That’s expanding a quote from Becky McCray in an interview she did with Pamela Wilson at Big Brand System. (Thanks Becky, for another insightful look at small town business.)
This is not easy to hear, especially when you have a small local business you’ve put your heart and soul into.
But all those “unique” items and services you’re staking your future and the future of your town on can be ordered from Amazon or Etsy!
All those fantastic amenities you’ve added to your lodging or guide service are also part of cruise lines’ packages and big hotel selling points!
Your only sustainable competitive advantage is your customer service!
I’m helping a friend plan her wedding. She just moved to my town, and is used to using Amazon. She has used it so much in the past, she has earned free shipping. So why wouldn’t she sit in her jammies and order all the things on our list for the wedding rather than drive up to the little craft and material store in Mt. Shasta?
One reason: customer service.
Micky knows every bolt of fabric and button in her store, and together they can build Analyn’s dream. Micky is a 24/7 craft person and can probably think of things we haven’t imagined… magnificent customer service.
Last week I went to the Siskiyou Food Summit, a day-long conference on the local food economy in my California county. At one point, someone in the audience asked the presenter how to encourage locals to buy from the farmers’ market rather than the big box supermarket. The presenter went into a long answer about how many times that dollar spent in a farmers’ market circulates in town.
The person sitting next to me whispered, “Tell that to a mom trying to make every food dollar stretch in this terrible economy.”
Speaking to the needs of that mom is what will bring her to the farmer’s market, not some philosophical diatribe on the economy.
When small local businesses including local farmers remember that it’s customer service – serving your customer – that matters, they automatically speak to their customer’s needs.
I willingly spend more per item at farmers’ markets that I would at a supermarket because everything lasts longer and I don’t have any waste! That is a great selling point that I rarely hear from those hard working farmers.
I heard something like that last week, which caused me to come home with twice as much lettuce as I could use in a week. The farmer, who is also the seller, told me that this would be the last week for lettuce till fall. She then showed me how to package the butter lettuce head in paper towel and plastic to keep it fresh for over a week.
“These were picked this morning,” she reminded me, “and anything you buy at the supermarket is probably close to a week old by the time it gets to the produce aisle.” Sold. I will happily eat her wonderful butter lettuce for another week, without tossing any slimy leaves in the compost.
Don’t ever forget that big brands sell products and services better than you can ever afford to do.
But you sell solutions. And you do it much better than they can. They have whole departments packed with smart people trying to figure out how to do what you do.
You are Micky at Weston’s in Mt. Shasta helping Analyn get the wedding of her dreams.
You are Chantal at River Dancers Rafting, helping grandparents put together unique unforgettable adventures with their grandkids.
Your are Kirsten from Hunter Orchards, spending that extra few minutes to show me how to test my peaches for ripeness.
Who are you and how are you providing solutions for your customers? (Please, shamelessly promote yourselves with a link to your website in your comment)
Here are several past posts on customer service: