How to get people talking about your small business

How do you generate buzz for a business?

For many brands, getting attention means investing in marketing. Whether that includes creating profiles across social media, buying ad space, or paying for PR, the ROI of these efforts can vary wildly, especially when they’re not backed by a meaningful strategy.

In an era where consumers are constantly bombarded with marketing messages, it’s worth asking yourself whether your message is worthy of their consideration.

It’s also worth thinking about sustainable alternatives to generating interest that almost always generate revenue in the long term.

Here’s what we recommend.

Develop and share your unique perspective on the industry.

Small business owners may not have the same resources as larger companies, but if you want to get people talking, you can’t afford to skimp on brand.

In today’s climate, consumers have tons of options, which means your product or service is only a part of why people become customers. The rest comes down to the “how, what, and why” of your business—what some call “brand strategy.”

If you haven’t given your brand strategy some thoughtful consideration in a while (or ever), review the problem your business solves. Is there something unique about your approach? Or an underlying expertise that exceeds your competitors’? What really matters to your customers?

Getting to the heart of these types of questions—and then devising experiences that reinforce the answers—is how the most effective brands build trust and differentiate themselves in a sea of seemingly similar options.

What does this actually look like in the real world? Here are a few ways effective brands build trust and stand out:

  • Practice what they preach: If your brand is eco-conscious, do your operations reflect this? If you promote inclusivity, does it show in your hiring practices? If you promise to make customers’ lives easier in some way, does your product or service actually deliver? To earn and maintain trust in the long term, find the balance between selling and being authentic.
  • Small feats of innovation: Doing things differently is often an effective way for a business to make a name for itself. If you run a law firm, this might mean offering much-needed services that other local lawyers don’t. If you run a financial planning firm, you might create a downloadable checklist to help prospects help themselves.
  • Share hard-won knowledge: As a small business owner, you’re likely an expert in several subjects related to your business. If you can translate this expertise into content that offers practical advice as well as new ways of thinking about and approaching problems, you’ll gradually earn credibility as a trusted resource in your industry.

Create experiences, products, or services that generate pride in your community.

Pride gets a bad rap, but it’s actually a constructive emotion when it’s balanced.

According to one Harvard Business Review study, a healthy sense of pride leads people to value the future. Here’s a quick overview of the methodology:

Researchers gave participants an initial set of demanding tasks.

  1. Some received encouraging feedback, while others didn’t.
  2. Researchers then gave participants another task, instructing them to work on it for as long as they like.

The group that received pride-inducing praise worked almost twice as long on the second task. Even more interestingly, their devotion to problem-solving wasn’t simply about “feeling good”—it was pride-specific.

As Harvard Business Review notes, “…pride can ease the way by automatically enhancing the perceived value of future rewards. The more desirable any future reward is, the less you have to convince yourself to keep working toward it.”

Pride can have a similar effect on customer retention and word-of-mouth marketing. The better you make customers feel about themselves, the more likely they’ll be to stick around.

If you run a small wine bar, for instance, you might start promoting products from local winemakers with free tastings. If you run a design firm, you might strike a partnership with local government to create murals or street art that enriches the community.

However your business does it, creating a sense of pride among people in your community can have far-reaching effects. In addition to providing customers with feelings of accomplishment and/or confidence, pride will inspire many of them to recommend your business to others.

Treat relationship-building like part of the job (‘cause it is).

As an extension of fostering pride, small businesses that want to extend their reach can also focus on building relationships within their sphere of influence.

Most commonly, this means teaming up with other businesses in your community. So if you’re that small wine bar owner, you might partner with a restaurant that sources local ingredients for a few special events. If you run a yoga studio, you might team up with independent designers.

Establishing mutually beneficial relationships with fellow businesses tends to have a ripple effect. In creating opportunities for people to connect, you’ll also create opportunities to build new relationships with some of the warmest leads you’ll ever encounter.

Take good care of your people.

The trickle-down effect of unhappy employees is no joke. From irritability and procrastination to frequent callouts and lack of effort, any member of your team who becomes disillusioned poses a threat to your brand’s reputation.

But is it entirely their fault?

Naturally, you can’t make everyone happy. But if you’re noticing a trend of dissatisfaction signals among employees, it might be time to rethink how you’re treating them.

Remember, the people who work for you are also a part of your community. If you treat them well—and make them feel good about themselves—their positive feelings of pride will spill over into their work.

They’ll also be more inclined to speak positively of your brand during and after their employment.

Changing the conversation

Marketing is everywhere, and at times, it seems like it can do everything.

In reality, much of what we call “marketing” is just mechanics. Creating a social media presence doesn’t mean we’re not shouting into a void. Paying for thousands of ad impressions doesn’t guarantee intentional ad clicks, and everyone knows public relations fluff when they see it.

Marketing happens before any of that—when a business commits to making customers feel good about themselves through their involvement with the brand. Once you figure that out, those display ads will write themselves.