Small-to-medium businesses should always look for ways to outshine the opposition, and thanks to the world of digital media there has never been more opportunity for the creative, hard-working company to flourish. There’s a lot of advice on angles to pursue and methods to employ in building a reputation, and here are five that you can’t afford to ignore.

Maintain your offline presence

If you have premises or a service that you offer face-to-face, then promote yourself in a positive way. Word-of-mouth remains one of the more powerful methods of gaining work, so give your happy customers a reason to speak well of you. Ordered, clean and well-maintained premises are mandatory, as is punctuality and politeness. Make sure your business cards are on display and that there is a box to collect other people’s cards – you never know if they will come in handy. Your website address should be somewhere in the store and/or van, and certainly on your receipts. And networking/community events are a great way of meeting new people.

Create a strong email marketing list

Once you have a good list of satisfied customers who have signed up to receive your emails, one well-crafted piece detailing news, promotions, competitions and new products once a month might be worth its weight in gold. Make it concise and clear, and if you have time you may tailor it to specific groups of customers. Your website and social media can push those who have not used your services towards signing up. Also consider signing up to an email marketing solution such as Mailchimp – it’s free if you have less than 2,000 subscribers.

Create an app

Mobile apps are a great way to engage your customers, boost loyalty and position you as a forward-thinking and innovative business. It’s an easy way to send out vouchers, to run loyalty schemes and to send notifications to keep customers hooked. Apps are not as expensive or complicated to build as you might imagine – Appsme is a great example of a competitively priced, easy to use option – and can help you really stand out from the competition.

Create a busy social media presence

Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Google Plus need not be distractions; indeed, used skilfully they can push more customers your way. You may need to set aside some time each day for maintenance, but it is essentially free advertising directed at already-interested parties. Still, as few as 37 per cent of small businesses use Facebook, so establishing a site gives you an advantage over competitors who fall into that bracket. Each platform also provides scope for promoting pictures and products, and allows you to deal with customer enquiries promptly and efficiently. Social media management tools such as Hootsuite can make the job even easier as they can post across multiple platforms simultaneously.

A good website

Good does not mean all-encompassing or giant; it means clear and logical, with good structure and a strong call-to-action. A customer visits and knows where to find your products, and also where to find you. Writing a blog, posting links to relevant news and partner companies, and keeping all product and service listings updated will only enhance the experience. The main no-nos are slow loading (according to Kissmetrics 40% of users will leave a site if it takes longer than three seconds to load), poor navigation and missing items – such as an address or phone number. Website builder services such as WordPress or can help you design a simple but effective website quickly.

If your business is not embracing these five ideas, it’s time to act!  Start off experimenting with a few of these points and watch as the benefits soon become apparent.

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