I run a liquor shop in a small city, and this is an excellent model for all businesses to follow online.
My store is located in a small community, so I have always had to deal with instant communication between my customers. If we hurt one customer, that person can quickly go to the local coffee shop and tell everyone else.
Consider how my experience in a small-town liquor shop can be applied to social networking.
Your customers are looking for the “small” treatment
A 2011 American Express survey revealed that 75% of customers believe they receive better service from small businesses. The overwhelming majority also said small local companies were key to the local economy. At least three-quarters of your clients want to feel like they are doing business with a small company.
No matter how big or small your business is, you can still give them that feeling. You can do this on social networks, but first, you need to think like a small company.
It can be not very safe to adopt a new mindset. You may be at a complete loss of words or direction when you are staring at the mention of a client on your computer or smartphone. What to do …?
Imagine that you own a store in a small town. Create a storefront in your head. Fill it up with everything your business sells. Put all your goods and services into boxes and place them on shelves. Walk in wearing a shopkeeper’s apron. Take a look around. Check out the atmosphere. Remember that image.
Small business owners in small towns spend a great deal of time chatting with their customers and building relationships. We talk about products in my liquor shop. Customers want to know which products I have tried, how good they are, with what, and which ones they should avoid. We talk about work, family, and vacation – all those human things. We love to speak, is that why? It’s true, but we also want to build relationships with the people who walk through our doors.
My store would be no more than a vending machine without human contact.
What about your imaginary business? Do you feel more like a vending machine right now? Perhaps you’re more like a loudspeaker that makes announcements? It’s time for a change. It would be best if you spent more time online interacting with individuals, talking to potential customers, and building community.
Imagine that every time you read a customer’s message online, they are in your store. You’ll never ignore someone who is talking about you if you adopt this approach. Always be polite and reply. You’ll always say hello, good day, and how are you.
Small-town business owners are involved in their communities. They participate in projects and attend events. We give to local causes and adult sports teams. We also donate to fundraising events. Even politely, we say no to requests. You’ll probably see me or someone who works with me if you’re in town. Laurie works with schools. Beth is in the gardening club. Strick plays in the college orchestra.
Online, you can also get involved. Now that you own a store, you are part of your community. Attend webinars, Twitter chats, and events. Take part in community events like fundraising and group writing. Participate in the circumstances. Don’t simply donate to a good cause and then put a banner on your website.
Get involved. Share what you’re doing. Online, share information about your cause. Share information about yourself with the organizations that you support.
Think long term
They tend to stay in small towns for a long time. Small-town business owners get to know their customers, some for generations. For more than 20 years, my store has been owned by my family. We are expected to know our customers’ friends and be able to recommend gifts. We keep track of the wines that we get for the women’s group for their annual event.
In the past, it was common to drop an ad and then never return or interact with anyone. Think about creating a “storefront” that will last. Choose a few networks or even one so that you can concentrate on getting to know people and the community.
Think carefully before opening a branch in a new country when the next shiny network reaches 10 million users. Are you able to staff the counter? Are you able to offer something different or unique in this network? How will you manage your existing stores as well as the new ones?
Small-town owners are honest. We’ll refund you a $20 note if you leave it in my shop. We have a saying in small towns: “If you do not want your grandmother reading it on the front of the newspaper then don’t.”
You might feel tempted as a marketer to hide behind anonymity or a Twitter account for your company. You won’t succumb to temptation if you imagine yourself as the shopkeeper standing in your store. You will assume that any dishonesty would be discovered, just as it would in a small village, and do the right thing.
Small business owners can be helpful. We will carry your purchases to the car, save your favorite items as a favor, and order anything you need. We’re always happy to direct customers to another liquor store in the town if we are unable to help. Other local businesses have gone so far as to offer to take in competitors whose building was destroyed in a fire.
A helpful attitude can be beneficial online. Answer questions and provide useful information. It’s not necessary to offer your work free of charge, but it is always helpful to have a positive attitude. As a corporate colleague has stated, there is “room to conceal” in a large business. If you think about the fact that you are really running a small business, then you will realize that hiding won’t help.