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If you own a small business, here’s some great news: consumers have your back this coming year. Research out of Business Wire shows that the American public is eager to support small and local businesses following the pandemic, with 75 percent stating they plan on shopping small and the average consumer saying they plan on spending $100 a week at local businesses. It appears the pandemic has people rethinking the way they do a lot of things, including how they spend their dollars.

It is a great time to make sure shoppers know you’re here. The pandemic renewed an appreciation for that small business feel, and it renewed an understanding that our communities are empowered and enriched by entrepreneurs who were bold enough to open that boutique, barbershop, flower shop, small accounting firm – you name it – right there in your neighborhood. Make 2022 your year with these tips for small businesses.

Don’t Sleep On The In-Person Experience

While it is true that many Americans shop online now, that’s often out of necessity but doesn’t reflect their preference. In fact, a survey out of Intuit shows that 55 percent of shoppers prefer to not just shop local but to also shop in-person at local businesses. Shoppers go to a brick-and-mortar location for that special, tailored experience and a personal touch. So make sure every staff member who will deal with customers face-to-face has a welcoming personality and that your physical location is a pleasure to be in. Each person who walks through your door made the choice to get up from their couch and show up in person for a reason: they believed the in-person experience would be worth it. Prove them right.

Let Robots Do (Some Of) The Work

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A lot of time, money and talent is wasted on tasks that could be automated. Today, there is so much software available for helping businesses streamline processes that don’t quite require the dedicated attention of your staff, who could be best put to use elsewhere. There is software for things like payroll, sending newsletters, ordering supplies, organizing receipts and so much more. You took the time to find employees who are qualified to handle those higher-level tasks that require a human touch that software just doesn’t offer. Automating certain processes frees up your staff’s time to handle projects that can truly move your business forward.

Create SEO-Driven Content

Social media has essentially removed the middle man when it comes to creating great ads for your business and putting them in front of the proper eyes. You no longer need to go through a billboard service or buy radio ad time. However, it’s important to know how to create ads and content that resonate with your audience, and to know how to make sure that content winds up in front of your desired audience. Meta Elevate has several upcoming events that teach business owners how to do just that, including tips on creating SEO-driven, dynamic ads and creative considerations for story ads.

Analyze Your Data

Once you’ve created social media ads and creative content you’re proud of, you need to know if it’s working. The best way to do that is to utilize the analytical tools offered by the social media platforms on which you post, like Instagram and Meta. These tools can help you understand things like the demographic profiles of those who look at your content, who goes onto your page, and who even goes on to make a purchase. Sometimes, looking at those charts can be overwhelming, which is why Meta offers a workshop that helps you learn how to analyze them. The more you understand that data, the better you can hone your content to target your audience.

Ask For Feedback

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Self-awareness is critical for the success of individuals and businesses. You can likely name many businesses today who don’t keep up with the times, who don’t realize something they present is off-putting, or who don’t realize they’re behind on some important development. Certainly, it’s not intentional, but they don’t know. Nobody told them. It’s so important to get feedback from your customers to find out what you can do to improve their experience. Conduct focus groups. Hand out surveys. Encourage customers to leave reviews or write something down in a comment box. If you see a trend emerging among various comments, take that into consideration. Don’t write off a critique that comes up multiple times; it’s the best help your customers can offer.

Find Valuable Staff & Value Them

Finding and retaining quality employees has never been more important. A survey put out by Score shows that companies are having a difficult time getting employees to return to work or finding new employees since the pandemic. Over 40 percent of the small businesses that responded to the survey said they have unfilled job positions. The pandemic has had many American workers reconsider (i.e.: become pickier) about what they want out of a job. It’s important to offer incentives. Consider what’s right for your company. It could be flexible hours, work-from-home days, childcare stipends, stocks, bonuses. Whatever you do, don’t treat employees as dispensable. If they feel valued, they will deliver high-value work.

Don’t Forget Customer Service

Building long-term relationships should be a top priority, along with bringing in new customers. Many small businesses only focus on that latter step and drop the ball on the former. One important way to build long-term relationships is to focus on your customer service. A survey published on Retail TouchPoints shows that 73 percent of customers say that they are encouraged to spend more money in response to good customer service. That is a statistic that cannot be ignored. Once someone becomes a customer, that is a bond that should be valued, prioritized and celebrated. Make sure your customers feel that.

Know Your Finances

Small businesses cannot afford to suffer from cash flow issues. And for many, the problems only occur due to a lack of understanding of their finances. While hiring an accountant might seem like an expense a small business cannot afford, not hiring one could be the biggest cost of all. A good accountant will usually help small businesses find inefficiencies in their spending that quickly make up for the fees of the accountant, and then some. At the very least, you the owner should be sitting down on a weekly basis to take a close look at cash flow.