We LOVE mom and pop shops. In honor of Mom and Pop Business Owner’s Day (Wednesday, March 29), we wanted to share what it takes to be a small business owner. So, we asked over 100 small business owners some questions about how they run their business, get customers in the door, and deal with the tough issues. Some answers were not surprising, while others got us thinking about how we, as small business advocates, can better help small business owners get to the next level.
1: Is your customer service strategy a key driver in the overall success of your business?
Over 91% said YES! This answer made us so happy because it proved to us that small businesses succeed more when they show their customers some love. Customers may choose the big stores and brands for convenience, but they also know that when they shop small, they will be taken care of. And who doesn’t prefer that?
2: What was your approach to building a customer service strategy?
The answers we got to this questions were fantastic and well thought out, so instead of adding our comments in here, we’ll let your fellow business owners do the talking.
“1: Over-communicate, so the customer knows we are thinking of them. 2: Make sure they understand what they are getting, and know all the options available. 3: Fast and accurate communication. 4: Once they get the product make sure they are satisfied, or do what is needed to [make sure] they are satisfied.” – Sunnyvale, CA
“[We want to make sure] every single one of our customers is important and should feel that way when they walk in the door.” – East Aurora, NY
“We use a three step approach: Visibility = frequent client contact Credibility = performance reporting Profitability = demonstrate a tangible ROI.” – Houston, TX
We recently interviewed OnDeck’s Director of Customer Service, so click here if you want to learn more about this topic.
3: How do you find new customers?
It did not surprise us that word of mouth is the most popular method of new customer acquisition for a mom and pop shop at 87%. For most small businesses, there is nothing more powerful than a word of mouth recommendation. Not too surprising either, social media marketing came in 2nd place at 69%.
4: What is your small business marketing philosophy?
Marketing is a challenge for many small business owners. It may require them to think differently and draw upon all of their acumen, creativity, and their understanding of their customers’ wants and needs. These small business marketing mavens have hit the nail on the head.
“Go as deep and as wide as possible into multiple customers. Serve their requirements, not those of companies we sell for.” – El Paso, TX
“Defining our end-game and strategizing our budget, search ads, display ads, social ads. Our agents are to research and prospect potential customers daily.” – Inman, SC
“Provide high value and a win-win for my customers. Marketing is about engaging people and building lasting relationships with them.” – Vancouver, BC
5: Where do you market your business online?
6: What is the biggest challenge you have to marketing your business?
We understand that not all businesses are the same. Every business and industry has its own challenges, but when it comes to marketing, four main challenges kept coming up: cost, time, bad reviews, and know-how.
Cost: The majority of business owners mention cost as the main issue to their marketing plans. Here’s a list of free tools to help you grow your business.
Time: A global theme for small business owners is a lack of time. This won’t change, but working on your time management skills may help you squeeze a little more out of it.
Bad Reviews: It’s never easy to overcome bad reviews, especially when you’re a small business, but these days you can’t avoid them. Depending on the situation, you can respond or leave it alone. If you choose to respond, make sure you do it respectfully and use evidence to support how you worked to solve the issue. And, don’t forget to offer them an incentive to try your business again.
Know-how: Creating a successful marketing plan may seem like a stretch if you’ve never done it before, but it’s not as hard as it might seem. With a few easy steps, you’ll be on your way to marketing gold.
7: What do you do to keep your employees motivated?
We wanted to know what small business owners can do, with their limited time and resources to keep their employees motivated and passionate. We received a lot of one-word answers: the big “C” – cash, but we all know employees stay at and love their jobs for more reasons than just money. If you’re compensating people enough to take the topic of pay off the table, these are the ideas identified that help keep employees motivated and happy:
“Treat them right and take interest in their personal lives and help them personally any way we can. Make them feel like family.” – Washington Court House, OH
“We joke around a lot. We try to do fun things after hours together too.” – Elizabethtown, KY
“Be flexible when it comes to time off for family/school etc. commitments.” – Fort Collins, CO
8: How do you approach letting an employee go?
Letting an employee go is the least fun and the hardest part of being a small business owner. There are many theories out there regarding the best way to go about letting an employee go. Here’s how your fellow business owners approach these situations.
“Be upfront, honest, and treat the situation with kindness. Hopefully parting is in the best interest of all involved.” – Kula, HI
“Cautiously, I make sure I have plenty of reasons and then do it with dignity.” – Feeding Hills, MA
“We try to fire quickly and sometimes are little slower then we’d like. Having bad employees hurts the entire company, but sometimes it’s necessary to prune the branches from time to time to allow the tree to flourish.” – Baltimore, MD
9: In a family business, is there such thing as keeping business and personal separate?
Over 56% of the small business owners we spoke with work with one or more members of their family. Their businesses have an added challenge of trying to keep their personal lives separate from their business lives… if that’s even possible.
“Very difficult to keep business and personal separate – always seem to talk business even though we try very hard to keep separate.” – Casa Grande, AZ
“It’s hard to do. We just go with the flow on that.” – Fort Collins, CO
“Only positive work issues are discussed outside of business hours.” – Phoenix, AZ
Thanks to all the business owners who answered our survey questions. We know how precious your time is and we appreciate you sharing it to help your fellow business owners.
To all the Mom and Pop Business Owners out there: We salute you.