Now more than ever, it’s important to support small businesses. COVID-19 has meant that many are struggling just to keep the lights on. Some have had to reduce the number of customers they’re able to serve because of social distancing measures. Others are seeing reduced sales because customers can’t afford to spend as much as before.
Ordering takeout is useful, but it may not be a sustainable option for every day. Plus, this only helps your favorite restaurants — and there are many other types of small businesses that need your help just as much.
Luckily, there are many ways to support small businesses that go beyond buying from them. Let’s look at how to support a small business for free — but first, why should you want to?
Why Support Small Businesses
Small businesses play a critical role in everything from their local communities to the economy at large.
For one thing, they allow entrepreneurs to bring a dream to life. That dream could one day grow into a midsize or even large company that employs hundreds of people. After all, even the largest corporations started out small. And even if businesses stay small, they create jobs for local people and help keep unemployment down.
In addition, communities that have many small businesses are better able to meet the needs of their residents. Products and services are designed with locals in mind and they often promote the culture of the region.
Not to mention small businesses make a neighborhood feel welcoming and give it a unique flair. Frequently, it’s the local businesses that make people want to visit an area — there’s less appeal to visiting a place where the stores and restaurants are the same as everywhere else.
Small businesses that operate online are just as important. They may provide a subset of the population with a niche product or fill a gap by providing an original service. Without these businesses, choice diminishes and we miss out on innovative ideas.
How to Support a Small Business Without Buying Anything
Now you know why small and local businesses are so important, let’s look at how to support a small business without buying any of its products. You may be surprised that there are multiple ways to do this.
1. Follow on Social Media
The first thing to do is find the business on social media and start following. A large follower count shows other users that the business is popular and credible.
There are also benefits to doing this for you. For instance, you’ll be able to keep up to date with everything the business is doing, including new ways to help. If you want to buy from the business in the future, social media is a great way to find out about special offers and discounts.
Once you follow a business, you’ll find yourself liking and commenting on its posts. This is great for the business, as more engagement tends to mean posts appear to more people — including users with matching interests who are as yet unaware of the business.
It’s particularly important to follow on Instagram. This is because accounts need to reach 10,000 followers before they are able to include links in their Instagram Stories. Links make it easier for businesses to send users directly to a product page or another relevant webpage, where they’ll find more information or can make a purchase. As a result, businesses can end up seeing more sales.
2. Recommend Friends, Family, and Neighbors
Even if you are buying regularly from a business, there’s only so much you, as an individual, can do to keep the company afloat. What the business needs is a solid customer base — and you can help with this.
Tell everyone you know about your favorite businesses. You can recommend places like restaurants to your neighbors, whereas you can tell friends and family all over the country about online businesses. Show off your purchases and extol the benefits. Those who receive your recommendations will be just as happy as business owners.
3. Use Your Social Influence
You can reach an even wider audience by sharing content on social media. There’s no need to be an influencer with a following of thousands to make an impact. Everyone has some kind of following — and even if your network is small, you can make a difference.
To the people in your network, content will have a bigger impact coming from you than if they see an ad or a post from an unknown business. Plus, by sharing content, there’s no need to personally recommend the business to each individual.
Whereas you can share content the business creates, it’s even better if you create your own. It doesn’t need to be anything complex: your own photo of a product or service along with a few words is all it takes. This kind of content is ideal for Instagram and Facebook Stories. Plus, businesses love user-generated content, as it means someone else is doing marketing for them. Just make sure you use a branded hashtag.
4. Sign Up for an Email Newsletter
After you’ve done all you can on social media, head over to the business’s website. Find out if there’s an email newsletter you can subscribe to. This will give you another way to stay up to date with everything that’s going on with the company. You may well receive even better deals in the newsletter than you see on social media.
5. Write Reviews
Businesses put a huge amount of effort, and often a significant amount of money, into marketing themselves online. However, one of the most effective tools is out of their reach: reviews. Plenty of positive reviews from legitimate customers is often a deciding factor for someone choosing where to go or who to buy from.
People look in multiple places for reviews. Depending on the type of business, they may search on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or TripAdvisor. Consider leaving reviews in a couple different places. Just make sure you switch up what you write, as copying and pasting reviews will look like spam and could end up hurting rather than helping the business.
It only takes a couple minutes to write a unique review. Dedicate a small portion of your day to this activity and you’ll soon have covered all your favorite businesses.
6. Attend Events
Many businesses are holding events right now to garner attention. Events are mostly online, meaning you can attend from wherever you are and keep social distancing. Whereas some events do have a cost, many are free trials of new online services. These range from cooking classes and workouts to meditation sessions and art workshops. Invite friends to come to help the business convert more customers.
At the end of the event, the business may ask for your feedback. If you receive a survey, make sure you respond. This will help the business improve its services and retain more customers.
7. Check In with Business Owners
If the owners of the business you want to support are your friends, give them a call and ask them how they’re doing. This is especially important if the business offers services you’re unable to use yourself. Your friends will probably appreciate the chance to talk — they may want to express some frustration or they could want to share excitement about a new idea. In any case, they’ll be glad to know someone is thinking of them.
If you just want to support a business you love, send a message to the team. Let them know that you appreciate all they do — this can be very motivating! You may also like to ask if there’s anything else you can do to support them, as they may have some company-specific ideas.
8. Volunteer at a Nonprofit
Some of your favorite businesses may not be for-profit companies but nonprofits. They need just as much support right now — if not more, since many are seeing a decline in donations. If current trends continue, nonprofits could lose more $25 billion.
Whereas donations are important, money is far from the only thing that matters. For instance, nonprofits need volunteers to carry out critical tasks. As each charity will have different tasks they need help with, it’s worth reaching out to ask what kind of support would go the furthest.
They may have options that allow you to stay in your house, such as writing grants or answering calls on a hotline. Other tasks could involve venturing outdoors but still avoid human contact, like doorstep delivery of meals for the elderly and walking shelter dogs.
Plenty of ways to help a small business don’t involve buying anything. In fact, it’s easy to support small and local businesses for free. If there are businesses you care about in your community and beyond — whether you know the owners or you just love the services they provide — now is the time to support them. Tell others about your effort and they’ll be able to do the same. Together, you may be able to ensure your favorite small business continues to exist for many more years.
If you own a small business yourself and your clients are asking how they can help you, share this resource with them. Remember, though, you’ll also need to take matters into your own hands. Read about the current small business trends that will help you thrive this year.