As a local small business owner you have the ability to be a local hero:
A business that people love not just for what you sell or the services you offer but for the unique way in which you and your staff run your business as an integral part of the community.
It’s inevitable that you have a good deal of passion for what you sell or the service you offer. After all, who starts a business they don’t care about? Of course great products and good service will stand your business in good stead, this is a given. But how do you really share that passion and become a local small business hero?
A simple but very effective adjustment:
Take profit off the top of your priority list and put people in its place.
Without your people you simply DON’T have a business.
Your staff and associates, your clients, suppliers and everyone who in some way interacts with your business are all a crucial piece of your business. Remind yourself every day of that fact and you’ll quickly and instinctively know where to focus your energy.
When you genuinely care about your staff, you create a team that cares. Of course you will always need to be at the helm but the best leaders are those who understand and openly appreciate the roles of their staff, and the important part each one plays in the business as a whole.
Those who actually undertake a job always know better than anyone how the process could be improved. Consulting staff on big decisions that affect them, encouraging them to express their opinion and provide input for process or equipment changes will always result in a smoother running business.
A smoother running business provides a higher level of staff satisfaction and instills a greater passion for the success of the business. This inevitably flows through to the service your staff provide your clients.
When you make the effort to understand and be openly empathetic to your suppliers’ business demands; including peak periods and required time frames. Plus, make prompt payments and courteous and friendly communications, you’ll stay on their ‘good’ list. This usually means, they will go the extra mile to meet your needs, when required. Invaluable when things don’t go quite to plan.
If you look after your customers, they will look after you.
As a customer, when you use a local small business, whether it’s your local café or shop, your mechanic or your medical consultant, there are many things you expect; a good meal, a quality product, a car that runs or an answer to a medical issue.
But it’s the things that you don’t expect that make the world of difference:
- the barista who remembers your name and how you like your coffee,
- the shop owner who calls a competitor to help you find what you need when they can’t.
- the mechanic who gives your car a clean, even though it just needs new tyres,
- or the medical consultant who understands you are worried and encourages your questions, without looking at the clock.
Which local small business would you rather give your money to: The one who gives you what you want or the one who gives you what you want AND that little bit extra that makes you feel like you really do matter?
That all makes good sense but why take profit off the top of my priority list?
Because you simply don’t need to focus on profit if you look after your people!
If you and your staff adopt the people first ethic, this will infuse each customer’s experience with that little bit of the unexpected. All the marketing you need to make your business a successful and long standing ‘hero’ within your community – and beyond – will then be done for you!
The following are a few tips to help you and your staff on the road to being super heroes:
As a local small business, your personality is as important as the product or service you sell. This is the joy of being a local small business, aside from being able to remain agile and adjust quickly to changing needs, you can be far more personal than a large company.
Take time to chat with your clients, be friendly and genuinely interested in what they have to say – however bad your day is going. If you know your clients, you can provide them with a better customer experience. Whether it’s by being able to remember what they like and how they like it, learning enough about them to understand just how important a certain requirement is to them, or simply knowing that they’re going to be cranky because their cricket team lost!
Remember, don’t just think about your clients when they walk through your door. Read our post on Relationship Marketing to help you and your staff cultivate strong and long standing relationships with your clients.
Trust is literally the backbone of any local small business so:
- Deliver what you say you’re going to. The rule in business is to under promise and over deliver. Making a promise you can’t keep will lose your business respect and customers.
- When things go wrong and you can’t deliver on something tell your client immediately, explain the reasons why and then give them a realistic ETA. If it puts the client out, offer the ‘above and beyond’ solution: something that requires a little extra effort on your part. Honesty is always the best policy, even when it seems like you’re losing face.
- Creating a professional image is essential in instilling trust – first impressions really are EVERYTHING so make sure:
- You and your staff dress appropriately for the type of business you’re in. Obviously, you’re not going to wear a suit if you own and run a cafe but establishing basic standards, which include safety considerations, will ensure there are no odd surprises.
- Your website looks professional but is simple to use and all the information a client needs is easy to find. Avoid super-fancy elements that look ‘fabulous’ but require thought to navigate. These are simply irritating to someone who just wants an answer.
- Printed marketing should always be created by a graphic designer and printed professionally. Investing in a graphic designer is essential – there is nothing worse for your reputation than a flyer or advert created at home. It’s always ‘screamingly’ obvious, and an amateur looking piece of marketing is a direct reflection of your business, to a client. Oh, and remember; the costs of this will be tax deductible at tax time.
Be consistent, avoid regular changes that confuse clients. People are inherently creatures of habit. They learn to expect certain things from a business and although the odd change or process improvement won’t hurt at all – and when done well can be a huge positive – using clients as guinea pigs to try things out is simply annoying. Test before your release a new function or process on staff and associates – and ask for honest opinions.
What can I say? Empathy is what every single customer deserves. Someone to empathise with a problem, a deadline, a need or a wish. If, as a local small business, you and your staff are empathetic to your clients, you’re on the home straight as a business super hero. If you have empathy, it is human instinct to do your best to provide a solution. You may not always be able to do that but the simple fact that you tried, because you cared, is enough to keep the loyalty of a customer.