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Little Things That Mean A Lot
By Pamela Heywood  

In looking for ways to be heard over the Internet's noise and be remembered, think subtle, personal and realistic. It only takes small things: things that impress big and cost little. These are the things that count.

"My wife wanted to go somewhere expensive for the weekend. So, I took her down the street to the local Texaco." -- Jay Leno

I couldn't help using the Jay Leno quip above, because it reminded me of an excellent business here in Tenerife, who really seem to have attention to small detail perfected.

Not saying they are rare. In fact I can think of very many family-run stores and restaurants that literally ooze old- world personal care and attention, along with their charm.

We have Texaco garages (gas stations) here too. We also have Shell, BP, various local brands and, THE best places to stop for lunch, a snack or coffee are the many service station bars. The very best on the island is the Texaco on the main road across the north between Realejos and Icod.

When my mother comes, I have to go to pick her up from the airport on the south of the island. Naturally, we talk on the phone so I have the flight details beforehand and, she always asks, "And we'll stop at the garage to have coffee on the way home, won't we?", with all the expectation of a small child begging to go to a birthday party!

It all started the first Christmas she came alone after my dad died. We stopped at the Texaco on the way back from the airport because I'd acquiesced to her request to go the long way round and not over the mountains. (I've got to admit those switchback roads give me palpitations!) Approaching, the first thing that impressed us both was the quality and innovative design of their Christmas decorations.

A small thing, but it was clear they were trying harder.

They always wash windscreens when you fill up (which is rare on this side of the pond) and on that occasion, also gave every customer a bottle of "bubbly", gift wrapped.

Unit cost was close to zero, wholesale, but it meant a lot.

There's also a store, a cafe and, as it is perched high on a cliff overlooking the sea, utterly fantastic views. Waiters, dressed in neat little pin-striped waistcoats, are always helpful, welcoming and friendly.

The place is ALWAYS rocking, night or day, not just with workers, delivery men and travelling salesmen, as you might expect, but with entire families. And it isn't expensive at all. A tapas and a coffee cost no more than about $3.50, which is a lot less than you'd pay in the tourist traps.

Obviously the business is a franchise: a small business and it's therefore the franchisee and managers who have seen to it that they stand out with such great service and those low-cost, but nevertheless, important little touches.

The result is that with the atmosphere they've created, people remember and keep coming back, from miles around (and from abroad even) just to go to the Texaco!

Now, I'll bet you're thinking, as I did initially, that it isn't so easy to create that atmosphere -- or memorability -- if your business solely exists in the Internet ether.

Personalisation, forums and other interactive community things can go so far in creating a bond, but the truly memorable things are more personal than those.

Ensuring that customers get a personal follow-up email (that does double-duty in combating buyers remorse) can make all the difference. It's real, it's unexpected and it will be remembered. Make gifts small, but targeted and useful.

Don't try to appear to be a big corporation when you are not and, even if you represent one let your personality shine through. Use the advantage you have to be "homely" and just show people that you really care about quality and value.

They will remember you.

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Copyright 2003 Pamela Heywood

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