Small Businesses Have Been Named the Heart and Soul of Maryland – Here Are 3 Tips for Newcomers
Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash
To found, cultivate, and grow a small business is the dream for many of us. The fact that we are all aware of the emotional investment and the sacrifices required of any successful small business owners, and continue to conjure up those vivid images of our own small café, an artisanal delicatessen, an organic clothing line – or any other kind of store imaginable – when we close our eyes is testament to the immutable allure of being our own bosses, pursuing something we feel passionate about, and making a difference in the lives of others.
Even as customers, rather than sellers, we are growing ever more attuned to the value of small businesses. Just last month, for instance, Howard Bank announced their third annual Keep it Local contest, which aims to put small and independent Maryland businesses in the limelight, and celebrate the remarkable impact they are having on the local community.
As customers, the story is the same. Driving forces like social media and search engine optimization have enabled even the smallest of businesses to get in touch with shoppers who share their core values – and a passion for local workers. Other factors, such as the pandemic, have made us increasingly attuned to the importance of supporting the local community, as well as the global community, and, as of 2021, around 70% of US shoppers spent their money with small businesses, with more than half citing an active desire to keep their money local.
With that in mind, here are 5 tips for any fledgling Maryland business looking to make waves in their local community.
Don’t Underestimate the Importance of a Good Website
Even if your reach remains local for now, the fact that so much of our buying and selling habit now takes place online will not escape you. Consider the fact that, in all likelihood, you are already working to curate a strong social media presence. This is, of course, an excellent way of reaching out to (and growing) your local customer base – and for small business owners to save money on marketing – but its potential will be limited if you do not have a good website with which to back it up.
From the aesthetics to those all-important technical aspects, such as a safe and simple online payment solution and the right security protocols, you should work to establish a strong site from the off, rather than waiting until you are struggling to keep on top of orders.
Don’t Oversell Yourself
When we say, ‘don’t oversell yourself, we are not talking about marking your prices too high. Rather, we mean don’t spread yourself too thin, too quickly. The same rules apply whether you offer a service, such as hairdressing, or a core product range.
As a new business, gaining those all-important and glowing reviews is about ensuring a strong customer experience that meets (or, ideally, surpasses) expectations, and goes off without a hitch. Of course, that means delivering what they want – but it also means managing those expectations from the very beginning. If you are experiencing a high level of demand, then informing your customers that there is a waitlist will be far better than merely leaving them to wait, and form their own assumptions.
Understand Why Your Customers are Choosing to Shop Local
It is no secret that small businesses are up against the tide. Certain global giants and household names have long since held an enviable position at the forefront of shoppers’ minds, and it is not always second nature for us to investigate small businesses offering comparable goods and services.
Still, times are changing, and many of us are now making a conscious effort to support more local businesses. From reducing our carbon footprints to supporting the local community, prizing quality over sheer economy for economy’s sake, and feeding a growing interest in unique or bespoke products, there are many reasons why customers may intentionally opt for small businesses over the super-chain down the street.
As a small business owner, it is your prerogative to lean into that unrivaled position, and to make the very most of your unique journey. So, write your story down – convey your personal philosophy to your customers – interact with them on a more personal basis, and explore what it means to be an integral part of the community, rather than another big name on the block.
Embarking on a new journey into the world of small business ownership is one of the most exciting things any of us can do. While the road to success will, undoubtedly, be filled with moments that test our powers of fortitude and patience, it will also represent one of the most rewarding decisions you make – provided you know what to do, and how to do it. Follow these tips, and remember to take each new stage as it comes, rather than attempting to rush to the finish line.