There’s a lot that small business owners have to do right to succeed, but in my book, there’s one very important thing they can’t suck at.
Sucking at this thing just isn’t an option. That is, unless you love the idea of not having loyal customers.
My wife and I played tennis a lot when we were younger, and picked the game back up during our honeymoon a month ago. Once the first ball was hit it was if we became kids again and remembered how much we loved the game.
When we made our way back to New York City, we started trying to figure out where to play and where to shop to update things such as tennis shoes and tennis racquets.
There’s a number of large sports stores we could shop at, but I stumbled on small store that focuses on one thing: tennis. It’s located on the opposite side of the city from where we live and is sort of a pain to get to, but going there seemed to be a good idea.
During the first visit the guy that helped me just so happened to be the owner, and we struck up a nice conversation that lasted a good 10 – 15 minutes. As the owner and I talked, my wife was on her phone looking up the shoes she was considering buying to see if they could be purchased for less online.
When I realized what she was doing I quietly said, “They might be $10 less expensive online, but lets support this local small business.” Given that we also have a small business this immediately clicked and she was on board.
So that was my first visit.
Yesterday was my 3rd visit to the store in one week and the trip was specifically made to purchase a racquet. It of course cost $10 more than the big box store three blocks away, but in an effort to support another small business I was committed to giving the store business.
But then the owner, whom I’ve now seen and talked to three times, acted as if our previous conversations had never happened. It was totally bizarre.
As I left the store I couldn’t help but think about how important relationships are to customer loyalty. It doesn’t matter if you have a beautiful store or are running a shop out of your garage, if you’re knowledgeable and can connect with a person, that’s a massive point of differentiation.
Small business owners can’t suck at relationships. You just can’t.
Will I be making my way crosstown to get out of my way to frequent this tennis store again? Doubtful.