Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Your Local Business In Today’s World

It would be nice in a way, to think that time stands still. That what worked in the past will work now and just doing what we always did will keep working for us. Unfortunately whether we like it or not some things change.

Just ask the people who made their business in manufacturing button hooks for lace-up boots that were once the rage. Maybe not since they are long gone, along with the sulky makers and the cars that needed to be hand cranked to get started. Remember audio cassettes and video tapes? Now there was an industry. Replaced by CDs and DVDs and now they are in peril from download.

Some things of course, don’t change. Being well organized in your business will never go out of fashion. Which doesn’t mean being inflexible, but does mean approaching your business with the respect that it deserves. It means taking the right actions for the right reasons. Nourishing the business as necessary, in the form of scheduled marketing, and repeatable quality standards in delivery of services and product, which means good procedures and policies – written down and followed.

Whether you have noticed or not, your market is changing. Your customers are changing and the way they do business, the way they want to do business, has changed. Time is precious for your customers and many of them do their shopping research online.

They want answers when they want them, even if it is 2am and when they look for someone to help them from their plight – whatever it is – they want to be able to find the local business that can help them to do that. If they are looking for something that is in your field, then you bet you want to be there online for them to find, and get all the information they need to satisfy their interest. You want to be found and you want to be sure they have all they need to be able to use your business if they can, to satisfy what is important to them at this time.

Your customers are looking online to find you on Google and guess what? That’s not the only place they are looking now. They are seeking advice from the people around them and online more and more that is the people in their social networks. Need a good mechanic? Ask your network. Need a new accountant or a pool repaired? Social networks, like Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, review sites, you name it, they are checking it out. They are finding who is there, and they are finding who has been recommended... and who has been rubbished for their lack of service.

But you probably know this already. As a business owner, you probably do the same thing yourself. The question now is how are you responding to this change in your market, within your business? What are you doing to meet your customers in the new marketplace? How do you let them find you online and what steps have you actively taken to meet their enquiries and respond to their needs?

The tools are available to help you monitor the word that is out there about your business, and to help you spread the good word about your business. It isn’t something to take lightly and it isn’t something to ignore if you want your business to be flexible and able to prosper in the new economy. Databases for marketing, social media, sms text messages and VOIP, inventory management and advanced point of sale technology, online identity and reputation management, recruiting methods are just some of these new tools.

If you have not taken steps yet to address this side of your business, and how that fits with the overall management of your business, then now is a great time to review your direction and plan for the future that is now.

If you have taken steps to move with the times, please do add your comments and share your thoughts so others in local businesses who may still be struggling with these concepts may learn from your experiences too.


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Gertrud Althausen said...

Website, Xing, LinkedIn, Twitter,spiritual business entrepreneurs network,2 blogs I am writing, nothing really helps. Folder, flyer, advertisement - nope. My own webside - sometimes it brings clients.
The only thing that brought clients was staying in the local health store and give on site massage so people can feel what I am doing and who I am in person.
All the so called new media is over valued in my point of view and for my business.

lindyasimus said...

Hi Gertrude. It can be difficult to sort out which activities are going to be most effective in social media. I think perhaps the goal needs to be to build relationships - not make sales. You can never lose if you are gaining friends with great skills they are willing to share.