Geri Stengel

 
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Connection to Customer Gives Small Businesses an Edge

Homogeneity may be on its way out, which means local small businesses have another edge (the first is trust) People trust small businesses more than they trust their government or even their preachers.)

small business differentiation, small business marketingApparently Macy's has discovered that customers in Atlanta, GA don't need or want the same things as those in Bellevue, WA, something that came to light by actually asking customers what they want.

Macy's is now selling different items in each of its stores, depending on the demographics, climate, history, and local customs of the market.

Welcome to our world, Macy's! One size doesn't fit all; small businesses have known that for millennia. As the article in The Times put it, church-going black women in Atlanta, GA don't wear the same clothes as Microsoft wives in Bellevue, WA.

Sales have gone up markedly since that rather obvious fact was acknowledged.

One of the hallmarks of small businesses is – or should be – catering to the needs of a specific customer base, usually geographic. The barber shop specializes in the hair styles its customers want, be they fades or feathering. The deli offers bagels or barbecue. The orthodox Jewish neighborhood still has a hat store; the southeast Asian neighborhood has stores selling saris.

No small business in Atlanta would have offered the same wares as its cousin in Bellevue, yet big stores do it all the time. The small business differentiates itself by meeting unique needs of a particular market.

The owners of small businesses often live in the neighborhood they serve; they certainly spend a lot of time in it. They have the opportunity to talk directly to customers, to see what catches the customer's eye and what doesn't get a glance. Small business owners can participate in the community by belonging to local organizations or helping local causes.

What Macy's has to hire researchers to find out, small business owners know, if they've been listening to their customers, their neighbors, their colleagues on the block or at the PTA.

Interaction, conversation, and involvement are the foundation of both trust and finding your niche, the two marketing advantages of small businesses.

Stay connected.

Do small businesses have other advantages over chain stores? How does your business differentiate itself from the national stores?