Want to get your word out? Get people to spread the buzz about your business? And about you? Reap repeat, no, let’s revise — lifetime customers who have nothing but great things to say about you and refer you to their friends, families and neighbors? Never have to spend a dime on marketing? Learn from Ronnie.
Having lived in Brookfield for 18 years now and having put my kids through the Brookfield schools, I’ve gotten to know some folks. Well, many folks. It’s not a big town, and if you do business here, and do life here, you eventually see businesses come in, businesses go out, storefronts close, others with high hopes opening shop. One day we’ll have more than just Italian pizza places and nail salons. (Statistic: women in Brookfield have the neatest nails in the state.) I’m sticking around for a few more years until that happens.
It’s true, I bring small businesses and doctors the advantage of bringing their business online, to compete with the big boys… and girls… and to come on into the 21st Century with their marketing. My services are needed, as are many other upstanding services in town. We all need to eat — thank you grocery stores — we all need to bank — thanks, banks! Many of us need to drink, some of us heavily —thanks liquor stores — we all need to have our hair cut, our lawns mowed, our cholesterol checked, and we all need to have our cars serviced. Thanks, Ronnie.
Two weeks ago marked the end of an era for Ronnie Baiad, and his family-run business, named appropriately, “Ronnie’s,” along with son Peter and wife Judy, as Ronnie after 32 years in the business — at least at that location — retired.
Ronnie’s Service Center at 330 Candlewood Lake Road first opened their doors selling gasoline and repairing cars in November of 1979, exactly 32 years ago. OK, I wasn’t around then, but I have been going to Ronnie for the past 18, other than a small blip of a few years where I worked for a company that provided me with a company car and would only allow me to get repairs at a dealership. Even then I tried once to worm my car into Ronnie’s for repair, but there were repurcussions there we can’t talk about here.
Last Monday morning as I drove to the gym, I drove past the shop, which I pass daily, noticed the empty lot and lack of folks loitering around, which they normally do there, well past their allotted time, just to shoot the breeze with Ronnie or Peter. It was almost all over. My stomach lurched and I got all panicky. I frantically called Ronnie (on speed dial in my phone) to make sure they weren’t totally through yet, and he answered, assuring me that they have a few more days to finish cleaning out the shop.
Here’s the point: I don’t care how great your services are, how competitively priced you may be, how fancy your marketing is or how much you’ve spent on it. I don’t care that you offer great discounts, that your website is astounding, that your pizza is the best in the northeast. I don’t even care — strike me down — if the search engines can’t find you. Without a personal touch and a relationship, your business is going to be hard pressed to succeed, especially in today's economic climate.
In today’s market, folks are pulled in so many directions, with so many vying for our attention, both online and off, that the only businesses that will rise like cream to the top are the ones who:
- Under promise and over deliver
- Establish a personal relationship with their customer/client/patient
- Go out of their way to remember names, and use them
- Establish themselves as someone you can count on and trust
- Deliver exceptional — and I mean exceptional — and consistent service
Think of the biggest complaints we have about doctors these days. Because of the sad state of affairs our healthcare industry is in, doctors are hard pressed to spend any significant time with their patients, having to see many more patients per day to make ends meet than ever before. What makes the difference between a doctor you are going to refer, want to return to, have a warm and fuzzy feeling about and one who you’ll pull out of after one or two visits? The quality of your experience with said doctor. Whether he/she looks you in your eye, asks you questions, asks about your kids, cares, even if it’s only for 5 minutes.
Whenever a potential new client asks me what our first step is to begin working together my reply is always the same: lets meet, in person, where I will buy you a cup of coffee, or come to your office, and we’ll sit and talk about your marketing needs. Because there are thousands of me's out there, and you’s… let’s not kid ourselves. And what is going to set me apart from all the rest? The relationship.
What set Ronnie and Pete apart was their never-ending attention, their consistent interest in their customers, who they (usually) saw as friends first, customers second. No matter how busy they were, there was always time to check my tire pressure, fix a slow leak, take a look at some weird noise my crusty old car was making, suggest I buy a new car, etc. And if they knew I was tight on money, they were always honest enough to say “don’t worry about that right now, take care of this instead”… or simply “don’t worry about that, you have another year on those brakes.” Or how about this one: “Pay me when you get paid next week.” Hmmmm?
Their's was the only garage I know of who became busier after they stopped selling gasoline. These were guys who built their reputation on saving people money, being insanely honest and treating people as though they were their family. I doubt if Ronnie ever took a marketing class, but truth is he could teach a class in it.
I know I speak for many when I say that they will be sorely missed. Who’s going to race to my house in February at 6:30 a.m. to jump start my car now?
Suzen Pettit, a longtime Brookfield resident, is principal at Omaginarium and Omagine Health, a marketing firm specializing in growing small businesses and medical practices by creating search engine optimized websites, internet marketing, social media marketing, affordable SEO and email marketing.
Contact Suzen at 203-733-8578 or email her at Suzen@omaginarium.com.