I have what I consider to be an advantage in my job. I’m responsible for a business territory that covers 661,848 km², larger than Montana and Wyoming put together. And because of the oil and gas sector, I get to travel to most of it. As a result of the impact that oil and gas have on Alberta’s economy, I have dealers in small towns in remote parts of the province that do big-city dollars with me. I always enjoy talking with them, because I learn a lot.
It should be no surprise to anyone that business owners in rural locations are as smart and focused on their success as any of their peers.
Generally, successful business owners do more things similarly than they do them differently. It’s the specific challenges that working in a small, local market bring where you can see best practices that are applicable to comparable businesses elsewhere.
So what can big city dealers learn from small town dealers? Lots.
For customers who live in the middle of the countryside, their options are to shop local, shop Amazon or drive for hours to the nearest big city. Believe me when I tell you that nobody knows that better than the small town dealer. That’s why savvy small town business owners know that there are two key things they need to do in order to differentiate themselves from their remote competition and be successful. They have to maximize how they leverage their interpersonal relationships, and they have to offer services and a level of support that is impossible for their competitors online and in distant big cities to match.
In some ways, those two points boil down to the same thing.
Managing those relationships is crucial. Unlike a major urban center where you may or may not run into somebody again that you can’t work with, in a small town it’s very different. Put it like this: There are a much smaller number of bridges you can burn.
We all know that difficult people are, well, difficult. And honestly not everybody can be your customer. Conversely, while a small minority of potential customers are, to put it plainly, jerks, most are not.
In a small pond, it’s imperative to seek and understand, to get to really know who your customers are and what they need, and look after then as if they were family.
Beyond that, rural businesses need to offer things that can’t be bought online, or aren’t feasible for competitors in the city three hours away to offer. That can run take almost any kind of shape, but often boils down to things like design and installation and long-term live support.
Reviewing these things that successful rural AV and telecom dealers do, leveraging relationships and offering best-in-class service, there’s no secret sauce here that only works in the country side. There’s really no good reason for businesses in major cities to not apply the same principles to their business.
If you take care of people, they’ll take care of you. That builds the kind of customer loyalty that leads to both repeat and referral business for years to come.