Good business is personal

smart fortwo passion mhd coupe & cabrio * Play
Creative Commons License photo credit: jiazi

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had a lot of time to rethink a lot of things.

It struck me that I’ve spent a lot more time discussing the dumb things that businesses do rather than the smart things they do.

While I turn the story of those dumb things into a lesson for the smart business, and have made note of the reasons to expect me to focus on “bugs” on my About page; I’ve decided that we need to spend more time here focusing on the smart businesses and what they do.

Angie and Friends

It hit me while motoring from Memphis to Mom’s place after hearing yet another ad for Angie’s List.

It struck me that we “need” things like Angie’s List, Consumerist, the Better Business Bureau (which has little to do with better business IMO) and to a lesser extent, the US Consumer Protection Agency partly because we are lazy consumers.

Consumer laziness provokes us to return to a business even though they were treated poorly the last time we went there. Consumers are going to do what they’re going to do, collectively. Individually, of course, each of us can do something about it via word of mouth.

Responsibility

On the other hand, businesses have a lot of responsibility here as well, and it’s not just the ones treating consumers poorly.

Why do businesses that routinely treat their customers poorly manage to stay open?

I blame your business. And myself.

It doesn’t matter what economic level, what market position, or what part of the world your business is in. This isn’t about businesses focused on serving value-seeking customers vs. those focused on serving affluent customers.

It’s about customers on every rung of the economic ladder, how you take care of them and how you educate them.

The responsibility of a good business doesn’t stop there. Not even close.

Obligation

A good business is obligated to communicate why they are either the only logical solution (or on the “short list” of logical solutions).

“We’ll beat any price.” doesn’t do that. In fact, it usually takes everything else off the table, saying “We believe nothing is more important than price.” That might be true in a few situations, but in reality, people make one or two cent buying decisions every day.

Do you know what drives them?

A good business is obligated to find a way, even in commodity markets, to get their clientele to cross the street in their direction and pay 2 cents more. Most importantly, these customers are glad they did so and will happy to again.

Likewise, a good business is obligated to do whatever is necessary to make it as easy as possible for their clients to tell others about the insanely good (or maybe just consistently good) experience they have with that business.

Talk is cheap, until they talk about you

Why does Angie’s List have to exist in order to get someone’s testimonial for your business online?

To expand that beyond AL (I’m not picking on them – I happen to like their service), why do people have to search the internet to find out word-of-mouth info about you? It’s great that the info is there, but you should be leading the charge (strategically, not smarmily – yes, I made up that word) to let people know who thinks you hung the moon.

It’s your responsibility to first do good business and then make sure others find out what your clientele experienced. Doesn’t matter whether they find out via Twitter, Facebook, at the grocery store, after church or at a kid’s ballgame.

What haven’t you done to get that information on your site? In your store?

What haven’t you done to personalize your business to the point that people can’t help but tell their friends about you?

If you can identify those things, why haven’t you done them?

Why is that?

Are you really willing to sit there and let people cross the street to the other guy to save a penny or two, knowing full well the experience they will have?

The treatment they get from a competitor reflects on you because you’re in the same business. Do you take that personally?

You should. I wonder what you’ll do about it.