Recently on a weekend trip to Bar Harbor, Maine, I witnessed a great example of one of my favorite bits of advice to SMBs: you have to give value to get interest — and you have to be honest about what you can and can’t do.
Notice the latter part of that advice. Your business is probably good at a handful of tasks or practices, but you know there are more customers out there drawn to your business for a variety of reasons. I see many SMB websites that struggle with over-promotion, trying to be all things to all visitors.
That’s a mistake.
Saying you’re good at everything is really just saying you’re good at … nothing. I’ve always been a firm believer that businesses should do a little more for those customers who come to the door, and find out either your business or services aren’t a good fit for them.
Why? I’ll give you one example from Bar Harbor. While in an internet cafe in Bar Harbor (if you know the area this won’t be hard to figure out), a couple of customers came in, perused the baked goods on offer and asked about cookies. Without breaking stride, the owner directed them to a lunch place right across the street where, she told them, they bake fresh cookies every day. She said “if I don’t do it well, I’m happy to direct you somewhere else.” As it turns out, the customers stayed anyway.
But you see the point … that bit of goodwill was worth a lot more than any lost business from two cookies. The point is to focus on what you do best, and not worry about “losing” every prospect. Some prospective customers shouldn’t be customers for that moment.
I recommend to all clients that the first order of business is focusing on your unique value proposition … and secondly to help those you can help anyway. Whether they are a potential customer or client or not.
No, you don’t have to give the store away. But you should be freely giving out honesty and generosity when you can. Is there some way you can help out that prospective customer or client who’s not a good fit? Where can you find space on your site — and in your business — to help them?
It’s worth considering.