By Eric Groves

The close of 2014 puts another year in the books. Now it’s time to look forward to a new year and explore new ways to grow your small business.

Alignable polled small business owners and asked what their top business New Year’s resolution was for 2015. Of the 476 respondents, 35 percent said increasing their word-of-mouth was top priority. But close behind with 29 percent of votes was improving customer communications via email, social media and other outlets.

Both tactics are very powerful tools on their own, but as several users pointed out, a comprehensive small business marketing strategy includes both.

“For small businesses… word of mouth and networking are always going to be number 1. But if you totally forget the website, social media, and search engine optimization, you will get eliminated from the conversation when those contacts want to do research on you and your company after meeting you,” commented Dan Hahn from Main Street Marketing. “For small businesses it’s a waltz between online and offline marketing that will produce the greatest results.”

David Briscoe from All in One Vehicle Registration Service echoed this in his resolution, stating “I would like to increase my online presence by increasing my social media, therefore increasing the word of mouth.”

What are some creative ways to communicate with your customers and strengthen your online presence?

Several small business owners suggested engaging customers using YouTube videos. “Generic advertising is how we’re currently postured,” commented Andrew Summerville from Summerville-New England, LLC, “but we’ll be adding YouTube videos this year to our advertising portfolio.” Online video is a great way to creatively interact with your customers and help your brand stand out.

Another great suggestion for reaching out to clients came from Eryn Giuliano from Family Eyecare of Linden. In 2015, she is “planning to provide more community outreach initiatives to become more well known, and in turn earn potential patients’ trust.” We love this idea, as hosting events and educating community members not only positions your small business as a local thought leader, but encourages people to think of you when they need your product or service and then recommend your business to others.

What are the unique ways you communicate with your customers? Comment below with your suggestions!

Eric Groves is the co-founder and CEO of Alignable, the free online network where local businesses and organizations connect and collaborate with others nearby. Eric has been a local marketing expert and enthusiast since 2001, authored The Constant Contact Guide to Email Marketing, and believes that local businesses are always stronger together. Follow them at @Alignable.