Mary Queen of Shops’ top tips for small businesses

Best known for her BBC TV series, Mary Queen of Shops, Mary Portas shared her top tips for small businesses during her recent visit to Australia to promote Support Small Business Day – a Victorian Government initiative in partnership with NAB.

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Prince Harry wasn’t the only royal gracing Australia’s shores last week. UK retail icon Mary Portas made a flying visit to Victoria to help promote Support Small Business Day – a Victorian Government initiative in partnership with NAB.

Best known for her BBC TV series, Mary Queen of Shops, where dramatic shop makeovers rejuvenate struggling businesses, Portas has worked some of the world’s best-known brands, including Westfield, Mercedes-Benz, Puma, Sportsgirl, and Swarovski.

During her trip to Australia, Portas visited one lucky retailer to impart expert advice on marketing, branding communication and visual merchandising.

The consultation was part of Support Small Business Day, which takes place this Saturday, 19 October. To recognise the valuable contribution small businesses make to their community, retailers, cafés, restaurants and service providers across Victoria will celebrate with one-day events and special promotions.

Shoppers who register for Support Small Business Day will receive exclusive special offers and be eligible to receive shopper incentives, including $20 NAB Support Small Business Day Gift Cards to spend in participating Victorian businesses on Support Small Business Day.

Businesses that register can create an online profile with information about their businesses and links to their website and social media pages.

Register now to take part in Support Small Business Day at supportsmallbusinessday.com.au – it’s simple, fast and free to be involved.

Portas does far more than cosmetic makeovers for businesses. Her insights into branding, retail trends and consumer behaviour has made her one of the world’s most sought after retail consultants.

During her Australian sojourn Mary shared her top tips for small businesses.

  1. You have an advantage over your bigger competitors. Chances are you know your customers personally. Ask yourself what you could be doing to help them more. Do you provide exactly what they want or (be objective) could you do things better from their point of view? What could you do that they’d be prepared to pay extra for? (20 percent of your customers will be prepared to pay more).
  2. Are you and your staff happy people? Are you a pleasure to do business with? Only ever hire happy people. You can train them in any skill, but you’ll never teach a miserable person to welcome somebody to your business. Don’t compromise – good enough is not enough.
  3. Is what you sell and the way you present it the best you can do? Look at what your competitors do. Research online to see how people do it in other countries and ‘copy with pride’. Why can’t you be the best fish shop/plumber/taxi firm/accountant in the world?
  4. Get a proper logo, DO NOT DO IT YOURSELF OR USE ‘A FRIEND’.  Have your stuff designed by good people. If you don’t have one locally then use Design Crowd online – very easy, cost effective and great results.  Take a real pride in how your business presents itself.
  5. Don’t be afraid of the web. Used well it’ll bring you loads of business. Use social media wisely, have a great looking website, use Google Express to cheaply get better SEO results.
  6. What data do you have? Addresses, e-mails, birthdays? Corporations call it ‘big data’ – for you it’s a way of keeping in touch and keeping your business in front of them.
  7. Do your customers know everything you do?  Don’t assume that because they know you’re good at one thing, they’ll know all the other things you do.  Ask yourself – have you told?  Have you sold? 89 percent of new customers are with you because they had a bad experience with a competitor. Would it be useful to talk to people, find out what that experience was and make sure your business won’t make the same mistake?
  8. Be thoughtful about the people specifying your service. The Office Manager ordering an executive lunch from your catering business would probably appreciate an additional little bento box on the side just for them with your compliments.
  9. Be generous with your skills. A window cleaner in London who posted two minute videos on YouTube explaining the tips of the trade saw his business double. Remember, chances are you have a very small share of the potential market you could reach so of course, giving away tips might reduce the total number of people in need of your service, but there are always more who appreciate the advice and who’ll share it with mates and still won’t have time to clean their own windows.
  10. Make it easy for people to recommend you. Give them some cards or something simple like a pencil or printed post-it notes so they can pass your details on to their friends.
  11. Be bold and take risks. The dangerous thing to do is play it safe. If they ask you for 10, do 11.

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