To help independent retailers succeed, we asked small business owners and entrepreneurs this question for their best insights. From synergizing with Google Map Pack to using social media to your advantage, there are several pieces of advice and resources to help your independent retail business succeed.
Synergize with Google Map Pack
Google My Business allows independent retailers to appear in Google Maps and Google Map Pack (GMP). Being on a highly visible map and included in the list of businesses in the area enables mobile users searching for “businesses near me" to locate yours.
For this reason, it's essential to keep your Google Business Profile accurate and up-to-date—especially your location address(es), hours, and phone number. GMP also allows customers to leave reviews, improving your local SEO and increasing your search engine results page (SERP) ranking. And a higher search ranking means more foot traffic to your business and an increase in sales.
Chris Gadek, AdQuick
Utilize Shopify’s Associated Services
Technology has not only helped advance but has leveled the playing field for small businesses, and this is why Shopify has become one of the independent retailers’ best resources. Many underestimate Shopify as simply a platform to set up your online business. While it does that exceptionally well, its other offerings create the foundation for small business opportunities. From its technical partners to assist in website design, system integration features, industry-specific content, or customer support, Shopify has created a wealth of resources to support retailers.
Also, the affordability of the platform and its associated services have provided the competitive qualities in which independent retailers can thrive. As its platform continues to evolve, Shopify will remain one of the best resources for small businesses.
Greg Gillman, MuteSix
Join the Retail Owners Institute
The Retail Owners Institute is an excellent educational resource that exists specifically to help independent retailers succeed and one that they can significantly
benefit from on their own time and from anywhere. In their own words, they describe the Institute as created to "help retailers avert failure." With a focus on retail financial management, ROI provides courses on every crucial aspect of keeping a retail business financially viable and tools and calculators that help retailers project and model.
Stephen Light, Nolah Mattress
Organize Yourself with To-Do Lists
To be a successful entrepreneur, I believe that you must be well-prepared and well-structured. By using a framework, you'll be able to accomplish your goals and remain on top of everything that needs completing. Every day, make a to-do list of everything you need to do. Put an “X” next to each item you complete on your list. Maintaining your organization's longevity will ensure you're not neglecting anything and doing all the necessary activities.
Many Software as a Solution (SaaS) tools like Slack, Asana, Zoom, and Microsoft Team, exist to improve organizational efficiencies. However, a simple Excel spreadsheet can satisfy 95% of a company's administrative needs.
Jay Bats, ContentBASE
Build a Strong, Lasting Network
A strong network is one of the small businesses' most critical resources to succeed. It enables you to connect with your target customers, find mentors and advisors, and access crucial information on industry trends and new opportunities.
In an emergency, you can tap into your connections for help with matters concerning marketing, financing, and business planning. Finding the right people to hire can be easier with a strong network. So if you're starting a small business, invest time and effort in building relations as early as possible.
Ben Rollins, Axon Optics
Switch to Digital Trade Shows
Traditional trade shows are expensive for most independent retailers, who need to take time and resources away from their business to attend, grow, and show face. When adding travel expenses to potential revenue lost, most retailers can’t afford to attend more than one show per year.
Independent retailers can still take part in a different type of trade show that isn’t as disruptive to business—the digital trade show. With global access to multiple trade shows and events, business owners can enjoy a comparable experience and network within their industry without leaving the comfort of home.
Ruben Gamez, SignWell
Consider the Potential Risks and Rewards
Taking prudent risks, in my opinion, is the best way to build your business. What are the drawbacks to a venture? What is the worst-case situation? With this information, you can take calculated risks that can yield enormous benefits.
Choosing the right time to start your business is essential to weighing the risks and benefits. For example, is it easier to open a restaurant during social isolation and restrictions because of the severe economic disruption in 2020, or is it more complicated?
Kenny Kline, BarBend
Connect With the Local Press
Connecting with your local press and other mainstream media channels is a great way to spread the word about your business. The more you're mentioned in online sources, such as local news articles and blog postings, the higher your SEO will rank. A higher ranking SEO means your business will appear higher in search results, making you more likely to be seen by locals and tourists searching for products and services.
By connecting with your local media, you also spread awareness of your business via word-of-mouth directly since people who read mainstream media come in contact with your content.
Yang Zhang, Plasmic
Automate CRM Assistance
As an independent retailer with a limited budget for marketing, customer service, and follow-up, we have found that an excellent automated customer relationship management (CRM) program like Nimble has aided us significantly. Our big focus is maintaining relationships with loyal customers that have developed over the years.
We started as a small, independent national company that has grown to reach an international consumer base. Using Nimble, we could develop initial customers that might have bought certain products and target them with our other products—for example, products their younger family members might need.
Maintaining excellent relationships is a full-time job; this software was essential in helping our small independent team with this vital aspect of the business.
Evan McCarthy, Sporting Smiles
Consult LinkedIn’s Essential Group
The Essential Group is a LinkedIn community supporting independently owned retail stores. This group is one good resource with a mission of uniting its members to enjoy the benefits of being voluntary traders. Furthermore, most independent stores get pressured by big brands in their communities.
That is why the Essential Group has a "brain trust" of professionals collectively known as Essential Business Consultants (EBC). These experts help independent retailers identify aspects of their store operations that need improvement—providing them with the proper marketing tools and knowledge to be competitive and take up space in the retailing industry.
Lilia Tovbin, BigMailer.io
Have NFIB Work for You
The National Association of Independent Business (NFIB) has advocated on behalf of small and independent business owners since 1943. When significant issues such as taxes, healthcare, and regulations impact Main Street, the NFIB brings the voice of small businesses to the courts, state capitals, Congress, and the media.
They also help you stay compliant by providing access to updates on legal rulings that affect small businesses, and they serve as a bank of resources to help grow your business. And a paid NFIB membership allows independent retailers with ways to save through discount offers from FedEx, Heartland point of sale and payroll, Dell Technologies, and more.
Maria Shriver, MOSH
Use Social Media to Your Advantage
View social media as a business opportunity. As an independent retailer, social media is a great resource that gives you autonomy, access to a giant marketplace, and the ability to grow healthy relationships with your customers. The different social platforms provide a vast audience base of potential future customers and allow you to build your unique brand voice organically.
You also have complete control over your marketing strategy on each platform and can create meaningful audience relationships through engagement. It’s all in how you approach it, and if you decide to use social media purely for business, it will be a tremendous resource to help you succeed as an independent retailer.
Staci Brinkman, Sips by
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.