Avoid This Fatal Small Business Mistake

Small Business Saturday (Nov. 28) is around the corner. It’s a time for celebrating the benefits of having small businesses in the Work for itlocal community and rallying to support them. American Express’s “Shop Local” mantra is the call to support local small businesses on Small Business Saturday.

Yes, small business owners, this day is for you!

But that doesn’t mean you don’t have to try.

Being a local small business doesn’t mean people are obligated to support you. You have to do your part, and you need to make customers feel appreciated.

Examples Of Doing Small Business The Wrong Way

I recently had two encounters with local small businesses that failed to recognize that. I won’t call them out by name, but I will share my experience with each.

 

  1. My husband and I were recently at a business event where a business owner of an entertainment venue complained about the community not coming out to attend performances. His tone and his attitude made me feel like he was pointing the finger at us, even though we regularly support his business. While he may not have meant it personally, that’s how I took it. In his frustration and discontent with the local community’s support, he lumped us—long-time customers—into the bunch. I left feeling like he doesn’t appreciate our business. And now I really don’t have much interest in going back any time soon.
  2. Second example is the interaction I recently had with the insurance agent and company that provided my family’s homeowners insurance. As we were working with a pitbull rescue to adopt a furry family member, I contacted our agent to see if our policy had any restrictions on the breeds of dogs we could have to maintain our policy. She responded by emailing a clause from the insurance company that indicates pit bulls couldn’t be covered. I asked her for additional information regarding our options…then radio silence. After several days of no response from her, we switched both our homeowners and auto insurance policies to State Farm—who, by the way, has stellar local customer service.

The Lesson For Small Business Owners

Being local doesn’t mean you can take your customers for granted. It doesn’t mean local people must shop at your store or select you to provide their services simply because you’re a local company.

You have to earn their business, and you have to appreciate them.

How What You’re NOT Can Successfully Set Your Brand Apart

As solopreneurs, we put a lot of thought into what we are to customers – and into how that makes us different from our Apples and Orangescompetitors. That’s very important, but what if you’re in an industry that’s borderline commodity. What if you do a fine job for customers, but the type of service you provide or business you’re in in really doesn’t lend itself naturally to differentiation?

Story Time!
One of my clients, owner of  a local marketing and design firm, shared a story with me about one of his clients who faced that very challenge.  Being in the pet food distribution business, his client was in a market where products offered and price points were pretty much the same everywhere.  When asked how he differentiated himself from his competitors, he said something to the effect of, “I make sure that I’m not an a_ _ hole.”  (I’ll let you fill in the blanks!)

Quite a point of differentiation, eh? As I understand, because very little competition enters that industry and customers don’t have a lot of options, some distributors were acting like jerks toward their clients.

So, my client’s client found that not being an a_ _ hole was his key point of differentiation.  His unique selling proposition wasn’t centered on what he was. It was all about what he WASN’T!

What does that mean to us as solopreneurs?
My thoughts…

  • Sometimes you have to think about more than just the bells & whistles of what you offer. The personality behind your brand is what clients will gravitate toward and connect with – especially when you’re offering services that aren’t overwhelmingly different from those of your competitors.
  • ALWAYS treat clients with professionalism and respect. Don’t be the “a_ _ hole”  your competitors are taking business away from.

Time for you to share! Is there anything that you’re NOT that has set you apart from your competition? Have you seen business owners sink their own ships by being jerks to their clients?

Image courtesy of Suvro Datta / FreeDigitalPhotos.net