Tips to grow your rural small business

By Victoria Schmid

As a rural small business owner, you face a unique set of challenges, like a harder time finding quality employees, affordable healthcare coverage, and reliable loan and finance options. While these aspects can mean some extra work on your end, it’s not a death sentence for your business.

The good news is you can do a few things to make sure your small business is running smoothly.

Reward your loyal customers

One perk of starting a small business in a rural area is that superstores like Walmart and Target are fewer and farther between. If your business is unique and adds value to the community, you have a chance to build loyal customers. And rewarding loyal customers is a great way to grow your business.

Setting up a rewards program can both encourage repeat customers and attract new clients. Rural communities are often close-knit and rely on networking, so when customers are happy, they’re more likely to spread the word to friends and family. Be as friendly and accommodating as possible, and offer coupons or punch cards to get people to come back.

Invest in good internet

Investing in the right internet connection for your company is crucial to your success as a small business owner. Finding reliable rural internet can be challenging, but satellite internet providers can reach some of the most remote places in the country when you don’t have other high-speed options nearby.

Once you have a good internet connection, it’s time to strengthen your online presence. It might seem like a hassle, but you’d be surprised how much the internet can impact your business—even in a rural community. Here are a few tips:

Make sure your website is up to snuff

With custom website builders like Weebly, Squarespace, and Wix, there’s really no excuse for bad web design these days. Take the time to plan your website, and invest in a custom URL when you have the funds to do so. Also make sure your site looks good on mobile—81% of adults in the US now own smartphones (as high as 92% for adults under 50). So if you’re trying to catch a younger demographic, your site’s mobile experience can make or break your business’s appeal.

Get your business on Google maps

If you have a storefront location, verify it with Google so that you’re easily accessible to people searching for your products or services. Plus, registering your business on Google maps can boost your position on Google, ensuring you show up in local searches and helping you jump higher in search results. Finally, Google recommends filling out your company’s information in detail to help connect the right customers to your business.

Use websites like Etsy to get your small business recognized

Setting up shop on Etsy can be especially useful when you’re just starting out. Millennials care a lot about buying handmade and local products, and you can reach these audiences easily through artisan- and small-business-focused websites.

Build a social media presence

Customers can tell a lot about your dedication to your product just by glancing at your social media. If it’s polished, professional, and authentic, they’re much more likely to take you seriously and purchase from you in the future. Posting regular updates, sharing helpful tips, and even collaborating with other complementary businesses can grab attention and build your customer base.

Think outside the box

Don’t be afraid to get creative with how you use the internet. You can start with these basics, but you can also branch out to things like email campaigns and Google Analytics (to learn who is visiting your website and from where) as you get more comfortable.

Set up shop at the local farmers market

It may seem like a small opportunity, but farmers markets and other pop-up locations can get your name out there and connect you with current and potential customers. If there’s a farmers market in your area, find out how to secure a weekly spot in the line-up.

It’s important to build a rapport with the other vendors and the people in charge of the farmer’s market as well. With the connections you make, you might be able to get your foot in the door for other community activities and even sponsor an event or two.

Take whatever opportunity you can

Remember that just because you’re located in a more isolated area doesn’t mean you can’t succeed. From local pop-ups to the wide reach of the internet, you aren’t as limited as many people think. And you may have fewer local customers, but they’re likely to be more loyal. Remember to be scrappy, pounce on opportunities for growth, and use what tools you do have to your advantage in every way possible.

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Victoria Schmid enjoys writing about technology for the “everyday” person. She is a specialist in consumer technology and internet culture.

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