If you’re a small business owner or know someone who is, you’re aware of the time and effort needed to turn a passion into a functioning business. With big-name companies always at the forefront of conversation, it can seem nearly impossible to get small business names into circulation.

It’s an uphill battle, which is why it’s important to support small businesses — or simply ask for support from your customers, friends and followers on social media.

Finding ways to gain support for your small business doesn’t always have to come from a sale. In fact, some of the best support goes beyond the dollar — and can provide big returns.

Ask for a Review

Word of mouth plays a huge role in supporting small businesses. When people are looking for products and services, the first place they head to is the review section. They want those who have interacted with the business to sound off — good or bad.

Ask new and existing customers to write a review for your business, and be sure to respond immediately. It only takes seconds to say “thank you” to a positive review, and responding to a negative review will show potential customers that you care.

Today’s consumers will pay attention to how recent your reviews are and how many have been posted. This can play heavily in their decision-making, and a little bit of free marketing can end up going a long way toward finding new customers.

Get More Likes, Comments and Shares

Having a good amount of followers is one thing in social media, but engaging in the posts means much more. It shows potential customers that there are people who support that business and this makes the business more reputable. Simple likes, comments and sharing of posts can make a world of difference. Posts with higher engagement rates show up more often in people’s news feed.

To increase engagement with your follows, post consistently and ask your followers to answer a question or give their opinion. Be sure to offer your Facebook page and Twitter or Instagram handles on your website and in your physical location.

Ask them to tag you and use your special hashtags. Offer a small discount if they do. Think of social media as a discussion with your followers and customers, rather than a chore.

Offer Promotional Products

If you’ve handed out t-shirts, mugs, pens, bumper stickers or other promo items, encourage your customers to break them out. Tell them to flaunt those promo products, flaunt them all. We love a good walking billboard because let’s face it, billboards are pricy. 

Referrals Are Golden

Along with reviews, referrals — word of mouth — are priceless for small businesses. While you can’t shamelessly plug your business in everyday conversations, you can encourage referrals. If you’re a local bakery that recently served a very happy bride her wedding cake, ask her to point you to other soon-to-be-brides. Happy customers won’t mind sharing the love when you’ve done a great job for them.

Encourage Feedback

When you’ve finished with a customer, shoot them an email or text asking for feedback. (You can even automate this process after every job.) This is invaluable in helping you evolve your business over time and continue to grow and serve your customers in the ways that they want, whether it be faster service, new products or a fresh new idea that never came to you.