Oh God, the dreaded Facebook group invite. The one inviting you to another virtual party for jewelry, skin care, make-up, nail kits, magnetic eyelashes or what were those leggings called that everyone swore by but ended up being a total scheme and women lost thousand upon thousands of dollars…? LulaRoe!
Often when we talk about small businesses, these multi-level marketing businesses come to mind. Most likely because they are so in our face in across social media.
It certainly feels like everyone is selling something or has an ulterior motive when reaching out via direct message when I haven’t seen you in 20 years. I’m looking at you, acquaintance from middle school gym class.
It’s great that so many people have enjoyed the MLM field and I don’t want to bash the enthusiasm that is involved in that world (seriously, these women are often at a 10 when I need them at a 2). We support these friends, acquaintances (or rando mom I just met at my niece’s soccer game), by saying yes or kindly saying no. A Like on a page, joining their group or buying their products is how to support their adventures.
But, for sanity’s sake, those MLMs are not what I’m talking about when I refer to supporting small businesses.
(In fact, the darker side of MLMs has been published time and time again. I encourage you to read more about them here and here.)
When we talk about small businesses, we are referring to your friend who is a graphic designer on the side or sister that started selling products on Etsy or nephew that has a photography business or grandma that finally turned her passion into a brick-and-mortar bakery! Snickerdoodle cookies for the win.
We are talking about businesses that are not a subsidiary or associated with an overarching corporation that cuts the paychecks. We are talking about the blood, sweat and tears of starting from scratch and creating a product or service of your own.
It’s scary shit.
I’m a little over 2 years into running my own business and I’m still learning about some silly mistake that cost me money or figuring out marketing myself and my services. It’s a constantly evolving game that takes patience and grit. Pursing your lips grit. Big girl balls grit.
So how do you support your friend with grit?
While discussing my business with friends and family, many often ask how it’s going–which BAM!–is the first on this list below. But sure as shit, the follow up question usually involves how they can help more if I open up that I’d like to add more clients or I’m struggling.
These tips below are a godsend to that friend crafting away in the evening to get another product out, writing witty words to attract more clients or holed away creating another masterpiece she hopes someone sees (and buys!) in time to make rent.
How You Can Support Your Friend’s Small Business
1) Ask how they’re doing.
It really is the simplest way you can support your small biz pals. I’m happy to talk about how things are going because 1) I’m an open book which means I will tell you about the delicious mac ‘n cheese I had standing my kitchen pantsless during my lunch break and 2) It keeps the people updated!
Going a step further is helpful too. Ask about their favorite client. Ask about any project wins they’ve had lately. Ask about how sales are going for the new product launch. Heck, ask about if they have anything really special they’re working on. As business owners, there’s typically 18 things going on the back of our minds and talking about it with someone outside the circle of our business world is super helpful!
2) Go to their social media pages–across all channels–and hit LIKE.
This nearly tied for the #1 slot. It certainly is possible to have a successful business without regular social media posts, but having a presence is key. Having an audience gives your biz that extra command of influence.
It’s those simple likes that can go a huge distance for a small business. Even better than following/liking their biz pages, is interacting on their posts.
Go on and follow mine:
Pro Tip: If you don’t want newsfeed clutter, like a page and then turn off notifications or hide their feed.
3) Talk about their business to friends who don’t know them.
I was at my niece’s 4th birthday party, chugging beer in a corner at Chuck E. Cheese, when my sister-in-law introduced me to one of her friends. Her face lit up. “Not Your Average Gal! I follow you!” It was a surreal moment for a Z-list celebrity like myself. But it was incredibly sweet because it meant my sister-in-law has spoken about me to her friend and the friend even recognized my beer-chugging ways…err…I mean…remembered I’m a copywriter who puts out fun-loving blog posts that she likes.
4) Refer their business.
This probably goes hand-in-hand with the one before. (But sometimes ours friends and family don’t need our small biz friend’s business, so it’s nice to even mention them.)
Cold, hard fact: A majority of my business is from referrals. Referrals from past clients, former colleagues, friends, family and even people I have met at travel blogging conferences. When you do good work, people remember and happy clients share happily. *adjusts halo*
Even if you think that it may not perfectly align with what product or service your friend may offer, refer away. Repeat after me: Refer away!
It can’t hurt at all. At all. AT ALL.
5) Share their business online.
Did your pal post about their newest product? A sale? A well-written blog? (Ah-hem.) Share that puppy!
It’s nearly better than word of mouth because after you speak about it (share it), it stays in internet history–like that bad photo of you riding Magic Mountain, your face-fat slammed to the back of your ears with such a forced smile that it looks like you may be taking a poop. Not that I know about that…
“Hey my friend sells these sweet notebook that I’ve given as gifts. She’s having a sale for the holidays. Take a looksie.”
“I couldn’t agree more with this. <insert friend’ name here> hit the nail on the head again with this post.”
That’s it. All it takes. You share everything the Kardashians are doing, everything your kids are doing–down to potty training pics–why not share your pal’s side hustle or small business?
6) Take some business cards.
My mother-in-law asked for some of my business cards once and I thought, “Damn. That’s a really good idea.” If your friend is just starting out or you’re at a store you love, grab some business cards. You never know when you may be exhibiting step # 3 and having the business card to back it up is gold.
7) Buy their products or services.
This one is last for a reason. Your support doesn’t have to be monetary. There are 6 other steps above that can go a long way towards a sale where you don’t have to be reaching for your wallet.
But, if you so happen to love their services or products, why not #shopsmall? As small businesses owners know, when you #shoplocal or purchase from a small business, you aren’t lining the pockets of a CEO that hasn’t set foot in the office for years and still can’t get Kyle’s goddamn name right. You’re helping the small guy or gal put some awesome services or creative products into the world.
The statistics behind small businesses are scary and daunting for any small business owner who knows them, especially now during COVID. The percentage of failure rates or profits after the first year (or five) would make anyone a bit nervous to dive into the business owner pool. But we did!
We did and we’re serving Mai Tai’s over in the shallow end, y’all!
Don’t think that your support goes unnoticed. I make it a point to thank people in-person and also online for their unwavering fandom. Every little bit can literally make a sale for your friend, even without buying one product.
Now go ahead and share this puppy with your social scrolling pals so we’re all on the same supportive page.
Cheers to all of this! Just added you on LinkedIn after I realized that I hadn’t found you there yet, lol.