by James Allen
The general store in my small hometown of China Village, Maine had been owned and operated by the same man for 40 years. ‘Mack’ was a well-known figure in our town, almost a landmark. He was always at the store. Everyone in town had a close relationship with him and he always greeted everyone with a smile. Mack was also a character and a wise-guy. He enjoyed cracking crude jokes and making off color remarks to the customers – but nobody seemed to mind. Mack was like family. He was an integral part of the Yankee ‘charm’ of our town.
Mack finally retired and sold the store this past year. Another family who had moved into our small town a few years back took it over. Bob is the new owner now. He had known Mack for a while and Mack was comfortable turning the business over to him. At first, everyone was real excited when Bob took over the store. He remodeled the place and added a sandwich bar and deli – big doings in a small town like ours. Like Mack, Bob was always at the store from opening to closing. For some strange reason though, Bob decided it would be a good idea to try and act like the previous owner too. He began making rude comments to the customers and telling dirty jokes to anyone and everyone who walked in – just like Mack used to do.
For some reason, this didn’t go over so well...
Even long time customers were very offended when the new owner acted in this too familiar manner. On a daily basis, you would run into people on the streets complaining about Bob and how rude he was. Needless to say, business began slacking off pretty dramatically.
Luckily, word quickly got back to Bob about how his attempt at keeping the spirit of the store’s previous owner alive was affecting his business. He quickly toned down his persona and began to act simply polite. Now he greets his customers with a friendly hello, asks them how they are doing and if he can help them find anything. He still stays at the store from opening to closing. Customers are returning and Bob is now gaining a reputation as a respectable businessperson in our town.
Of course, the obvious lesson to be learned here is DON'T BE RUDE TO YOUR CUSTOMERS - that’s common sense. The more important point to be noted is that you really need to build a solid reputation first, before you try and act too familiar with your customers. You need to start with the basics – ‘minding your store’ from opening to closing and being polite and responsive to your customers and their needs. This will set the stage, and over time you will naturally become a familiar and respected figure.
When it comes to internet marketing, it seems the same rules apply. Nothing turns me off and gets me to click the delete button or unsubscribe link faster than receiving an email from someone I’ve never heard of trying to introduce me to the latest program or product.
On the other hand, I am much more likely to consider making a purchase or joining a new program when it is recommended by someone who has developed a relationship with me. There are several website owners and ezine publishers who have always been quick to answer my email questions and have provided good, useful information to me over time. You can be sure when I get an email from them, it gets read and any offer they are promoting receives serious consideration.
So remember, online as in offline, stick to the basics and focus on developing positive relationships. Don’t try and act too familiar too quickly, no matter what the guy before you was like.
Then you can save your dirty jokes for the friends you’ve had for forty years.
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