Running a small business is such hard work, but it’s incredibly rewarding, too.
Even during the toughest of times, small businesses are vibrant places in which to work, and so closely-knit that you really do feel like part of a family.
At the start of 2020, there were 5.9 million small businesses in the UK. Hospitality businesses account for over 200,000 of those organisations, and they arguably sit within a sector which battles hardest against the big brands.
The good news is that we can all do an awful lot to support small businesses, and often without dipping into our pockets at all (although, clearly, spending money on their services and products is highly recommended at some stage!).
So, without further ado, here are 20 brilliant ways to support the small businesses you know and love.
1. Leave them a review
It takes just a few minutes, but it’ll make their day. And, if you work in the industry yourself, you’ll know how welcome every single good review is.
Even if you’ve not visited the venue for quite a while, think back to your last experience and reveal how wonderful it was on TripAdvisor. Every positive review counts.
2021 Guide: How To Handle Bad TripAdvisor Reviews
2. Share something they post on social 🔁
This is even quicker that leaving a review, so there really is no excuse.
If you see something you like from a small business on Twitter, Instagram or TikTok - share it. It’s so easy to simply keep on scrolling, when a quick retweet, or share will do wonders for their social reach.
3. Like something they post on social 👍
If you thought a retweet was quick, this is even faster. One tap of that ‘like’ button or heart icon will genuinely create a warm, fuzzy feeling inside the owner of the business.
Likes generally play a pretty big role in social media algorithms, so if you see something you like, express it with a tap!
4. Attend one of their events
Putting on events is hard work, as you’re no doubt aware, and with many events in hospitality being completely free to attend, the pressure is always on to make them work.
Why not relieve that pressure a little by attending as many events as you can locally? Even if you don’t spend a penny once there, the fact you’re contributing to the numbers will make a huge difference.
5. Sign up to their email list 📩
Ethically building an email list takes a long time, but it’s absolute gold dust when you get it right.
If you like what a small business is doing, show your appreciation by handing over your email address and keep an eye on the stuff they send you; if they get their email marketing right, it should benefit you in the long run.
6. Comment on their blog
Blogging is fun, but it can feel a bit like you’re shouting into a cold, dark, empty room when you hit that ‘publish’ button.
When you receive comments, that room suddenly begins to warm up; you realise that people are reading your hard work. So, make it a habit to comment on any blogs you read from small businesses and express your appreciation for their words.
7. Recommend them to a friend
Recommendations fuel business growth in hospitality, and they remain one of the most cost-effective marketing tools available.
The best news? All you need to do as a customer is recommend the business to a friend. So, if you had a wonderful meal last night or a cracking stay in a small hotel, tell people about it!
8. Sign up to their SMS marketing
SMS marketing is a brilliant way to encourage past and potential guests to engage.
One of the most positive things you can do to support small businesses is hand over your mobile number. In doing so, you’ll (hopefully) receive personalised offers, and help them build yet another invaluable marketing list.
9. Leave a positive comment on social media - and mention them
Liking and sharing content on social media is a great tactic if you want to support small businesses, but you can go a lot further.
Interacting with their content will help their social standing even more. Therefore, if you spot something with which you agree or admire, show your appreciation by commenting. Equally, create your own posts about it and mention them within the text.
10. Write about them on your blog
Are you regularly contributing towards your own blog or that of your business? If so, use it to occasionally reference small businesses you love.
Inbound links are incredibly valuable from a search engine optimisation (SEO) perspective, therefore by mentioning and linking to those businesses, you’ll help their google rankings and hopefully direct some meaningful traffic their way, too.
11. Put them on your bucket list
Even if you don’t have the budget to spend on their services right now, putting a small business on your bucket list is a way of earmarking future spend.
Promise yourself that you’ll try them out by a particular date - and stick to it. Oh, and you could write about it on your blog, too (see tip 10).
12. Send the owner a message (they’re people, too!)
There are few things more satisfying when you’re a business owner than receiving a personal message from a customer.
It might be an email, tweet or message on LinkedIn, but if you really want to show your appreciation for what they’re doing, reach out to the owner directly - it’ll go down very well indeed.
13. Connect on LinkedIn
LinkedIn offers wonderful ways to connect with businesspeople. What’s more, most users on the platform will genuinely welcome positive connections, and those which aren’t the usual raft of spam and recruitment messages.
If you’ve fallen in love with a small business, try seeking out their employees on LinkedIn and connect with them. Just make sure you actually interact with them after the connection is established!
14. Mention them in your stories
If you’re a regular user of the ‘stories’ features on platforms like Instagram and Twitter, try mentioning your favourite local businesses once in a while.
These platforms let you mention them by username, and with Instagram’s stories feature in particular used by 500 million people every day, the potential audience is huge.
15. Suggest how they could improve their service
Constructive criticism is just as important as positive feedback. If you’ve had a less than stellar experience at a small business or you’ve spotted ways in which they could improve things, get in touch and kindly feedback your experiences and thoughts. Providing you’re nice about it, the feedback will be taken as intended.
16. Jump in when you spot unfair negative commentary
It’s important not to ‘feed the trolls’ online, but if you spot unfair negative commentary about a small business and feel compelled to say something, there’s no harm in sticking up for them.
Do so in a polite way (kill the troll with kindness), and you’ll offer the attacked business some much needed support. We’re all in this together, after all.
17. Check their website regularly
There are so many small business websites which are left to gather digital dust, and that’s often because the owners don’t see any progress in terms of stats.
Once again, every little helps with this, therefore if you’re really fond of a small business, make it a habit to visit their website every week and check out their latest blogs, news, and any content you might have missed during your previous visit.
18. Subscribe to their YouTube channel (and like their vids!)
If the business in question has an active YouTube channel, there are probably countless hours poured into its production and upkeep.
Help them out by watching, subscribing and liking their videos - it’ll make all the difference (it might even inspire you to start your own channel!).
19. Sign up to their loyalty program
Loyalty programs can be one of the most profitable tools for small businesses. But they need members, obviously.
Usually, you won’t have to pay a penny to sign up to a loyalty program, so if you spot one on offer - go for it. In the long run, it’ll benefit you, but each new member is a huge step forward for the business in question.
20. Take part in their competitions 🥳
Running competitions is hard work, but if you get enough entrants, it can be a massive boost for your brand.
Even better, if you’re the entrant to a competition, it’ll cost you nothing, and you could win something very nice in return. So, if you spot a competition that’s being run by one of your favourite small businesses, always get involved (there’s literally no reason not to).
Related guide: How to Run a GDPR Compliant Competition
We hope this guide has inspired you to step up and support those small businesses on which you rely so often. You really don’t have to spend a penny, and your efforts won’t just make you feel warm and fuzzy inside - they’ll have a tangible, positive impact on the business in question, too.