A friend of mine owns a small business and he has been successful for decades and is getting ready to sell the business and retire, probably to Arizona, which is significant because as I’m writing this, it is -6 outside in Minnesota.
There are many reasons why he has been successful. He knows almost everyone on a first name basis who walks in the door which makes people feel special and has led to great referrals. Although somewhat of an introvert, he made it a point to use an outgoing personality and connect with most customers and take an extra minute or two upon each customer return to reconnect, learn another thing or two about that person; bottom line, his customers knew he cared.
Since he knows most customers he easily gets their feedback, ideas and hears what is happening in the community and what direction he might take his business. This has led to getting into several new areas of opportunity, a few successful and a few not so much, but it has also let him decide when to exit some ventures and that is just as important, if not more so.
He has paid very precise attention to his employees and while he has made a few hiring mistakes, as many have, he knows what to look for in a great hire and knows that his employees need to have several of his customer service qualities, need to help customers and know how to use gentle salesmanship.
The most important thing he has done is to make it a fun place to visit, a comfortable place for customers and always has something going on in a marketing sense. He has a different special every day and actually has a monthly calendar that shows what they are…but is not so rigid that if it is Tuesday and someone comes in that could benefit from Monday’s special, he will “roll back the clock”, or “let’s get in the time machine” so people know he is looking out for them, all while he ends up making the sale, which is ultimately the end game anyway.
But all of these qualities, values and customer-focus really all come back to having business goals, understand where your bread is buttered and knowing what your brand is and be ready to consistently project your brand everyday as he unlocked the door of his business. He knew his strengths and identified his niches (over several decades these might change or need to be adjusted). When you start with annual business goals and know what brand and impression you want to project, then your marketing and social media efforts can follow and everything is working towards those goals. You have a plan and know where you are and where you are going.
My friend was not my only customer, but one of hundreds of small business customers. I can’t tell you how many times I walked into a small business client and asked them what their goals were; what was their marketing focus and plan and where are you going? Many times the answer was “I’m not sure”, “To do better than last year” or “To get more customers than I lose”. Those are the businesses that either were in business in spite of themselves, were treading water or quickly went out of business. If you need to talk about goals, marketing, social media, branding or customer service, then please let me know. Many times small business owners are great at what/why they opened their doors but are unsure of how to take the wheel of a business, what to talk about or don’t understand marketing and social media or just don’t know how to connect the dots. I can help you connect those dots.
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