconic. In a bid to win back his crush’s heart after some unfortunate events, Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) takes a modest approach. Showing up at the crack of dawn, Lloyd stands outside of her bedroom window, raises a boombox above his head, and blasts Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes”. His strategy is a slam dunk; he wins her back and the rest is history.
If ever there’s an environment where these small acts resonate the most, it’s small business. Owners need strategies to help them navigate unpredictable markets, so I’ve compiled a list of five strategies that can lay the foundation for success.
Invest in Your Community
If you invest in your community, your community will invest in you. Building positive relationships with locals can help create repeat customers or clients for life. Brainstorm the different ways you can get involved and make a difference. You might sponsor a youth soccer team, make t-shirts and signs and raise money for a local charity, or participate in your community’s holiday parade with a branded float.
Invest in Your Employees
Progressive business owners see their employees as a cohesive team working towards common goals, as opposed to just cogs in the machine. Manage the ebbs and flows of the year by gifting branded pens or mugs to your employees; these types of gestures are affordable and boost morale. If the annual budget permits, consider education allowances for your staff members. Employee retention increases with increased education and you’re armed with a larger pool of intellectual capital at your disposal.
Marketing pioneer, John Wanamaker, famously said: “half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” Occasionally as a small business, you have to create a big splash in order to gain exposure and start turning a profit. Door hangers, brochures, branded totes, vehicle wraps, handwritten holiday cards, and corporate gifts are all examples of how you can get the exposure you desire. This strategy allows you to learn from your experiences, failures, and suss out what’s most effective in a relatively short period of time.
Print and Distribute Business Cards
Don’t let the headlines fool you; print is not dead (and this is coming from the Principal of a digital marketing agency). One of the most effective marketing tools for small business owners is still business cards. Connecting on LinkedIn is a great start, but a creative business card can have a lasting impression. People still admire a tangible object that they can hold in their hand. The trick is crafting a card that differentiates itself from the crowd. Vistaprint offers affordable, high-quality cards with unique designs, shapes, finishes, paper stock and thickness to choose from.
One of the largest referral sources is still word-of-mouth; people trust positive reviews from their inner circle. One of the best ways you can set your small business up for success is good old-fashion networking. For almost every region and nearly every industry, there’s an association or society you can join to start networking. Gain credibility, attend events, shake hands, exchange business cards and make some invaluable connections that could lead to growth for your business.
The smallest gestures can lead to the biggest wins. Would Lloyd have gotten the girl if he hadn’t shown up at dawn with his boombox? Would you continue to use that insurance company if they stopped sending a Christmas card each year? Being a successful small business owner is no easy feat; you need the right tools in your arsenal to help you succeed. Using a combination of digital and traditional marketing, in addition to creating a strong brand identity and positive reputation is critical. To quote Peter Gabriel: “I get so tired of working so hard for our survival”, but nothing replaces good, hard hustle.