Businesses become remarkable when people remark about them

By Gordon Hecht, YSN Contributor

In our service-based retail world, the little guys and gals can beat the big boxers every day. It was just a few weeks ago that I got to experience it up close and personal.

Me and my everlovin’ bride got to hang another year of wedded bliss on the line and decided to make a last-minute trip to a historic tourist destination which, although in Florida, did not involve a mouse.

Our first thought was to book one of those fancy chain hotels, but our search pulled up an image of a small bed-and-breakfast located within walking distance of every attraction we wanted to see. After checking out their well-executed website and competitive pricing, we booked the B&B, but we were not prepared for the level of service, comfort, and value that would be provided.

Our delight started before we got to the front door. While the chain hotels charged $35 for parking, our B&B provided a complimentary space for our car just across a small street. And although we arrived two hours before the published check-in time, we were greeted and assured that our room was ready. The front desk representative walked us to our room and demonstrated all the amenities and features, including a small bottle of cream sherry that is provided to all guests and could be refilled as needed.

We were also invited to a cocktail social hour at 5:00 p.m., a dessert tasting at 7:00 p.m. and the opportunity to join guests at an evening firepit where we could make our own s’mores.

And, since their website’s booking page asked, “What is the special occasion?” for our trip, we were provided with a chilled split of champagne to add to our festivities. We were also given several restaurant recommendations based on our food choices and a map with the area’s highlights circled.

“Sure,” you might say. “They’re a hotel, they’re expected to treat their guests well.” Or you may be thinking, “How the heck does this apply to my shop?”

Although a couple of snootfuls of sherry backed up with bubbly might free up your shoppers’ purses, it’s probably a poor idea to entice them by getting them tipsy. There are, however, some takeaways that you can use to make your retail empire one that is remarkable.

You can do some things that the big guys can’t or won’t do. It all starts at your first front door, aka your website.  Unlike those slick hotel chains, our B&B showed images of actual guests enjoying their real hotel — not a bunch of models on a staged set. They had a calendar that showed each available date for arrival and the price per day. And they had a phone number that a real live person answered.

It doesn’t apply to all shoppers, but chances are good that some of your customers would enjoy having their pictures on your website. Yes, you’ll want to get a signed release, but how cool would it be to show real people having fun in your store or sharing images of your products in their home.

You can also delight your shoppers by showing them how to live with their new purchases.  Demonstrate the features, explain the technology, and let them know that you’ll be by their side if something goes awry.

You’ll want to get personal too. Ask about their birthdays and anniversaries. I learned to play the odds during my education at Tumbleweed Tech, and it’s very likely that within the past six weeks or next four weeks your next shopper has a special occasion to celebrate.  Why not keep a few $10 to $15 wrapped gifts on hand to help them celebrate? Or make it a point to send a card or text on their special day — and make it a greeting and not a commercial.

Your shop is a store and not a restaurant, and I wouldn’t expect you to have cookies and coffee available 24/7. But you could curb a few hungers and keep a few more shoppers around with a bowl of fun-sized candy bars or M&Ms. Or have a few board games on hand to keep little Aiden and Sofia busy while Mom and Dad are shopping.

Businesses become remarkable when people remark about them. Online reviews, consumer magazine endorsements, or being voted No. 1 in your town may have some effect on how strangers become customers. But even in 2022, nothing beats good ol’ word of mouth advertising, which is gained through trust, value, and a remarkable customer experience.

P.S. If you’re planning a trip to St. Augustine, Fla., let me know and I’ll share the name of the B&B that beat the big hotel guys on their own turf.

Gordon Hecht is a business growth and development consultant to the retail home furnishings industry and a regular contributor to YourSource News. You can reach him at