No one has to tell the average business person today that things are now different. Radical economic factors and technological changes have altered the very course of our society. As a result, business is now forced to play by a different set of rules.
Through the Internet, every customer can now talk directly to each other. It’s similar to living in a small town where every customer knew every other and your company lived or died by what they said!
People listen to what your customers say about your business way more than they listen to what you say about your business . The human voice in business is valued over big corporate mission statements. People online are banding together in small communities with common interests. Given a choice, consumers would rather buy their products locally than abroad.
Every consumer now behaves like they live in a small town. As a result, companies now need to play by a new set of “small town rules”. These are the same rules that have made rural entrepreneurs successful for centuries. They apply to small businesses and big brands, no matter how big or how urban.
We see this phenomenon happen on Facebook wall posts, Tweet hashtags and Foursquare checkins.
But small town thinking does not need to lead to small results. Many familiar and international companies started in small towns like Viking Range, L.L. Bean clothing, and Sonic Drive Ins. Wal-Mart may be the single most powerful brand to come from a small town and remake the world, affecting both small businesses and huge national brands.
Small town business people have tried everything to survive and thrive within the limits of their towns. The best ones have a reputation for knowing every customer personally and for catering to their customers. But, there are deeper strategies and tactics behind the scenes: managing multiple lines of income, thinking long term, being frugal, creating community and building local connections.
Being able to make that connection with your customer on a one to one scale then track that relationship through daily habits and benefits can draw the customer into an experience which transcends a single transactional relationship.
Further more, engaging in your customers hopes dreams and desires will add complexity and trust to the otherwise stale state of commerce. Being small and local, especially in a city like Portland is not a liability, but rather a boon to the potential relationship that gets formed between you, your customer, and your shared community.
All of this is based, and hinges on your ability as a business owner, to foster trust.
Being loved as a local business means that the community trusts you and the services that you provide. So obviously, making an outstanding widget is crucial, but so is your aptitude for relating. It is the competitive edge that will bring customers back into your business time and time again, as well as refer their friends and family to you well into the future.
If all businesses would act more like small town entrepreneurs, they could be more profitably in the long term.