In a time with this many consumer options and immense competition, developing customer loyalty is critical to your success as a small business owner. Small businesses who fail to secure fervent and passionate customers will struggle to survive. The online world is full of tips and tricks on how you can identify, win and maintain that treasure trove of clientele; so, why write another blog post? Because it’s time to approach customer loyalty from a fresh and unique perspective.

Below we detail five small businesses that developed thriving businesses, devoted fans, and loyal customers while thinking outside of the box.

Principle 1: Learn to Say No

Small business ownership often requires that you have to say yes. On the other hand, when it comes to building devoted clientele, a strong “no” is frequently more effective than a handful of lukewarm or hollow “yeses” can ever be.

Florisan Wedding and Event Design’s Lynn Jawitz is a well-known florist in New York City. By virtue of her background in law, Lynn is aware of the potential consequences of certain client demands. Towering floral arrangements that spill off the table are widely requested, but in Lynn’s opinion, they pose a significant hazard – a responsibility Lynn won’t accept.

She is willing to say no, and take a financial hit, when it comes to adhering to her principles, ensuring the welfare of her customers and safeguarding her business. Instead of forfeiting customers because of this refusal, Lynn has found that clients are appreciative of her honesty and ever more cautious of vendors willing to sell by any means necessary.

Observes Lynn, “I’m proud of the work that I have accomplished, and my clients know that with my years of experience behind me, they will get the straight truth from me, acceptable in popular culture or not.”

Principle 2: Offer Something for Nothing

What do you do when developing trust for your primary project is a challenging and tedious endeavor? If you’re a team member of Crew, a global collective of hand-selected, high-caliber freelance designers, and developers you break with convention entirely.

The founding partners of Crew realized that online trust can be hard earned, particularly in a digital landscape where second-rate freelance websites are progressively widespread and unfavorable experiences rage out of control. To combat the less than stellar perception, they opted to wager their entire business on altering that reputation in both standard and unorthodox ways.

Luke Chesser, head of Design and Development at Crew explained, “We’ve used the traditional ways of building trust—a high-quality product, solid social proof, good design, customer reviews, a strong brand, and success stories, but to be really successful we’ve had to find additional ways to build that trust a lot more quickly.”

Initiating a number of first-rate side projects in tandem with Crew and making them accessible at no cost offers a novel take on the ‘try before you buy’ way of thinking. Potential clients can see for themselves the quality of work, dedication to around the clock support and commitment

to quality. Unsplash, one of Crew’s flourishing side projects, is a completely restriction-free photo website. No royalties or licenses in sight.

After failing to locate nonstock-looking images to incorporate on their own website, the members of Crew decided to take the bull by the horns, employing the services of a photographer to shoot a number of photographs at a nearby coffee house.

One of the photographs was utilized for the homepage and the remaining images were issued as a set, without limitations on how they were used. The response was surprisingly big, catapulted to number one on Sidebar, Designer News, Hacker News, and thoroughly overpowered the bandwidth of their primary delivery system.

No degree of old-fashioned effort could have offered the exposure and devoted following that Unsplash generated without any effort on their part. Because of the measures taken, Crew’s average project budget has steadily mushroomed and now resides above $10,000 USD per project. Their fully transparent Go out on a (green) limb blog additionally facilitates trust development and the business presently has a large flock of devoted customers and freelancers backing their efforts.

Principle 3: Go Against the Grain

The bulk of small businesses toe the line: adhering to the conventional paradigm and religiously playing by the rules. This presents a prime opportunity for your small business to adopt a more unconventional approach and infuse character and color into your brand.

CLASH Scavenger Hunts, located in San Francisco, has done just that in the customarily unimaginative niche of company off-sites. The website asserts that they offer “team building that doesn’t suck” and the business delivers precisely that by “taking corporate culture to the streets, putting and drink it its hand and letting it get a little frisky.”

Captivated? CLASH clients Google, Facebook, Yelp and Sony, were as well. Rather than putting teams in a standard boardroom, performing tedious team-building exercises and viewing yet more PowerPoint presentations, CLASH tests limits and pushes boundaries, retaining an edge in a manner that distinguishes them from the competition and is valued in the corporate landscape.

CLASH recognizes that people enjoy working with organizations that have a clear identity and work hard to maintain their differences in a competitive climate, planning events that don’t feel corporate or forced. Their trademark event removes clients from the corporate world and subjects them to a completely unique experience.

Joe Garvey, founder of CLASH affirms, “No one ever got to know more about their coworkers after doing a trust fall and that’s why our clients keep coming back to us. We make it possible to create memories with your coworkers that you’re definitely going to remember and that you’ll actually enjoy making.”

Garvey states that one of the greatest obstacles is pushing limits without stepping over a line; forcing individuals out of their safe zones without creating a sense of unease. Building an atmosphere where ideas are continuously exchanged and evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of their next bold step helps them stay connected with company culture and the demands of the industry.

Principle 4: Step Out on a Limb

When a topic deeply resonates with you, it will eventually make its way into your business or your personal life. As a business owner, you may believe that you should keep the two distinct.

Occasionally, the contrary is true. In truth, expressing your passions and permitting your firmly held beliefs to steer your business can guide you in the direction of real success. Such was the case for Ethical Marketing Specialist Shel Horowitz of Green and Profitable.

Back In 2002—when this was still a revolutionary concept—, Horowitz started to speak very candidly about how green and ethical business measures could be a component, rather than a hindrance, to business success. In lieu of dividing his marketing efforts from his activism, he elected to take a chance and combine the two.

Horowitz expresses, “As I got to be more and more public and outspoken on these topics, I very quickly started attracting better, longer-term, and more lucrative clients, several of whom have said with certainty that my stance on business ethics and green business led them to work with me—even if that work was unrelated to those topics.”

Even though he faced a wealth of uncertainty along the road, Howowitz could show successful business examples and prosperous organizations that have taken advantage by growing green, even when profit is the principal incentive. Walmart, for instance, doubled the organic food market—offering substantial evidence that even when dollars are the motivating factor, going green makes sound business sense.

Principle 5: Go Above and Beyond

Permit your customers to determine their own prices? That’s absurd. Afforded the chance, potential customers will constantly place ridiculously low offers, costing you profits and sustainable operation. Right? But possibly they won’t. Perhaps, provided sufficient information and confidence, your customers will surprise you with their desire to provide what you require, if not more.

The Singapore-based company 3tees supports such an unorthodox pricing strategy. The company assists organizations that are promoting events with a social cause and have achieved success, developing a loyal clientele across their targeted market and helping these social causes save on expenses.

Benjamin Chua of 3tees remarks, “Our marketing campaigns revolve around our slogan of “You price it. We print it.” We go directly to our prospective clients (the social and volunteer organizations) and instead of giving them name cards, we give them our cotton tees. This is to show that while we are cheaper, our quality is also fantastic.”

3Tees leads by example, promoting social good by employing under-resourced populations to aid with delivery and being flexible with profit-margin in an effort to advance the social causes of their clientele.

Supplying a first-rate sample even prior to it being requested builds the brands value and trust, so that when a potential client decides to offer a bid they thoroughly recognize the quality and dedication 3tees provides. 3tees additionally helps promote their customers’ social cause, and, when feasible, even goes to the events and grants immediate social support.

By building a positive rapport, practicing what they preach and encouraging goodwill, people are less likely to exploit the unique pricing model. Most individuals make legitimate offers that both sit within budget and offer a desirable profit margin. In reality, while the company is prepared to reject outrageously low offers, they have found that just 5 percent of total bids occupy this category.

Author, entrepreneur, and popular speaker Danielle LaPorte also adopted this model and triggered an online digital product trend when she held her initial Pay What You Can Day. Not only did her success deliver good karma; it was also profitable, with 700 e-books sold that first day. Subsequently, Danielle has held the same offering, shared the benefits of the system and prompted countless online entrepreneurs to follow suit.

Long story short: Take your own approach

One of the major perks of owning your own small business is the freedom it affords. You have the leeway to be creative, experiment with various approaches and attempt risks to see what might work. Don’t be scared to stray from the status quo and let your imagination go wild.

Could your company gain from an infusion of unconventional personality or goodwill, topped with a dash of passion? Could you attempt a unique pricing strategy or bring your zeal to the forefront in a totally new fashion? Think of the businesses you know who aren’t afraid to take a different approach.

Meet The Author

Colleen Loos