How do I promote my business?

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How do I promote my small offline business?

This is a very common question small business owners often ask – “How do I promote my business?”. In this post, we will address this question for small offline businesses. These are businesses that cater to customers within a specific locality or area. These could be both B2C or B2B. A gift shop, a beauty salon, hardware store, interior decorator, furnishing store, dairy products shop, dentist, coaching classes are a few examples of such businesses.
 

What are the challenges for such small offline business owners?

 
Before we jump to the solution and suggestions, let us try to understand their challenges and constraints.
  • These are mostly family run businesses or a new business started by a passionate individual or small group of family and friends. They are either good at what they do or passionate about the product or service. An individual skilled or passionate about cooking and foods would start her own cafe. Someone good with teaching skills and subject matter expertise may become a teacher or start a coaching class. Being skilled at what they do and sell does not make them an expert at all business disciplines. They may have very little or no expertise in recruitment, sales, marketing, finance etc. To make it worse, not all may have immediate access to a trusted expert.
  • A lot of these businesses are solely managed by one person. At best, it could be a couple of owners or members of a family. They are too occupied with the daily operations to have time for planning sales and marketing. Usually, they just go with the flow.
  • Obviously, there are budget constraints when it comes to promoting their business. Very few would create a separate budget for sales and marketing. Marketing decisions are mostly ad hoc.
  • There is hardly any analysis of the sales and marketing ROI. Which of the campaigns turned out to be the best in terms of conversions, lead generation, customer inquiries, footfalls etc. They do not collect the data. They fail to analyse and introspect.

How to promote a small offline business?

It is an understatement to say that there is an overload of information on this topic. Sales, marketing, business strategy are few of the most discussed topics in blogs, social media articles, YouTube videos and online free webinars. It can be too much for a small business owner. One must understand that not everything is relevant for every business.
 
For example, Instagram may have become one of the most popular social media platforms. However, it may not be the most relevant platform to promote all types of businesses. A hardware store selling construction, paints and electric goods to contractors may not need to promote their shop on Instagram.
 

Know your customers

This is true for all sizes and types of businesses. You need to know and understand your customers.
  • Who uses your products or services?
  • Who buys or pays for the product or service?
  • Who influences the buying decision?
The answer to all the three questions could be one or could be different. All three customer groups are important. Once you have a clear answer to the questions listed above, you are ready to work on a promotion strategy. You are ready to answer the question “How do I promote my business?”
 

How do your customers find your business?

Now that you know who buys and uses your products, get to know how do they find your products or services.
  • Do customers look for your business or category online? If yes, you need to be visible online.
  • Do local influencers educate customers? Such as a stylist recommending a shampoo brand to her client. She can also advice which local shop stocks that brand of shampoo. If yes, how do you reach out to local influencers and category experts.
  • Does word of mouth promotion work well for your business category? If yes, you need to deliver a customer experience worthy enough of referrals and recommendations.
  • Are their hot spots within your local community best suited for your business promotion? Example, organic food stores often display banners outside local parks and jogging zones.

The key is to be visible and be found by your customers.

 

What problem are your solving for your customers?

Small businesses often ignore this very important question. Ask any start-up founder or investor. This question is the at the core of their overall strategy. This is equally relevant for your small offline business.

  • Why should a customer buy from you?
  • What differentiates you from the competition?
  • How do you measure value and provide value to your customer?

A customer walking into a hair salon is interested in a hair cut. That is at the surface. There is more beneath the surface that you need to unearth. 

  • Why did he choose to come to your salon?
  • What went wrong with the previous salon or stylist?
  • Was it the price? Was it the quality of service? Was it the ambience? Was it the personal advice?
  • Does she need hair styling? Or does she need an image makeover?
  • Is she hesitant to express her needs?

The understanding of the value you provide and the customer needs will help you shape up your marketing pitch and message.

Tips to promote your small offline business

Now that you have answered the three important questions: who is your customer, how do they find your business and what problem are you solving for them, let us share some easy tips to help you promote your business:

  • Be visible
    • If your customers are looking online which they definitely are, ensure they can easily find your business and contact you
    • Create a Google My Business page for your business. This is the best free online asset for all offline businesses catering to customer within a small locality. Update the page with pictures of your shop, office, products, team. Add pricing details. Update contact details – phone number, email, shop address.
    • Get listed on popular and local business directories such as JustDial, IndiaMart etc. You need not buy a premium package. It is best to start with a free subscription. If the directory helps you generate adequate number of leads and inquiries, you may want to consider a upgrade.
    • Create a profile on the relevant social media platform. One or two would be enough. The selection has to be based on the preference of your target customers. Update the profile regularly with generic tips, product or service category news, product images, offers etc.
 
  • Engage your customers for repeat purchase
    • Always focus on repeat purchase from customers
    • Always over-deliver when it is about customer experience, inquiry management, store ambience, product packaging, delivery, complaint management.
    • Seek permission to add customers to a mailing and messaging list. Do not spam but send regular greetings and offers
 
  • Celebrate your customers
    • Very few businesses use this easy and free strategy
    • Create a space in your shop of office to feature customer testimonials and stories
    • Request customers to give hand-written notes when they visit your business
    • Request them if you could click a picture while they are at your store. These could be posted on the walls as well as on your social media pages
These are few tips that can help you promote your small offline business. For any questions or advice for a specific business category, please mention in the comments section. Thank you.
 

Bonus Content: “How to generate leads for your small business” video

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