Today, we’re excited to officially kick-start our “Shop Small!” Q&A series where we ask top small business experts their advice on how small business owners can market and grow their businesses. Throughout November, we’ll be publishing interviews with small business experts in support of Small Business Saturday.

We begin our series with Jim Kukral (@JimKukral), an internet marketing expert, small business thought leader and listed as one of the most influential people within the small business community on Twitter. We asked Jim to answer a few questions we thought might be helpful to small business owners in their business & marketing pursuits.

Q. Do you feel supporting local businesses is important and why?

A. I go out of my way to support local, or “home-grown”, businesses. As a small business owner myself, I find it important to take care of others in my same situation. I hope they would do the same for me.

Q. How can a local retailer or service business use the internet to drive customers through their doors?

A. One of the best tools that most small business owners don’t do well enough is using the power of word of mouth marketing. One of the best things about the Internet is that it allows people to communicate more easily and faster, which means that when people find something they like, they can more easily and more quickly share it. Small businesses need to provide content that their customers can share with others. Content examples could be videos or ebooks or articles or podcasts or webinars. Let your customers spread the word for you, for free.

Q. When looking at a website of a new business, how do you judge if the business is credible or not?

A. Obviously having a professionally designed website helps with a first impression. But what really helps is social proof. Social proof is when other people, former customers, tell of why they like your business. Testimonials are a great example. Having logos from companies you have done work for is another. Case studies where you “prove” that what you’ve done has helped other people, that works great too.

Q. If you were working with a local small business owner who’s in the retail space, like a clothing store, a coffee shop, or a restaurant, what online tools would you recommend they use to help market and promote their business?

A. is a great, inexpensive tool that allows anyone to make fun little videos that can showcase your business, or your staff, or an event. Take that video and put it up on your website or blog. Upload it to YouTube so you can be found there as well. Use social media to distribute that video, and to let your fans share it for you.

Q. If you were working with a local small business owner who’s in the service industry, like a lawyer, realtor, or electrician, what online tools would you recommend they use to help market and promote their business?

A.  Again, I’d use the power of web video. If you’re a plumber, take a video camera into the basement of a home that’s been flooded and film the disaster. Then walk the person through how you would fix it. Show them how you handle the situation. Think about it, if someone has a flooded basement and they come to your website and can watch a 2-minute video of you fixing the same problem they currently have…who are they going to hire, you, or the competitor? They want someone who can show them that they understand their problem. There’s no better way to get a potential customer to turn into a customer than by using the power of engagement on video.

Q. What do you see as the best use-case for running promotions through a social check-in tool like Foursquare? How about a deal site like Groupon?

If you’re a local business Foursquare and Groupon can work for you. Just make sure you have plenty of upsells for the customer once they are in your grasp. If they leave without buying something else, you probably lose money.

Q. What’s your favorite example of a company running an online promotion that drove additional traffic to their physical store(s)?

A. Redbox did a promotion through Facebook a few months ago that was very smart. All you had to do was go and like Redbox on Facebook, which would then give you a special coupon code for a free movie on a specific date. Of course, you had to go to your nearest Redbox to get the movie. So essentially, for $1.00 per customer, they got millions of people aware about Redbox, and got the fans on Facebook too. Pretty darn smart.

Q. Is there a small business in your city that has done an interesting promotional campaign that’s noteworthy?

A. The local gym, Crossfit Cleveland, continues to use the power of web video to recruit new members via word of mouth. Look up “crossfit cleveland” on YouTube to watch their powerful video.

Q. What’s your favorite social media tool that a small business should use to promote themselves?

A. YouTube. Hands down. Creating web video is the best way to engage new customers.

Jim Kukral is an author and expert book marketer who helps authors sell their books at Digital Book Launch. Also, since Jim is such a fan of video, we thought we’d republish this youtube video we took with him where he talks about what it takes to build online credibility: