I believe that fundamentally what people want is to give and receive kindness and create connections with other people. As a small business owner this can be a huge competitive advantage for you compared to mid-size and large corporations.
There’s a drive-in movie theater near my house whose email list I subscribe to. An email comes to me about once a week, in season, and often the owner writes a line or two about their plans for the theater, trips they’ve taken and other seemingly “private” stuff that actually works in the context of what they are trying to tell their customers. (Confession: The classically-trained, corporate marketer in me cringes every time I see something that’s a bit too personal. But, I’m wrong and they are right). They have a super loyal following. The house is packed most nights. They’ve had a thriving business for more than a decade.
Do you want to open yourself to personal connections with your customers? Here are some tips:
• Have an email list? Instead of it coming from your company maybe it should come from you complete with signature line
• Monitor forums and answer questions that you are an expert on. There’s likely some applicable discussion groups for your industry and there are large general ones like LinkedIn Answers (great for business-to-business)
• Find ways for your customers to connect with you personally as appropriate. Invite them to follow you on Twitter. Connect to them on LinkedIn. Allow them to friend you on Facebook
Do mix the personal with the business if it helps you tell your story. For example: This week’s special dessert is my grandma’s strawberry shortcake. When she was a little girl her family owned a hotel and visitors would purposely plan their stay during strawberry season so they could have this strawberry shortcake every night.
Leverage perhaps your biggest competitive advantage by creating personal connections with your customers.