This article was originally published in Greetings Today Magazine by Chris Fox from the greeting card and gift shop Wishes of Cudworth.

It can be lonely being an independent shop owner. It’s hard not to feel isolated and worry that you’re not doing everything you can to promote your shop. As I write this the UK is under water, day two of a continuous downpour which unless your duck might make you want to close your curtains and stay in bed. Not good for the high street at all; we’re not expecting sun in November; just not people needing a boat to get to our shop. Don’t worry this article is not going to be all doom and gloom, I’m breaking out the sunshine and getting to the end of the rainbow stuff soon.

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The amazing thing about owning a shop is that you have a wealth of suppliers, community projects, magazines like Greetings Today, campaigns like Small Business Saturday, blogs and Facebook pages/groups out there ready to help. First lets start with your suppliers; a simple step is to engage with them on Facebook and Twitter. Like their posts and new product updates plus a nice comment goes a long way.  Tag suppliers into your daily Facebook posts when you feature their products, direct Tweet them and hopefully they will return the favour back. Village Candle reached out to their stockists for ideas of what to feature on their Facebook page. Wishes suggested a theme of ‘The perfect candle for each room your home’ which then used as a future post. Working together means a constant flow of fresh ideas and feedback, allowing your supplies to create content that is relevant to your shop. Suppliers like Cherry Orchard over there to our right are a constant resource of promotional ideas and it really helps to have someone to bounce off when thinking of clever ways to market your shop.

Wishes has recently installed a new personalised gift and card service from Creation Express. A clever idea from the Creation Express team was to create a Facebook Group for their stockists. This ensures not only that their retailers see their latest products and offers but the group also acts as support network to other members. If you have a problem with making one of the gifts then you can quickly wiz a question to the group and if one of the staff can’t help then another shop owner can come to the rescue. You also get tips and ideas from the group about future products or time saving tricks. Wishes missed a trick in not creating our own group when we first started out (not that we might one day start one). I know a fellow shop owner who has a group for her business and posts a monthly virtual newsletter, with seasonal product lines and upcoming events.

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It’s not just your suppliers that you can work with; teaming up with a local charity will create a mutually beneficial buzz for both of you. Over Christmas, Wishes teamed up with the Barnsley Shoe Box appeal by becoming a drop off point. As well as supporting a local good cause, it also helps keep our shop in peoples mind and Facebook page feed. We had 50 shares of one post on Facebook featuring the campaign, which is great for the charity. Whilst a cynic might say this is pigging back on the charity it really is a win, win for everyone especially if you can get the local press involved.

To expand your online reach you could collaborate with a blogger. We’re recently team up with www.jennieemma.co.uk to commission a review of one of our Bath Gift Sets. As well as receiving some professional content and photography (it was seeing an incredible photo of a Bath, Bubble & Beyond bath bomb that first helped me discover Jennie) we’ll also get coverage on her social media too. Featuring on a blog will help your SEO and backlinks, which will improve your Google search ranking. I’ve recently set up my own blog too as a spin off of this column so please check it out for even more tips and features (Quick plug: www.giftshophub.co.uk).

How does all this help you get customers through your shop door?

Well, what every business wants are people talking about you and your products. All these collaborations will help expand your reach beyond your own social media. Sure you’ll connect with people outside of your area but it’s a small world, which is getting smaller everyday and you can also look into a delivery service for your more distant fans.  For any business to grow you have to keep looking for new ways to introduce yourself to a new audience. What better way than a recommendation from an established fellow business. It also helps to keep you connected with the industry, latest trends and incentives. Don’t underestimate the feel good factor of this all too. It’s inspiring to talk to other retailers, to swap ideas and refresh your creative charge. It’s hard out there for us indies so lets stick together and support each other so the next time you look outside of your window at a cold, miserable day you have the knowledge that your not alone (we’ll come and pick you up on our new speed boat soon).