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CEOs Share Ideas to Help Independent Retailers Succeed
by Dean L Swanson
July 23, 2022

Best Insights of Ideas to Consider to Help Independent Retailers

I cherish the opportunity to meet with local small business CEOs.  I was able to do that again this past week.   A repeated comment that I get in these engagements is “Do you have ideas for us to consider that will help us as independent retailers?”.   I will share some of those in this column. Brett Farmiloe, one of SCORE’s content partners summarized responses from small business owners and entrepreneurs for their best insights.  Brett is also the Founder & CEO of Terkel.  Consider these suggestions.

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

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

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,

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

About the author
Dean Swanson
Dean L Swanson
Dean is a Certified SCORE Mentor and former SCORE Chapter Chair, District Director, and Regional Vice President for the North West Region, and has developed and managed many businesses. The Rochester Post Bulletin publishes his weekly article on a topic geared toward the small business community. The articles here are printed in their entirety.
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