My neighbor recently opened a small boutique down the street. She’s doing all the right promotional things – mailing flyers announcing her store, her merchandise, and her upcoming sales events. She has sent emails to my personal email address every other week, inviting me to her store with coupons attached and promises of luxury and necessities all within my reach. And she’s very friendly when we meet around town – taking time to chat at the supermarket, dry cleaners, and even the library.
But I don’t feel obligated to frequent her business. Why? Because this is the first time in more than a decade of sharing the same zip code that she’s been “nice” to me. When our children were in the same schools, she barely said “hello.” When we attended the same town hall meetings, she didn’t get involved. And when she was invited to neighborhood-related events, she rarely attended.
If you are just starting your small business, looking to expand, or trying to increase your customer base, consider how nice you are to your clientele, many of whom are probably your neighbors as well, especially if you work close to where you live.
- Be present. Being nice means more than offering sales and service to your customers. Being nice includes getting to know your customers, their interests, and their needs on a regular basis. Ask for feedback and take their advice to heart.
- Keep smiling. You never know who your next customer is going to be, so consider wearing a smile wherever you are, from the market to the movies to the PTA meeting. Nobody wants to work with a grouch.
- Walk the talk. When it comes to running a small business, don’t turn on the charm after you open your shop. If you haven’t been friendly to this point, make the effort to get to know them slowly – don’t overwhelm them with kindness; it may not come off as genuine.
As for my neighbor with the new shop in town, there are plenty of similar businesses all within a three-mile radius. The merchandise is similar. The sales are, too. To whom do you think I am taking my business?
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