How Can I Set My Small Business Apart?

gold ribbon 150x150 How Can I Set My Small Business Apart?The countdown to Black Friday has begun. And also, to Small Business Saturday. Many independent stores depend on their Christmastime profits to carry them throughout the rest of the year.

How can you, the small business owner, make the most of this holiday season?

When I worked at Auntie’s Bookstore, an independent trying to compete with Amazon, Costco, and Barnes & Noble, we provided outstanding customer service. We knew our customers by name. A prerequisite for staffers was to pass a very stiff book knowledge test. Personalized book recommendations were made by readers, not a widget.

One time, my coworker drove a book order to a senior’s door on his own time because the customer was having trouble leaving his assisted living facility. Another time, a coworker noticed an elderly man hovering around the cash register, clearly confused. She took the time to talk to him and found that he’d forgotten his medication. She borrowed his cell phone and called his wife, who drove down to pick him up. It is no coincidence that Auntie’s Bookstore was a BBB Torch Award winner for business ethics in 2007. Many times, customer service boils down to caring.

So outstanding customer service will always set you apart. With this in mind, here are some additional tips from Open Forum for the upcoming Small Business Saturday:

1. Get festive. Holiday shopping isn’t just goal-focused—it’s also emotional, so make sure your store puts customers in an upbeat, spending-oriented mood.

You can also lower the stress on your staff by treating them to special goodies during the season. A more relaxed staff will treat the customers better, which means more sales for you. At Auntie’s, a holiday snack tray, complete with juice boxes, has always been available in the breakroom and the office during the month of December.

2. Make customers comfortable. “Relaxation Increases Monetary Valuations,” a study reported in the Journal of Marketing Power, found that people who were more relaxed were likely to spend more for products and services of all kinds.

Good point. Personally, I will not shop at a certain major electronics retailer in our area. Why? Because I am noise-sensitive. In the past, when my husband would drag me through their doors, I was immediately assaulted by a cacophany of loud music, with a different CD or radio station coming from every department. It frazzles my nerves.

3. Get out in the community. There are all kinds of community events going on this time of year, and dozens of ways to get involved. You can sponsor a charity event, donate toys to needy children or provide meals to hungry families.

For almost 15 years, Auntie’s has sponsored the annual Angel Tree, which donates new books as Christmas presents to 300 children in need. The beautiful, enormous tree stands in the middle of the store, and customers take paper angels to the register with the child’s name and type of book desired. Names are harvested from six area charities serving the less fortunate.

4. Let the dogs in. Being pet-friendly can help your bottom line, a recent eBay Local survey found. More than half (53 percent) of respondents say they like shopping in stores that allow pets.

What could be more relaxing than seeing a friendly canine face in the middle of your errands? Some bookstores even have a store cat.

To read the entire Open Forum article, click HERE.

And don’t forget to go to the Small Business Saturday Facebook page to get ideas on how to promote the day to your customers, plus marketing materials you can download and use.

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About Holly Doering

Holly Doering has worked for the Better Business Bureau Serving Eastern Washington, North Idaho, and Montana for half a decade. Her areas of expertise include the CORE Values Program (Character, Optimism, Respect, Ethics) for Teens and Charity Review as well as writing and editing. Prior to that, she has written for two newspapers, a local magazine, and taught English at the community college. She is the proud author of a short story in ZYZZYVA literary magazine and has had good luck publishing lots of poetry. Each year she rolls up her sleeves and wades into the autumn Nanowrimo writing madness and has several unfinished novels to her credit.