According to Bloomberg Businessweek,1 the days surrounding Halloween were full of scary costumes and even scarier business prospects, or so reflected the downturn results of a quarterly poll taken by Wells Fargo and Gallup in October that measured small-business confidence.
When concerned about the economy, small-business owners should look toward increasing communication with their customers. Direct contact with target clients boosts business and assuages customers’ fears of trouble.
For best results, create a company blog.
Company blogs and social-media sites draw in new customers and new ideas, increasing business one hashtag at a time.
Almost 25 percent of Americans’ time online is spent browsing blogs and social media, according to Nielsen’s Social Media Report for Q3 2011.2 And, according to the same report, 70 percent of online social networkers also shop online.
That means: To reach current and prospective customers, small-business owners must log in online. Borrowing from a traditional sonnet, the modern entrepreneur should ask of blogs, “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.”
1. Attract new customers, appeal to the old. Blogs communicate public-relations news and updates to current customers, and they serve to attract future customers.
Across a selection of 10 major global markets, social networks and blogs reached more than 75 percent of active internet users, the report cited.2 You can no longer rely only on paper fliers, coffeehouse posters, and pamphlet handouts.
Not only does increased internet traffic boost sales; it also provides free marketing. Lower your advertising budget by investing more time in building your blog. You’ll see returns in online sales: increased new customer orders and increased customer reorders.
With so many internet users today, blogging has become the improved method for advertising new products, attracting prospective clients, learning from constructive criticism, explaining away price increases, and dispelling—for example—rumors of closure. Good riddance, recession!
2. Attract new investors, grow the company. Looking to grow? A blog is not simply a different medium for selling the same product. Blogs can communicate to consumers and investors alike. In addition to talking about recent in-store arrivals, blogs can also discuss above-average company returns.
Separate your blog into sections—one that appeals specifically to customers and another that delves into finances. These days, transparency is not only expected; it’s rewarded.
3. Ameliorate customer service, humanize your business. If you ask people about overseas call centers, the majority will complain about the impersonalization of business today. Small-business owners have long benefited from boasting a mom-and-pop shop ethic. But that image can get lost in a fast-paced digital world.
With a company blog, small-business owners can personalize their services and company. Customers enjoy seeing photos of the office, staff members, and the owner and her family. Additionally, clients appreciate reading about daily activities written in the first-person voice.
Blog posts and websites also enable customers to ask questions and seek answers online without coming into the store or wasting time on the phone. Not only does this reduce stress for the customer-service representatives of a small business, but it also it saves valuable employee time when there are fewer phone calls and inquiries to address.
Although starting a company blog may seem daunting, the returns are immeasurable. Joining social-networking and blogging sites is free, so there’s no harm in trying.
Small-business owners may even find that a blog was just what they needed to rejuvenate their enthusiasm and confidence, which can often fall pace with the stock market.
So, join online networking groups, like small-business entrepreneurs before you, and create a digital voice for your company.