Because we work with small businesses, we often hear that it is difficult to run a small business in this economic environment. We sometimes hear from owners who say they are struggling because they can’t find enough customers. But what if it really isn’t the economy…what if their business’ image and the message it sends out to potential clients and customers are to blame?
When I think about the messages businesses send to customers, I’m reminded of the spring afternoon my business partner and I decided to visit some new shops near our offices.
The first shop’s name indicated it was a store for decorative household items. But on entering the store, we discovered it was a women’s accessories store…a bit confusing. As we looked around no one greeted us, and the woman we thought to be the owner stayed behind the counter talking to her friend about plans they were making for the weekend.
Feeling ignored, we finally left. By not acknowledging us, the owner gave the message that customers were really not important there.
The next store we visited was a flower shop, and the doorway was blocked by a small gate. We peeked over the gate and did not see any sales person or owner. But we did see two small dogs running around – obviously the reason for the gate. Although I had to assume the owner was trying to keep the dogs in and not customers out, the message she was sending was just the opposite.
I called out “Hello” and she finally came out from the back of the building. She told us to move the gate or step over it and come in. As I did, one of the dogs jumped onto my leg with his nails digging into me and my pantyhose. The owner’s response was a small laugh and a comment about how the dogs thought they owned the store. From all indications, they did.
To say the least, we left, with no plans to return.
When I returned to my office, I needed to call a company and place an order for a piece of equipment. A recording answered my call and said no one was available but to press 0 if I was in need of immediate assistance. I pressed 0, only to hear a recording tell me “0 is not an option.” I hung up and called a different company.
So in less than 24 hours I managed to attempt to do business with three companies who clearly were not interested in doing business with me—or anyone else for that matter.
So what were these businesses saying? Their messages were loud and clear:
“We don’t want to make it easy for you to do business with us.”
“We don’t want you to think you are important to us.”
If you own a small business or are planning to take a “leap of faith” and start a small business, you want to rise above the competition. To do this you need to do things to attract your buyers.
On a recent trip to a neighborhood dress shop, I was greeted very cordially by the owner who told me her name, asked what my size was, showed me a few things in my size and asked if these might suit my style; then she left me alone to explore the rest of the dresses she had for sale. On a recent business trip I was trying to find the restaurant in my hotel. When I asked someone at the front desk for directions, instead of pointing the way, she actually walked me to the entrance of the restaurant. These little extras give customers the feeling of being special and wanted. As customers, we love that and should never settle for less. If we all had those expectations it would raise the quality of service we received everywhere.
And as business owners great service should be standard procedure, business as usual; great service is one key way to prevent bad economic news or competitors from standing in the way of our success.
So what is your business saying?
To learn more success strategies for your small business, you can contact me at 412-341-2888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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