1. Shout the good out and whisper the bad in. This is the complete opposite of how we normally behave, and I am just as guilty as anyone. Think about the last time you had a bad meal in a restaurant. The server comes by and says, “How is everything?” Most people respond, “Fine.” Then, when they walk out, they literally tell everyone how awful the meal was… everyone except the one person who needs to know in order to change it – the business owner!
On the flip, when someone has a good experience, they will often rave to the business owner and then forget about it shortly after leaving. According to Andrew Thomas on Inc.com, a dissatisfied customer will tell 9 to 15 people. Only one out of every 10 satisfied customers will share about their experience.
So if you really want to see small town business succeed, change the way you communicate the good and bad. When something is wrong, quietly and politely let the business owner know. They can’t fix what they don’t know is broken. When something is good, be the one out of ten and tell your friends!
2. Stop in and hang. Atmosphere is so much of what makes a business work. When people see other people at a place, it silently communicates that place has value, that place is worth being at. When they walk into a place that’s dead quiet, it communicates something else altogether. Plus, a slow day is a HARD on a small-town business owner where every single dollar counts. Swing by and say hello. Hang out a minute. Buy a donut…
3. Try to avoid the big city comparisons. Our small-town business is an agritourism adventure, commonly known as a pumpkin patch. Last year we were over-the-moon excited when we hit our 1,000th visitor. It was literally the weekend before we closed for the season. Most businesses like ours are located near large population centers – or at least larger than the town of 4,000 and county of 10,000 that we call home. Many pumpkin patches will have a single Saturday attendance as large as our entire season attendance. As much as we want to be as awesome as “Big City Pumpkin Patch”, we cannot feasible do a lot of what they get to. Even if you tell us about six dozen times.
Instead of comparing small-town businesses to their big city counterparts, try to find the things that make small-town businesses unique – their super service, their quant, small-town feel, the fact that you’ll always know other people there, their great, up-close FREE parking, the amazing apple-cider donuts – and focus on those things!
Having grown up in a more suburban area, I can tell you – there’s a whole lot of value in small town businesses that the big city, or the internet, can never match. Find those things and appreciate them.
4. Share the love on social media.Small-town businesses run on tight – I mean TIGHT – operating budgets. Social media can often be one of the greatest tools a small-town business has to get the word out there about their products and services. Throw in the fact that a majority of American adults make buying decisions based off friend’s recommendations, your social media shout-out to a local business is HUGE!
Check in when you are at their location, tag them in your photos, and tell your friends about the great things you found or experience you had. Don’t forget – whisper the bad to the business owner to give them a chance to correct or explain. Posting negative things on social media first only makes a business owner feel bad and defensive. (Yes, business owners are people with feelings.)
Thomas says it takes FORTY positive customer reviews to undo the damage of a single negative review. Knowing that 88% of people read an online review before making a purchase decision, your social media love is priceless!
5. Vote with your dollars.At the end of the day, what will keep your small-town businesses alive comes right down to dollars and cents – literally. So go and visit and find something you just can’t live without (and then buy three)!
Matt and Kate would like to thank their own community for showing such amazing support over the last two years to this new farm tourism adventure. The lessons discussed above have been learned from the love shown to them by people in the community who are veterans at supporting small-town business with both their dollars and their influence. They are continually amazed at the efforts people will go through to help others get started – some of those people have already made two or more trips to the patch this year!