By Nick Barnett, CEO at Appsme

Traditionally, hairdressers, tradesmen and restaurateurs relied on word-of-mouth, passing trade and the odd leaflet drop to get customers through the door. Today, in order to stay ahead of the game, these companies are being forced to branch out and grab the opportunities that could launch them into the world of big business.

Modern-day consumers have been conditioned to expect the latest tech so small business need to adapt to meet these expectations to avoid being left behind. There are always ways to close the gap between the big boys and the independent retailers – even in the most crowded marketplaces:

1: Don’t ignore the power of social media

Having an active presence on social channels implies that your business is always connected and transparent.

• Save time by scheduling social media posts in advance using tools such as Hootsuite
• Engage with your audience as often as possible - if someone tweets you tweet them back
• Make your posts interesting and relevant to your target market
• Increase your activity on picture sharing sites like Instagram or Pinterest

The familiarity and ease of use of these platforms encourages users to share their favourite posts with others, regardless of the size of the business. If you offer engaging content, your page will be shared regardless of the size of your company.

2: Branch out with text message marketing

Text message marketing can make a huge impact and is guaranteed to give even the smallest of businesses a corporate image.

Any small business owner can send out texts to keep customers up to date on their latest offers or even issue reminders such as, ‘It’s been six weeks since your last hair appointment – time for a trim?’

The unrivalled power of this direct customer contact is vital when it comes to staying at the forefront of the customer’s mind. Research has even shown that two thirds of consumers subscribed to mobile marketing have made a purchase as a direct result of receiving a highly relevant mobile message.

3: Reach a mobile audience with a business app

80% of all online adults now own a smartphone and the business benefits of reaching this untapped market are second to none.

Take push notifications: you’re a small restaurant and you have no bookings for a Tuesday night. It looks like the evening will be a disappointment. So, you act quickly and come up with a deal on-the-fly; free bottle of wine with a meal for two between 7.30pm and 9.30pm. The offer is up to you, but the right timing could see your empty restaurant fully booked the same day.

The same idea applies to geo-messaging. It works in a similar way to push notifications but is targeted to a specific area like a train station full of hungry commuters or a busy shopping street.

The benefits of a small business app are endless. Automatic loyalty cards, up-to-date menus, price lists and opening times all in one place at the touch of a button are great for customer retention. The key to staying afloat for all businesses is happy customers, especially when acquiring new customers can cost five times more than retaining your existing client base.

4: Become an expert with your very own blog

The question on the tip of many a small business owner’s tongue is ‘Is blogging worth it?’ and the answer in short is YES! Every enterprise worth its salt has an ongoing blog and it’s a tactic that’s guaranteed to make small businesses look like well-established organisations.

Blogging not only provides a platform for building brand identity, but also for boosting search engine rankings, attracting new customers and establishing your business as an industry leader. It’s important to keep your blog on the theme of your business and as engaging as possible to keep readers coming back. Try writing about key industry events or giving your opinion on industry news. Appeal to your reader’s human interests by commenting on everyday news that’s relevant to your business, such as how to mirror a celebrity look if you are a hair stylist, or a guide to the best coffee types from your barista.

When competing against established high street chains and industry leaders in their field, independent stores need to stay two steps ahead of the game in order to get their brand recognised and respected.

Today’s ever-changing digital landscape is the perfect setting for small businesses to take the plunge and reap the benefits of new technologies, levelling out the playing field between the David and Goliaths of the business world.