For many businesses, the fourth quarter of the year is when they bring in most of their annual revenue due to holiday shopping. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted many small businesses that have struggled to stay afloat, even with government support for small business and COVID-19 financial aid. As a consumer, you can choose to support small businesses who otherwise may not have access to the capital needed to sustain their business, rather than giving your money to the huge corporations.
Shopping local is just one of the many ways to show your support for your local small businesses and help keep them running. Let’s dive into our top seven tips for supporting your favourite small businesses, whether or not you have money to spend right now.
1. Writing referrals and reviews can really help small businesses
Word of mouth is probably the best way to bring in new customers, with 85 per cent of business owners saying that the majority of their business comes from referrals. Positive reviews let potential customers see that a business is legitimate and endorsed by real people who have benefited from a product or service.
Toronto illustrator and muralist Ella Mazur says, “The number one biggest way you can support a business is to share, share, share!” She believes that referrals are “a much more powerful way to spread the word than any advertising you could buy.” Mazur also says, “It means the world to a small business owner when someone has had a good experience working with you or loves something that you made, so saying that in a review or a comment on social media can not only help with audience reach, it can also just make your day, and give you the motivation to keep going when there’s a low period.”
If you’re a business owner, here are a couple of ideas for how you can encourage your customers to leave reviews and refer people to your business.
Just ask: Don’t be afraid to reach out to past customers and politely ask them to write a sentence or two about their experience with your business. If you provided good service and left a positive impression, they should be more than willing to help out.
Offer a discount: After someone makes a purchase, you could follow up with a special discount towards their next purchase if they write a review or send a referral.
2. Support small businesses by engaging with them online
If you really want to help your favourite businesses reach a larger audience and connect with new customers, do more than just like their social media posts. Algorithms on platforms like Instagram rank posts higher based on the number of saves, shares, and comments they receive, with post likes as the least relevant factor.
Meagan Bowden, owner of Phancy Food Catering and Phancy’s Bodega in Toronto, says, “The power of referrals through social media and word of mouth is extremely helpful now more than ever.” Don’t underestimate the power of sharing a post: one of your followers on social media could very well be their next customer.
Business owners: Here are some tips to boost your social engagement to get your business seen by more people.
Post consistently: Use your Instagram business profile’s insights to determine what days and times your audience is most active. Then create a schedule that you can commit to so that you are maintaining a consistent presence online.
Use high-quality images: You don’t have to be a professional photographer to have a successful social media profile, but you do need to be able to take or find good pictures. You want to create content that will make viewers stop scrolling and want to find out more.
3. Choose curbside or in-store pickup instead of shipping
Shipping during the holidays can be a hassle in the best of times, but with limited hours and longer delivery times due to COVID-19 precautions, it can really help a small business if you choose to opt for local pickup instead. If you can do it, curbside pickup also means that you won’t have to pay shipping fees or worry about delays in receiving your order.
If you own a small business, not all of your customers will be able to pick up their order from your location. Here are some shipping tips for small businesses to help you navigate this logistical headache.
Double-check your measurements: If you don’t want to end up having to pay for unexpected shipping costs out of pocket, make sure that you have measured and weighed your packages accurately when determining the cost of shipping.