Using trust to help you compete in business
Trust – it’s how small business can compete with big business, and win
Let’s face it – it’s not an even playing field. Big businesses compete with small businesses every day in the same market for the same dollar. And it seems like they have all the advantage – better buying power, more exposure and more financial backing.
If someone can get something cheaper and of a not too dissimilar quality from a competitor, why wouldn’t they? The only real reason is loyalty. But what is loyalty and how can we get it? Loyalty is hard to quantify – it could be that someone liked the service, they liked what your business stands for, or they might just appreciate the way you made them feel.
One thing we do know is that loyalty has to be earned. If you can inspire loyalty in your customers, the cheaper prices and convenience offered by big businesses can’t touch you. Here are our top 5 ways to keep your customers loyal.
1. Social responsibilityIt’s not all roses for big business in terms of customer perception; in fact, big business often gets a bad rap for being impersonal, heartless and profit hungry. Fortunately, small business isn’t tarnished with the same brush and there are things you can do to keep it this way. Corporate social responsibility is about balancing profitability with ethical business practices. This means not ripping suppliers off, supporting local business where you can, giving back to the community, paying the local taxes and just generally being a good guy. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, there are small things you can do like sponsor a local event, donate a proportion of an item’s profit for a set period of time, or simply conserve energy or reduce your waste. All these actions speak volumes about what you think is important and your customers will appreciate your efforts.
2. Share your storyStory-telling is a powerful communication tool. If you can share your story – who you are, why you do what you do and what is important to you personally – people will find it easier to relate to you, and if they can relate to you, they will be more likely to support your business. Whether it’s a page on your website about ‘how it all began’ or a personal story in a community paper, the more you get out there and put a face to your business, the more you will be remembered and the more loyal your customers will be.
3. Partner with other small businessesAs well as helping support other small local businesses, partnering allows you to piggyback on someone else’s business – and the benefits are mutual. Here’s how to do it: Find another business that offers complementary products or services and join forces to run promotions. For example, if you run events, work with a transport company; if you own a café, work with the neighbouring gym – you get the picture. You’ll be able to pool resources and get access to a whole new customer base.
4. Loyalty programsRepeat business is invaluable to small businesses. To keep your customers coming back for more, make it worth their while – don’t insult them with a miserly 10 percent off after a 20 repeat visits. Make your loyalty program count and think outside the box. Instead of discounts, you could offer a trial of a new product or service, preferential booking, or maybe access to an in-store event.
5. The personal touchGet to know your customers – their likes, dislikes and preferences. Greet them by name and try to make a personal connection. With the huge volumes that big businesses deal with, they just can’t replicate the personal touch.
Sure the brand power of big business can be intimidating but small business has a lot going for it too. Customers are wising up. Increasingly, they want to know who they are buying from and where their money really goes. Big businesses frequently wins on price and presence, but small businesses are better placed to earn trust, and trust goes a long way.
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