Thinking Small: The Untapped Secret to Growth

When you’re running a small business that is looking to become more, dreaming big is a major part of what drives you. Without a strong vision of where your business is going, it’s easy to get lost in the day-to-day grind and lose the edge you need to innovate, to disrupt, and to grow. However, while it’s important to keep your focus on the big picture, you’re never going to get there if you can’t get started. And as it gets started, the secret to getting going is to think small.

Thinking small doesn’t mean that you need to give up on your big dreams— rather, it’s about drilling down the details that will give your business the specificity and focus that it needs to be able to craft a unique and compelling story. Through tactics like niche marketing, local SEO, hyperlocal marketing, and micro influencers, you can sharpen your game and set yourself up for some major growth.

Refining Your Message

One of the oldest lessons in the book is still relevant: you can’t be all things to all people. When you’re thinking about growth, it’s easy to want to go after as many customers in as many different ways as possible, the hope being that somewhere along the way you’ll catch on and figure out what to do. The truth of the matter is that finding a niche doesn’t happen by accident. If you want to be the type of company that grows from a small, loyal following into something much bigger, you need to start thinking about niche marketing.

Niche marketing is all about finding your audience. To start with, you want to have a picture of who exactly your ideal audience is. Literally, find a picture— crack open your Google Image search and put a face to a name. It may seem a little silly at first, but you need to get as specific as possible with who you think of as your ideal buyer, and having an image will help you do that.

Think about geographical location, income bracket, age, gender, personal style, favorite brands, favorite bands, and just about anything else that might give you an insight into how to craft your perfect niche. An easy way to get started making these kinds of specific, laser-focused choices is to pick an image for your buyer and then figure out what it means more broadly.

The other important thing to keep in mind is that you probably won’t have only one buyer persona. There are likely several types of people who can gain value from your brand! While there’s value in being hyper-focused and specific about who your audience is, don’t limit yourself to only one very narrow demographic.

The key is to make sure that you line up your ideal audience with your unique selling proposition. Your buyer personas should be a springboard, not something that limits your thinking and messaging.

Making SEO Local

For a small business, the biggest difference in the bottom line can be how small adjustments to your online profile make a big difference in foot traffic. As mobile becomes more and more ubiquitous, local search is going to be even more important in getting someone to walk through your door. According to Google, “every month people visit 1.5 billion destinations related to what they searched for on Google.”

How do you make sure that your web presence is optimized for someone who searches as they’re walking down the street? The first step is to ensure that your listings are streamlined. Specifically, make sure that your NAP, (your name, address, and phone number) matches up across every service. Because sites like Yelp and Google Business allow users to review a business even if the listing isn’t claimed, it can be common for basic information to be inaccurate across services, which leads to a major hit in your ranking. The bottom line: make sure that you take care of the basics.

Managing Reviews and Boosting Your Local SEO

Once you’ve got your listings squared away, the next thing you need to do to stand out on mobile search is to make sure that you’re generating good reviews. For obvious reasons, most local search services are going to prioritize businesses that have a high volume of positive reviews.

How do you get people to review your business? The first step is to figure out the right way to ask. If you have a digital point-of-sale system that sends email receipts, consider inserting a link that makes it simple for customers to leave a review. Other tried-and-true methods include a strong visual ask placed in a key location, a simple in-person ask, and the “tip trick” (“If you mention my name in a positive review the company gives me a $10 tip”).

Finally, you want to make sure that you have a solid plan for how to interact with reviewers, both positive and negative. Remember, the goal here is to maintain a fair amount of engagement with your customers without coming off as a control freak. Getting into an argument with a negative reviewer is a surefire way to become the next Amy’s Baking Company.

When responding to a negative review keep in mind that your audience isn’t the person who came to your business and didn’t like the service, it’s the people reading that review and seeing how your company deals with a dissatisfied customer.

Tapping into Micro-Influencers

Social media isn’t just about followers‚ it’s about credibility. You can spend all the money in the world to get a celebrity to sponsor your brand and reach millions of people, but if there’s no sincerity behind that relationship, you’ve wasted your marketing budget. Social media users in 2017 have seen it all, and they can quickly sniff out a sham.

More and more companies are looking for authenticity with their messaging, and that means a micro-influencers strategy. Instead of prioritizing followers, look at other metrics like engagement, or how well an influencer fits with your niche. You can’t fake credibility, and a full-throated recommendation that reaches hundreds will do more for your brand than a half-hearted endorsement that reaches thousands.

Thinking Small to Dream Big

At the end of the day, you have to think small to dream big. You need to be specific about who your audience is and who they are not. It’s better to be ten people’s favorite thing than 100 people’s second favorite thing. If you focus in on the specifics, you’ll lay the groundwork you need to grow.

What You Can Do Right Now

  • Define your buyer personas and put a face to a name.

  • Audit your listings to boost your local SEO.

  • Adopt strategies to encourage reviews.

  • Consider investing in micro-influencers.

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