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What Makes Customers Buy From Small Businesses?

Rieva Lesonsky
small businesses

Good news from the 2014 Consumer and Small Business Perception Survey: Consumers highly value small businesses and feel that small businesses are becoming more professional and sophisticated in many areas, including mobile marketing tactics and technologies as well as social media. In fact, consumers feel so positively about small businesses that the majority (89 percent) are willing to pay a little extra for a product or service from a small business vs. a larger one.

When asked what they like most about small businesses, consumers described small businesses using terms like “owner-operated,” “personally accountable,” “face-to-face,” “customer-focused,” “family-owned” and “local.” Personal involvement, engagement and connection are biggest reasons consumers choose a small business over a larger one.

Specifically, the primary factors influencing the choice of a small business are:

  • 84 percent: Easy to do business with (53 percent very important)
  • 83 percent: Customer service, customer-focused (55 percent very important)
  • 82 percent: Reliable, consistent, there when you need them most (52 percent very important)
  • 82 percent: Convenient (49 percent very important)
  • 81 percent: Well-run and well-managed (49 percent very important)

But while the “personal touch” is still important to differentiate your small business, it’s not enough in itself. Consumers also want to see small businesses invest more in digital capabilities, particularly mobile. While consumers say small businesses are getting better at using mobile, there’s still a gap between how well small business owners think they are doing at this and how well consumers think they are doing.

Since consumers value that small businesses are nearby and “local,” there’s a big opportunity to enhance your personal relationships with customers using mobile marketing. Communicate with customers via mobile messages and use mobile marketing to be more accessible to your customers.

What kinds of messages have the biggest effect on consumers’ decisions to shop with you? Communicating value, using word-of-mouth and emphasizing trust are the best ways to persuade prospects to give your business a try. Respondents say the following are the most influential factors in whether they decide to patronize a small business:

  • 53 percent: Word of mouth through family, friends, coworkers, etc.
  • 47 percent: Special offers, promotions, discounts
  • 33 percent: Having their own Web or Internet site you can visit
  • 32 percent: Customer reviews, rating, recommendations
  • 30 percent: Advertising in your local daily newspaper

Use the Internet, social media and mobile marketing to convey these messages to your customers. The “local” benefit plus mobile accessibility and flexibility adds up to an unbeatable combination for small businesses.

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Author information

Rieva Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media and custom content company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship. Email Rieva at, follow her on Google+ and, and visit her website,, to get the scoop on business trends and sign up for Rieva’s free TrendCast reports.