mauryHere we are.  February.  The longest 28 days of the year that are usually too cold and dark with just a hint of soon-to-come longer days of light.   Also, its the month of coming to terms with your new year’s resolutions that did not even last a month.  (My chocolate chip cookie moratorium lasted three days.)

February has also become unique as a time when friends and lovers express their appreciation and affection for each other by presenting flowers, sweet treats and sweeter greeting cards.   This happy exchange is big business and on the upswing with spending increasing from $108 a person in 2010 to $131 in 2013.  So why should conventional Valentine practitioners get all the benefits?  What could be considered as an expression of appreciation toward your local businesses throughout the year?  Buying merchandise is a good transactional event in a relationship with a business but is it possible to provide a transformational gesture?  If it is the thought that counts, and we all know that it is, let’s look at what else can be done on days other than the 14th.  After all, you would not buy flowers for your loved ones to show your appreciation  only one day a year ( a sure way to get them to relocate to  another lover).

Business retention and expansion programs, however informal or formal, are sincere expressions of appreciation of and affection for a business.   Showing up and having a conversation carries weight.  Asking sincere questions, and going into depth if the opportunity arises, is always welcomed and especially so if followed up with assistance in expanding markets, local purchasing programs and providing other tools for growth and profitability.  Practitioners should always be ensuring that  outcomes are up to date, clear and measurable. They should  consider investing and adopting a technology program to better organize and manage data and relationships.  If you don’t have a BRE program or it has gotten a little rusty from lack of routine use, you might consider getting it back in play this month. ( For an excellent summary of best practices of a BRE program, read Sara Dunnigans Excellent article).

This  includes implementing  short term activities with your comprehensive strategy.  Here are my top ten ideas  that will  sweeten your program and will last longer than flowers or chocolates in the minds of your businesses.

  1. The Ten CommandmentsIntroduce new ways to best use your social media to promote local businesses internally and externally.
  2. Identify and celebrate milestones that your businesses have achieved.
  3. Help start-ups earn recognition and family by introducing them to your community.
  4. Encourage multiple marketing strategies.
  5. Coordinate business forums to discuss common issues and resolutions.
  6. Meet with banks and new funding agencies to advocate for additional access to capital.
  7. Partner with schools to have field trips that introduce skills to students .
  8. Establish a business appreciation event.
  9. Write personal notes to businesses thanking them for being  a part of the community (thank you Jimmy Fallon).
  10. Celebrate your businesses with an appreciation dinner.

The usual results of investing in a relationship—with sweet treats or a customized year-round BRE program—are better communication and connectivity about the things that matter and being there for the long term.   It energizes all involved and can brush away the worries that can wear down people and businesses.  It can even add new resolve to those new year’s resolutions we have all temporarily parked on a back burner.  Where there is great love, there is a healthy community.  Show the love..

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