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How Small Businesses Can Succeed – With a Purpose

We spoke with Amanda Brinkman, who spearheaded the Small Business Revolution and now co-hosts Small Business Revolution –Main Street, for her insights on “doing well by doing good.”

What’s behind your philosophy of “doing well by doing good,” and what’s your advice to small businesses looking for their “brand purpose”?

Growing up, I was taught from day one to be nice to people and ask what you can do for them. From the moment I stepped into my first professional role, I saw no reason why this couldn’t be extended to the business world. For as long as I remember, I’ve held a belief that our purpose in this world is to make other people’s lives better, even in seemingly small ways.

With that philosophy, I’ve spent my career proving that companies can “do well by doing good.” It’s a thesis (and steadfast belief) that companies can and should make a meaningful and positive impact in their customers’ lives while simultaneously improving their bottom line. What’s good for your customers and what’s good for your business are not separate endeavors. They should be inextricable.

The days when a company’s charitable efforts were separate from their core business are over. In fact, even having a “brand purpose” isn’t enough. It has to be combined with what I call “brand action.” This means translating your brand purpose into meaningful and sustained action that positively improves customers’ lives.

What are some best practices for small businesses looking to improve the lives of their customers and their communities?

Every company, large and small, should identify its brand purpose. Start by taking a look at what unique value it adds, and what would be missing from the world if it wasn’t in business. This core business purpose will directly inform your mission-based brand purpose. But then you must make sure it’s not just lip service, because simply articulating brand purpose is not enough. In fact, more and more companies are getting called out and receiving backlash when they don’t follow through with meaningful action.

Ask yourself what’s really important to you and your customers and build out from there. If it rings inauthentic, consumers will know; their detectors are pitched high these days. Don’t rush. Make sure your choice feels right before you move forward.

Technology plays an integral part in the innovation and success that’s happening in the small business industry. What are some technologies you feel are really elevating the industry and how can small business owners employ these to improve their bottom line?

One can’t overestimate the importance of a strategic and savvy online presence. Make sure you pay attention to the must-haves: a search-optimized website, SEO-rich online listings, a strong and consistent social media presence and an email-marketing strategy, for starters.

But don’t just do things to do things. Take a step back and think about your customers. Always put them front of mind. Find out how to participate in their lives digitally, in a way that is positive and not solely about selling. Then find the tools and platforms that get you there.

Case in point: everyone should ensure they’re listed appropriately on search engines –but not every business needs to be on every social channel. For example, restaurants should really be on Instagram, as people love sharing images of their meals, but maybe that’s less critical for a hardware store. And perhaps most importantly, don’t feel like you’re alone –companies like Deluxe can assist with these aspects of your business so you can get back to doing what you love.

How can small businesses leverage their payment processing solutions to help them in their marketing efforts and reach their target audience?

It’s good to think about integrating your core banking and financial products, including payment-processing solutions, with your marketing initiatives. Integration and seeing the complete picture of all interactions with your customers is the key.

Make sure you’re leveraging all data at your fingertips, but in a way that benefits your customers and doesn’t come across as invasive. For example, make sure your customer receives the same experience with your brand’s purpose at each point of contact, including the purchase experience.

What’s your favorite part about working on Small Business Revolution –Main Street, and what qualities do the winners of the series have in common?

Oh, that’s easy. The people. The people in these towns we visit are unbelievable. The passionate small business owners, the inspiring residents, the hard-working community leaders. The experts on my Deluxe team that make over the businesses. The film crew and other partners that make it all possible. Their determination, their attitude, their civic spirit. The people I meet across the country are a never-ending source of inspiration to me.

The winning towns all have one thing in common: They’re full of people like those I just described, and they don’t give up. They face challenges with an eye toward solutions. They look forward instead of backward. And they all work together toward a common goal. They believe in their communities. They believe in their business. And we believe in them. The small business owners of this country are just amazing.

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