So, today has been designated Small Business Saturday (SBS) by some MBA marketing types over at our good friends at American Express. Do they really care about small business, or are they just looking for more transaction fees? Are they a small business? This is the third year of SBS, the first coming on November 27, 2010.
It was created to help counteract both Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. It encourages shoppers to patronize local businesses in our hometown, the brick and mortar businesses that are both small and local. AmEx, of course, was Johnny-on-the-spot with advertising on both radio and TV. Am Ex went so far as to buy advertising space on Facebook, and turned it over to its small merchant account holders.
This could be a great idea that could fall flat on its proverbial face. I have been to too many small businesses that are not worthy of my patronage. Certainly, they should not receive my business just because they are small and local. They should have their “fingers” on the pulse of the neighborhood or local business climate. They should offer superior service, whether that might include free delivery, gift wrapping, or special orders. They should foster an environment that keeps me coming in year around, not just at Christmas.
I have been associated with small businesses since childhood. My Dad was a very successful small businessman (auto parts and repair). My first jobs in pharmacy were in small or large neighborhood pharmacies that were enormously successful. The owners of those pharmacies became millionaires, back in the 1970s, when it really meant something. The foundation of these successful small businesses was customer service. That is no secret! Why don’t small businesses today understand that?
A small pharmacy
I often walk into a small business and do not even get a greeting. Nor do I get a thank you if I buy something. What is wrong with these people? And how many offer to special order an item for me? Very few in my experience.
Or what about getting a bad meal in a restaurant? Do they really care, or make an effort to make it right? Sometimes my only recourse is Yelp or TripAdvisor. It all starts with a basic concept: communication. Talk to me, the customer, and find out what I need or want. How many small retailers just sit there, or hire a teenager at minimum wage, just hoping to ring up big sales on the old cash register? I am not going to buy from you just because you are small and local. Give me a reason to buy from you!
So, this is a golden opportunity for the small business owner/person to shine. I say, “Do it right”, or you won’t be doing it at all!
PS: You notice I did not bring up price???