The avenues to travel en route to growing your small business can certainly overwhelm. Which direction should you go? How much money can you budget and where should you put those financial efforts? Among advertising, marketing, continuing education, networking, and employee incentives, figuring out where your money and energy are best spent isn’t always clear.
My first-born child (a.k.a. my small business, Bikram Yoga Natick) will turn six years old at the end of this month. I am beyond blessed to have a supportive, positive, friendly community of clients who genuinely care about one another and the studio. While I will continue to navigate my advertising and marketing opportunities, the following three habits have been influential in helping to grow my business. I’m convinced that they can work in any niche, too!
Without further ado, here are three free ways to grow your small business. Oh, and the best part? They’re super simple!
- Learn Your Customers’ Names
People feel special when they hear their names. Imagine walking into a local restaurant for a Friday night date. You decide to sit at the bar and order an appetizer and a drink while you wait for a table. The bartender places coasters in front of you and before even handing over a drink menu says, “Hey Maria and Ben! How are you guys?!” Whoa! How would that make you feel? Obviously if your names are Maria and Ben you feel pretty great! But in all seriousness, imagine hearing your name from a server you’ve had only a handful of times. You’d feel so special, so important that this bartender remembered your name out of the hundreds of customers she serves. Learning names isn’t always easy, but saying something simple like, “Hi there! I’ve been seeing you a lot here lately, remind me of your name!” will put your customers right at ease and start that relationship. Then, try try TRY not to forget! If you do, because hey, you’re human, just ask again. Using your customers’ names strengthens your relationship, enhancing the personal experience they receive from being your customer.
- Be Interested, Not Interesting
Similarly to #1, your customers will feel appreciated when you are genuinely interested in what’s going on in their lives. Resist the temptation to throw in a story about yourself, or how you had a similar experience. Instead, be interested. How old are the twins now? When does your new job start? Have you been spending much time at your summer home? Based on how they respond, ask follow up questions. Not only will your interest make your customers feel amazing, you’re building an intangible relationship for years to come. You’ll have things to talk about next time they’re in, or on the phone, or e-mailing based on your conversations today. Your customers will want to frequent your business because you care. And you do! They are people with lives and families and jobs, and the fact that they spend their hard-earned money with you is an honor.
- “Check-In” On Social Media From Your Personal Account
I certainly know the feeling of wanting to do something tangible in an effort to grow my business. This point differs from the social interactions of learning customers’ names and being interested in their lives; those efforts are intangible and relationship-based, albeit very important. Sitting down at the computer or smart phone and typing something out in an effort to reach friends, contacts, customers, and potential customers is “putting it out there” a bit more. When you “check-in” to your business from your personal social media account, you put your business name in front of social media friends and contacts who may not necessarily follow your business. Maybe they live in your area but aren’t a customer … yet. I often “check-in” to Bikram Yoga Natick on Facebook and leave a comment like this: “So happy to be teaching such an awesome group of yogis today!” I’ll even tag Facebook friends who happen to be in my class. What I’ve seen happening is that this encourages clients to check-in as well, causing my business to show up on their social media pages, reaching a whole new set of eyes.
The great thing about these three ways to grow your small business is that they can work for almost any business. If you know your customers’ names, if you’re interested in their lives, and if you check-in to your business, you can own anything from a restaurant to a shoe store to a salon to a yoga studio to a bowling alley to a convenient store. Even online businesses work, simply consider how you respond to repeat commenters on your blog. These readers are your customers, they’re frequenting your “store.”
When I hear the word free, I’m often skeptical; however, implementing these three free ways to grow your small business won’t take your time away from other important obligations. Rather, they are ideas to help enhance situations you’ll find yourself in regardless.
Do you think these points would work for your small business?