Why, anybody can have a brain. They are a very mediocre commodity. Every pusillanimous animal that crawls on the Earth or slinks through the slimy seas has a brain. Back where I come from, we have universities, seats of great learning where men go to become great thinkers. And when they come out, they think deep thoughts and with no more brains than you have. But they’ve got one thing you haven’t got: A diploma.


- The Wizard, The Wizard of Oz


In this case, the Wizard was talking to the Scarecrow, but the same can be said about small business versus their big business cousins. As you well know, they’ve got things you haven’t got – bigger budgets, greater reach, and more manpower.


But, that said, you’ve got something they haven’t got, and maybe something far more important: The personal touch. This is especially true when it comes to customer relations.




One of the things people appreciate most about shopping with their local small business is that it is generally more personal than a large retail experience.


This is certainly borne out in the results of the latest Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR.) According to the Report,


“Establishing relationships with customers is a primary driver of repeat business. More than half (57%) of survey respondents feel they get repeat business because of relationships they have developed with their customer base. This sentiment is even stronger among Baby Boomer small business owners (71%) compared with 47% of Millennials and 53% of Gen-Xers.”


The SBOR comes out twice a year and one of the best things about it is that, because it is a survey of small business owners, it is a great way to pick up tips from successful entrepreneurs. This edition of the SBOR is no different. Indeed, when you look at how the survey respondents show their appreciation for their customers – how they market[DP1] the stuff that they’ve got that other businesses don’t – you can discover a lot of super ideas.


The two most common ways that small business owners said they showed their appreciation were:


Monetary (29%): There is nothing like a sale to both draw interest to your store and say thank you to your customers. In fact, if you really want to stand out, then have a sale, not for the general public, but for your best customers only. Similarly, offering discounts or coupons to your best customers is smart.


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Events and Celebrations (29%): Along the same lines, consider having a special invitation only customer appreciation event.


One thing that the SBOR makes clear is that making it personal is a hallmark of these successful small business owners. As such, the Report lists a few other ideas that you might want to consider:


Personalized gifts (25%): As we all know, receiving a thank you gift is good, but receiving a thank you gift that really fits and took some extra thought is great. Your customers will think the same thing if you take the time to personalize your gift.


Referral programs (25%): “Refer a friend and get 15% off your next purchase.” Referral programs are popular among customers because people love getting things for at a discount (or free!) For the small business, referrals are extra special because they create that most treasured of marketing bonanzas: Word of mouth advertising.


Loyalty programs(24%): You have seen them of course, and are probably a member of a few. Whether it is a stamp card for a free car wash or a free sandwich or whatever, customers love and appreciate loyalty rewards programs and points.


So take it from the small business owners who were part of this SBOR; showing appreciation is the way to reinforce the one thing you have that no one else does, namely, an already-solid relationship with your customers.



About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss.

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