“Message to small business owners around the world: If you want to be loved, move to America.”
What a great lead for an article about a normally boring topic! Well, it caught my eye, so I clicked on it, landing on Small Business Trends:Trust. The article highlighted two bits of research on how people feel about big and small business in different countries.
No food, no sex, but maybe a nice lump of trust.
In the business of print-copy-design-websites, not much can be thought of as “appetizing” or “sexy” and therefore, it is a challenge to be of interest in the social media. But, for every printing press there is a skilled operator, for every graphic design assignment there is a person thinking creatively, for every mundane mass mailing there is someone concentrating on getting it done accurately and quickly. Maybe this is a yawn, but it does earn your trust. And, judging from the article, customer trust is what we small companies earn.
Big or Small, Cheap or Costly
So, why do people trust small businesses more than large ones? I can’t speak for industries other than my own, so here are some reasons we have been given in the form of customer feedback:
- Personal service. We tend to know, face-to-face, each one of our customers, including followers of this blog.
- Each customer and each order is important because the customer volume is small.
- Low error rates. (goals of large corporations actually set a high error rate expectation)
- A good business relationship: anticipating upcoming orders, solving problems before they happen and knowing what is expected.
- Part of the fabric of the community: we go to PTA meetings, buy Girl Scout Cookies, volunteer for local events, vote, and pay local taxes.
- Honesty. The study showed people believed that big business is far more fraudulent and corrupt than small business. Surprise! We agree.
Is it all good? Not really. There is a downside to being small, also gleaned from feedback:
- Pricing is somewhat higher or inconsistent on some items.
- We are not equipped to serve a large number of walk-in customers.
- Though orders may be placed online 24/7, our public hours are weekdays, 9-5.
- We do not have a legal department, a sales department, an accounting department, a fleet of delivery trucks, or a waiting room with Hi-Def tv and espresso.
Like many businesses, government agencies, non-profits, and many individual consumers, our products and services are subject to deadlines, due dates and time crunches. “Not enough people or resources to get things done in the time allowed,” is a lament we hear frequently. And, lateness is not an option. Consider:
An ad book delivered after the event? Trash.
A website that has not been updated since dial-up? Sad.
An e-newsletter opened with last month’s save-the-dates? Useless
A 5-foot high poster snapped in half by Hurricane Sandy? Well, maybe insurance will cover it.
You get the point. Trust applies in all cases. And, it’s a good reason for having a 4-wheel drive delivery vehicle.
Part of customer trust relates to the permanence of the company. Many businesses fail within the first five years. You would probably not buy from a company if you knew it was teetering on bankruptcy. Big businesses tend not to disappear but to be acquired, absorbed, merged or re-invented, often without advance notice to the general public. But the rule is the same for big and small: adapt or die. We are not the same business we were in year one and neither are you. Simply stated, we change with you or because of you.
Thanks for reading. (And trusting)