In his presentation at the Yorkton Chamber of Commerce’s first Business Summit, Evan Ortynsky said something interesting. The only way for a business to survive in a community like Yorkton is to have repeat customers. Out of everything said at the summit, that’s the one I’ve been contemplating in the hours and days after it wrapped.
It’s not because he’s right – and he is right – but because it demonstrates a dynamic that is unique to a small town.
It’s impossible to avoid building a relationship between the business itself and customers. It is a bit easier to drop over $20,000 on a car – in the case of Ortynsky – or a different big ticket item when you actually like the person selling it to you. In a small town – and Yorkton remains a small town – any business will quickly generate a reputation.
This advantage is probably more for the consumer than the business itself. Because you find that you quickly get a reputation, whether fair or not, based on what you’re doing for people. And as a result it becomes extremely important for a small town business to make people happy in a way that it might not be nearly as important for a business from a larger city.
The end result is that Yorkton is probably the best place in the province for browsing a car dealership’s inventory. In larger centers, there’s not as much incentive to be nice to the couple who browses just because her car is having some other irritating issue yet again, or nice to the guy who is trying to convince his mother to pick up a vehicle with automatic emergency braking but isn’t having much luck. Sure, I might not be buying today, but someone is, and I probably know them.
It’s the kiss of death in a small community when someone says “never go there, they were so rude to me.”
I freely admit that I’m extremely irritating when I shop for a car, but I have bought three of the things since moving here (once unexpectedly) so it does pay off for someone eventually.
If anything, larger centers could stand to learn the lesson that businesses in a smaller town have to learn. That is, you make more money if you are good to people.
It’s not a short term gain. Looking at an individual sale, getting the most that you can out of a single customer does give you a quick turnaround. In the case of a car, it’s going to be years until they want to replace the one they just bought. But if you’re looking to be around in a long time, it’s a huge advantage.
There are plenty of people here who do business with a small number of dealers. I know families who all buy the same brand time after time, and the fact that they like the dealer they buy from is a big part of that decision. I generally don’t have brand loyalty, but I’ve bought from the same place twice and that I generally like them does make the car look better.
“We like shopping at this place because they’ve always been good to us” is a pretty big factor in a lot of car buying decisions around here, and could be the deciding factor between two cars someone likes.
This also applies to anything else you buy. As a consumer, it’s probably the biggest advantage to shopping in Yorkton, you generally get treated well, because there’s a lot on the line if you don’t.