Oh, you think you’re so smart, don’t you? In your small business, you’ve mastered social media. You’re a whiz at Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or some other social media platform. Or all of the above.
And you don’t just use technology for marketing, you’ve already moved most of your small business applications to the cloud: bookkeeping and billing, payroll, customer relationship management, document storage and collaboration, and more.
You’re not afraid of high-tech solutions when it comes to growing and running your small business. In fact, your attitude is: “bring it on.” And you think that makes you a smarty pants, right?
Well, you are right. Embracing technology puts you ahead of the game when it comes to being a successful entrepreneur and growing a small company. I love technology, and I appreciate the immense power and capabilities tech has given small businesses.
But you know what? Sometimes the best solution is low-tech or even no-tech. Entrepreneurs, especially young startup entrepreneurs, may forget (or never knew) the greater impact a personal approach can have.
Here are seven no-tech/low-tech skills every small business owner should master:
- Face-to-face meetings. Yes, you have many ways to communicate with customers—emails, texting, messaging on social media, and a whole world of videoconferencing apps. But remember this: people do business with other people. Nothing is as effective in landing and keeping a customer as getting to know people, face-to-face. When you visit customers in person, they realize you value them and they appreciate the commitment you’re making to them.
- Entertaining. My most important, and effective, marketing activity I do all year is I host a small dinner for some of my best clients and prospects during an important conference. Over the years, I’ve met their spouses, followed their career moves, and deepened relationships. It’s now more like friends getting together than a business meeting, but they’re very loyal to me and my company.
- Trade shows and conferences. In my company, I spend the bulk of our marketing dollars exhibiting at trade shows and conferences. Why? Because trade shows give small businesses a really big bang for their marketing buck. Choose the right trade show, and under one roof, you’ll meet, face-to-face, a large number of prospects, referral sources, potential partners. I use a very low-tech follow-up too: a “trade show tracker.” Instead of taking home a pile of business cards with notes scrawled on them or trying to manage some digital card reader while meeting people, we take a simple notebook, staple business cards we collect onto the pages, and write notes underneath. Everything is together in one place.
- Signs. With the exception of standing in a town market hawking your wares, signs likely represent the oldest form of marketing. One of the advantages of signs in that they’re persistent. You put them up, and they stay in place for a long time. Signs include awnings, with your business name and address painted on them, banners, window placards, vehicle signs with your company information, posters, shelf signs, even sandwich boards outside your business door.
- Swag. Otherwise known as advertising specialties, swag is an item you give away to customers and prospects, imprinted with your name, logo, or message. People love getting free stuff. And these “tschotkes”—mugs, pens, sticky notes, and so much more—stick around for a long time, keeping your name in front of people.
- Phone calls. Phone calls now are so unusual that they pack a particularly strong punch. An upset customer? A new customer? An old customer you haven’t communicated with for a while? Pick up the phone and let them hear your voice. In a phone call, what you say is as important as how you say it. Today, a call is like the handwritten note people wrote 20 years ago. Take the time.
- Handwritten notes. Speaking of handwritten notes, send them—to customers, clients, employees, referral sources, even vendors. Customers are inundated with emails, social media posts, and texts. A handwritten note separates you from the clutter. And thank you notes are especially appreciated.
Many small businesses today, when they have a problem to solve, first look for a high-tech solution. But don’t forget that low-tech, even no-tech, solutions worked for thousands of years. They can still work today.
Copyright, Rhonda Abrams, 2017
This article originally ran in USA Today on November 8, 2017