Roanoke Revealed

7 no-cost small business tips to help you stand out from the crowd

7 no-cost small business tips to help you stand out from the crowd

It’s been an interesting experience searching for vendors in a new city. I’m mostly focused on creating a local support team for copy writing/marketing company needs as this is my primary income, but keep my eyes open on the produce side too.

Early priorities have included computer support, graphic design expertise, printing and website development/upgrade savvy. While I have long-time trusted vendors, they’re out-of-state. I’d like to establish relationships with local business owners (or freelances).

It’s curious coming into this as a stranger after being a known and active business leader in another community. Good communication and marketing precepts, though, hold true in most places you go. What’s amazing is how easy it is to stand out with simple things.

Seven simple & free ways to be remembered as a small business owner

  1. Respond: As crazy as it sounds, many don’t reply to e-mails or return phone calls from prospects. Check your spam folder and voice mail to avoid missing out on new business opportunities. Even if you can’t help an individual, share thanks for the interest. Better yet, refer them to someone who can (you’ll be remembered for this).
  2. Listen before you speak: Too many launch into a sales pitch before they seek to understand what a prospect needs (or thinks they want). Ask questions and hear the answers before offering solutions. That might be “I’m not your best resource” (see above).
  3. Show up: If you schedule a meeting (or call), be there at the arranged time or, if something comes up, call to reschedule before your appointment time. If say you’ll call back in two weeks, call back in two weeks.
  4. Send a thank you note: Snail mail is best, but even an e-mail is better than nothing. Few bother to make the small effort to show appreciation for one’s time and/or referrals.
  5. Follow up: Did you have a great meeting or call yet left things hanging? Is a prospect a likely client in the future but not quite ready yet? Put it on your calendar to get back to them. If you handled your meeting right, you’ll have gathered some information on their interests or ideal prospects. Sharing an item related to their passions makes it easy to circle back.
  6. Guarantee your work: I’ve had some curious experiences lately with “guarantees”. This has ranged from being charged for computer support services to fix problems created by the provider in a prior visit to being billed for shipping and handling on a dead plant arrival. The amounts were relatively small (under $50 and $10 respectively – my time investment was not). What both companies will lose in future business (direct and referral) is large. Don’t nickel and dime clients when you make mistakes. Sure, you’ll get the occasional charlatan, but your best prospects and clients will object to thief treatment. Stand by your work 100% and even a client with a bad experience will tell good stories about you.
  7. Deliver: This seems like a silly point, but it’s not. Many promise solutions they don’t have the capacity to provide, miss deadlines, exceed budgets without warnings, fail to keep a client informed on activity (or roadblocks) and make commitments they don’t keep. The perceived value of your word affects your reputation.

There’s probably nothing above you don’t already know – but are you doing it? If so, you’re ahead of the crowd in building trust and rapport as a small business owner. To borrow from Jim Rohn, “it’s easy to do, but it’s easy not to do.”

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