I was watching TV the other day and I saw this really great commercial from Ace Hardware. Even though they’re a pretty big company, they tend not to have really big stores. When you go to an Ace Hardware store they’re usually smaller and located in your local neighborhoods and as a result you can probably find things easily and they can probably service you better.

Then I started listening to their new messaging. Why go to those really big home improvement superstores when you can visit Ace and get hands-on help with a personal touch. What a great concept. It’s a concept that I think any small business owner can use to compete against the big guys.

Then I thought to myself, what type of places do I like to shop in? I don’t really like department stores, they give me hives. It’s a sensory overload from the moment you walk in; from the masses of people in the stores to the way too vast selection of items. The thought of a nice cozy place that has a quality selection with nice people that are passionate about working where they do is the place I like to shop, eat and enjoy.

Here are a few things you can focus on in your messaging and your actions to win over customers.

Customer Service – It’s so sad the the big guys have kind of set the bar for customer service pretty low. But you can really capitalize on this. From when your customers walk into the door of a location or they visit a website they need to feel that the business they’re working with is going to be able to help them. How many times does anyone feel that someone who answers the phone at Xfinity or Dell is really going to help us with our problem? You have the ability to go above and beyond to make a connection with your customers so do it. Make sure your customers know who is working for you by name so they know human beings are behind the excellent work you do.

Personal Touch – Recently I ordered a salary report from a small consulting group J.Thelander. Since the report was a downloadable report, I expected to get an email with a link to download it (I needed it in a hurry). When that didn’t happen, I emailed the company not thinking I would hear back for a bit, when instantly Jody Thelander herself answered me in the middle of her dinner! She said she would have the report to me in an hour or so. Nice touch.

I recently put my own email address on our website. People thought I was foolish, but I get emails from customers who might be having issues or might want to say nice things about their experience. Either way, I try to get back to them as soon as I possibly can. I feel that this goes a long way with customers and most of the time they’re surprised that they even got an email back.

Niche Products – A lovely company here in San Francisco Timeless Treasures owner Joan O’Connor travels the world to find the perfect vintage home furnishings. Then when you call her to ask her about items she has in her shop, she’ll email you a custom picture of what you need. I know she has customers for life!

American Express OPEN launched its Small Business Saturday program encouraging people to shop small on Saturdays which is a really amazing movement since over 1 million people have “liked” them.

I’d love to know how you are capitalizing on the small business craze for your business!

© 2011 – 2012, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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