Small Business Professor: Growing Your Business

By Bruce Freeman The Small Business Professor

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Small Business expert Bruce Freeman offers tips on how to grow your business. One area he suggests paying particular attention to is ENGAGEMENT with the customer.

The Small Business Professor

Q: I have a health food store and am losing a lot of business to the internet and big box stores. I am getting very discouraged. Any advice?

A: Brian Lawrence, a business consultant and owner of marketing firm LocalTrafficBuilder.com, offers some excellent advice. Here's what he had to say:

The first advantage is that you are a living, breathing entrepreneur. You are not a faceless website or a salaried employee.

Rather than simply taking customers' orders, you need to become a guide who smartly leads customers through their purchases.

Nothing is more important to a person than his health.

When someone visits your store, engage them. Ask them how they're feeling. What are their goals for their long-term health?

Are they sleeping well? Do you they have energy throughout the day? Do they have any joint pain?

Once you've covered that ground, offer solutions.

Next, explain that you can offer even better pricing if they sign up to have their nutritional supply replenished whenever it's running low. Retaining loyal customers is a great way to drive sales without spending additional money on marketing.

Networking in another key to growing business. Look to build strong relationships with holistic and metaphysical practitioners as well as chiropractors and acupuncturists. Networking is more than exchanging business cards. Discuss opportunities of co-branding and how your products can help give their patients support to their treatments. Also, in your new approach to dialoguing more with your customers, make direct recommendations of the right practitioner for treatment when relevant. A great platform for networking is LinkedIn.

You also cannot discount strong marketing. Marketing does not have to be expensive to be expansive. Start with Google and develop a full Google Plus profile, which is free and can give you tremendous exposure. Encourage customers to write reviews that talk about how service-oriented you are and how your products were solutions to their problems.

Lastly, posture yourself as an expert. Write original educational articles about different health-related topics and actively look for blogs and local media that will republish the items. If you feel confident enough with your public speaking skills, seek out opportunities to speak. For example, you could book a time at the local library and talk to seniors about mindful living.

By following any, or all, of these recommendations, you'll be sure to give your small business the shot in the arm it needs. ___ ABOUT THE WRITER Bruce Freeman, an adjunct professor and co-author of "Birthing the Elephant" (Random House), he is president of ProLine Communications.

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