The competitive nature of today's world may be intimidating to the small business owner. If a competitor cuts prices or offers other incentives, you may feel tempted to do the same in order to keep your customers, even if it puts the stability of your business at risk.
Though cost is important, it is but one component of a larger attribute. If your business provides value through service, responsiveness and going the "extra mile," your customers will respond with loyalty, regardless of what your competition does.
Building loyalty through value is something small business owners have been good at for centuries, because they are better able to cultivate relationships with their customers.
Building loyalty is not a marketing matter; so don't look there for help. A small business needs a strategy that keeps patrons coming back. It starts with basics, which are sometimes overlooked. Thanking customers for their business goes a long way. Try going beyond a few spoken words. Write thank you notes and letters. Just let the customer know you appreciate their business.
Remember that your customers' needs are always changing, and they may find attributes in other businesses that put your service elements at a disadvantage. Make sure your phones, Web site, store layout, etc. operate with your customers' needs in mind. If your customers like what they find at your business, they will keep coming back for more.
Stephen L. Rosenstein is co-chairman of the Greater Baltimore SCORE Chapter #3. Call 410-962-2233 to speak to a SCORE counselor or visit www.scorebaltimore.org. To send a question to SCORE, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org