Last week, a friend of mine who had moved to Traverse city two years ago came to visit. She brought with her a whole bag of delicate laundry (yes, a hundred miles) which needed dry cleaning. Instead of going to one of her local cleaners in Downtown Traverse City, Sarah decided to drop off her clothes at her “ex” local store in Ferndale. When asked why she did so, she simply said, “the owner knows me well, and we have a good vibe.” Indeed, of all the friends and family she had in town to see, she also wanted to make the occasion to visit this local store, simply because of her relationship with the owner. And while at it, all of her friends and family have positive brand images and are now aware of this local dry cleaner.
Another friend Mark, a finance executive in Detroit drives to the suburbs every Sunday morning to buy bagels at his favorite bagel factory. He talks about how good the bagels are, and spends most of the time spreading the word because of his relationship with the owner. Not only does Mark spend close to $100 on bagels and lox every Sunday morning, he takes them back to Downtown Detroit and shares his story and nosh with his friends and family.
In both instances, we see a unique and important pattern for successful and sustainable local businesses: the power of lasting relationships, especially those with the owner. Because small business owners have to pretty much run the whole show, they also have an extremely important role of building positive relationships with customers, suppliers, and employees. Depending on how they conduct people management, small business owners can create negative or positive word-of-mouth. In a world where Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and other online forums and blog postings are vastly accessible, the owner’s relationship management has a direct and swift consequence.
Building a good relationship with the local community is no longer an optional, or superfluous decision for a small business owner. Competing with the big franchise corporations requires more than high quality goods and services (although this is undoubtedly important) - the differentiator of a local brand is often manifested through the owner’s capacity to build genuine connections with the stakeholders of the town. Just as Sarah and Mark continuously promote their favorite dry cleaner and bagel factory to countless others, maintaining a strong positive customer relationship is perhaps the strongest marketing campaign for local business owners.
We love the boutiques in Royal Oak, and we do our best to support them on a local level. Hope this helps! If you enjoyed this article, you may also like: