Small is BIG: how small business can win the battle for customers.

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As I perused the National Small Business Week hashtag last week (#NSBW15), I came across a tweet from Square that really struck me.

small is big

90% percent! I knew there had been a surge in small businesses in the last decade, but I had no idea the percentage was so high. As Square points out with their own hashtag, clearly small can (and does!) make a big impact.

The Changing Customer Landscape

Tell me if you’ve heard this one. A small, mom-and-pop store that’s been around for ages suddenly faces extinction when the big, bad box-store comes to town. Customers are lured away by the inventory, discounts, and sheer square footage of the chain store, leaving the family-owned business in the dust.

It’s a classic tale, but not one that holds up with today’s consumer. Studies have shown customers’ buying decisions are no longer driven solely by price. In fact, a 2010 study by Harris Interactive found 9 out of 10 Americans are willing to pay more to ensure a superior customer experience. Based on this information, it comes as less of a surprise that small businesses are on the rise. The battle for customers is no longer being fought with discounts and sales, but with human connections and quality service—classic strengths of small business.

It’s the Small Things That Count

If perception is everything, then small businesses are already winning on the customer service front. 80% of Americans agree that smaller businesses place a greater emphasis on customer service than large companies. Your customers are already coming to you with a higher level of trust than they would a large business, so it’s up to you to deliver.

Share Your Passion
After the homepage, the most commonly viewed page on a company’s site is the ‘About Us’ page. Potential customers want to know who they are doing business with, so give them the opportunity to connect with you as a individual. Use real photos of you and your office. Share why you got into your industry, and what about the field excites you. Be open and honest about your company’s mission and values. Giving customers the opportunity to get to know you starts the relationship building even before the first email or call.

Focus on Relationships
Small businesses have a distinct advantage over large companies in that they are better able to build one-on-one relationships with their customers. Remember, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase, so taking the time to send a personalized card for unique occasions (not just birthdays), or spending a few minutes asking about their recent vacation, pays off in the long run. Add an area in client files for special information and update this area periodically. Knowing a client is an avid runner, or that they have a dog named Clementine, gives you a jumping off point for connecting with that customer on a personal level.

Pay Attention to the Details
I love the company that boards my dog. A day or two into her stay, they will text me a picture of her hanging out in the play area, just to let me know she’s doing okay. On special holidays, they personalize things like ornaments or bandannas for both me and my dog. Even their receipts are personalized, with a little story from her visit. I could board her cheaper elsewhere, but it’s these little things that keep me coming back. Consider the details of your business you may have overlooked. Everything from your hold music and business cards, to your invoices and email signature presents an opportunity to provide a unique customer experience.

National Small Business week may be over, but the power small businesses possess only continues to grow. Customers already believe you are better equipped to provide excellent service, so now it’s up to you to rise to the occasion. Keep up the good work and remember, there’s nothing “small” about what you do!

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