Small Business Saturday is coming up on November 29th, a reaction to the huge and ridiculous “event” that Black Friday has become.  But for many small business shop owners I talk to, this is more frustrating than useful.

This is such an incredibly … NOISY … season.  Everybody’s yelling at you: BUY! BUY! BUY!

How do you stand out?  It’s not like you have the budget to shout louder than the big guys.

Well, this recent article on Kabbage.com got me thinking.  It’s really about leveraging your strengths.  What do you have?

Relationships.

But the fact is that they have to be great relationships.  Just because you’re local here – well, that gets you an extra couple of points.  You get to credibly deliver the message that you’ll provide a greater benefit to the community than MegaCorp.

But that doesn’t get you carte blanche.  It’s just the introduction.

Here’s a great example:  I got a coupon some months ago to get a free bottle of something from a new shop I’d never visited.  Being intrigued, I stopped in and checked it out.  And I was so interested that I decided to upgrade my coupon to a discount on a larger bottle.

Which, as it turns out, they didn’t want to do.  Think about this:  I was willing to spend actual cash on an upgraded item, versus spending my coupon to get the smaller bottle.  But, in fact, they had their concept of what the special was about, and this was too outside-the-lines for them.

Is it any surprise that I don’t refer people to that business?  It left me with a bad taste in my mouth, whether or not I’m happy with the product itself.

They basically told me that they don’t care about the relationship.  They totally blew their message of why I should buy local.

Of course, I have tons of positive examples as well, including my favorite mechanic, the guys who print all my marketing materials, and even my local coffee shop.  These are all folks who give me great service AND who care about having a relationship with me.  For each of these areas, I don’t even consider buying from the Big Guys.

Who are YOUR favorite local providers, and why do you stay with them?

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