Local businesses are often the heart and soul of the local economy.
They hire and train local jobseekers, pour taxes into the government tills, and uphold a standard of living that attracts visitors and residents to the community. It is important that local businesses flourish, so that their communities can grow along with them.
The Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, or BALLE as it is known, represents thousands of communities, entrepreneurs, investors and funders who are working to create local economies that work for everyone involved.
They promote the assertion that locally owned businesses in fact contribute significantly greater benefits than do their absentee-owned counterparts, due to their higher local multipliers, dedication to the hometown community, stability, accountability, social involvement and sense of local identity, among other factors.
On the national level, the Small Business Administration reports that local businesses generate the vast majority of new jobs, especially among those who might not be able to otherwise find employment with large corporations, and pay almost half of the total US private payroll.
When customers purchase goods and services from local small businesses, the money they are spending is often invested right back into the public coffers within their own community.
Instead of providing immense tax breaks and throwing perks at large corporations, local politicians might do better for their constituents by promoting the growth of local small businesses.
Large corporations have no ties to the local community, and are as likely to shut down or move once any tax incentives expire as they are to threaten to move in order to secure more public support and tax-payer funding.
For the consuming public, Entrepreneur lists six top reasons they should support local entrepreneurs:
- Improve local health by buying local foods.
- Improve the local economy instead of benefiting corporations with out-of-town headquarters.
- Know the character of the people behind the product.
- Keep the community unique.
- Improve customer service.
- Get more personalized service from a neighbor who knows you best.
Local businesses can have a social impact far beyond the economics on their local community. They are often the ones most likely to support local charitable efforts, sponsor school events and promote strong feelings of hometown pride. Their contributions can even help to foment and grow a local sense of community that helps residents become better neighbors to one another.
On a global scale, the benefits of small businesses for their home nations are similar. Entrepreneurs worldwide help build their local communities, provide employment opportunities, and encourage innovation.
While it may be true that some of the world’s largest companies started in a garage or basement, it is also true that small businesses can form the backbone right in the community where they stay.
The Connection Between Local Business Success and Reputation Management
“What’s in a name?” Even as far back as Shakespeare’s time, the Bard of Avon understood well the value of a name when writing about Romeo and his fair Juliet.
In more modern times, none other than the Oracle of Omaha, Warren Buffett, applied that basic understanding to the business world and admonished that, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
When thinking differently about how to grow a local business, attract new customers, and keep current ones happy, one of the things entrepreneurs often think they cannot control is their online reputation, but nothing could be further from the truth.
There are many strategies that can be undertaken to generate online reviews, listen to customers and prospects, and respond more quickly to positive and negative situations.
The importance of online reputation management as part of an overall business strategy cannot be over-estimated.
It is not related to just one aspect of your business, but it is made up of all of the unique aspects of your business. It does not impact just one area of your business; it influences all aspects of your company.
A good reputation is something that must be sought after consistently, nurtured continuously, and monitored efficiently.
In the old days, the saying went that “no news is good news,” but that most certainly does not apply now to having no online reputation.
If you think that your business is doing well because nobody is saying anything bad about you, you are not doing as well as you think.
To today’s savvy digital audience, the lack of an online reputation is taken the same way as having a bad reputation. Even businesses with a bad reputation have more of an online presence than a business that has none!
You want to have a good reputation so that prospects will consider buying from you and customers will continue to buy from you.
If potential purchasers look online for information about your business and find good reviews or comments, the trust process can begin. They need to feel a certain level of comfort before they take the first step of visiting a website or asking a question on social media. They conduct an unscientific poll of their circle of friends, and then look to reviews from actual customers.
Pay heed to the 2015 Nielsen Global Trust in Advertising Survey, which revealed that people will take action on recommendations from people they know and trust consumer opinions which have been posted online – even if they do not know the reviewer.
Word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most powerful tools in your marketing tool kit, because it gives an instant aura of approval to your business.
Customers who post honest and insightful opinions can become the best instigator of business growth.
Once you have a positive online reputation, it starts to snowball and attracts even more positivity to your company. Even if there is one negative incident, its impact can be mitigated by an avalanche of positive outcomes so that consumers will tend to give you the benefit of the doubt. Other benefits of a solid online reputation include:
- It sets you apart and distinguishes your business from the competition.
- It generates awareness and support for sales and causes you promote.
- It builds resiliency, consistency, and positive notoriety to shape opinions with non-customers.
- It helps create and promote opportunities for growth.
As with a personal reputation, however, your online reputation is not always completely in your control. You can take actions to uphold high standards of customer service and product quality, but sometimes there can just be someone who is unhappy at a perceived slight or inconvenience. Since the internet does not appear to be going away any time soon, the best strategy is to learn to manage your online reputation as much as possible.
The good news is that it is possible to build a better and stronger online presence with reputation management, social marketing, responsive websites, review generation, and listings management tools that make it easier to find and trust business entities in local search results.
Local businesses can now benefit from cloud-based services which are designed to measure and report performance, and thereby improve and accelerate the rate of improvement in sales, revenues and profits for local businesses.
Such a platform can create economies of scale because small businesses can compete more effectively with larger companies in the online milieu.
Entrepreneurs and business owners don’t have to learn new skills, hire additional people, or spend time crafting a strategy when they can take advantage of cost-effective opportunities that have been developed by industry professionals with extensive experience.