In the world of Amazon, IKEA, and Best Buy, the local business is at a crossroads. It’s no longer enough to merely offer a product. You’ve got to set yourself apart.  But how do you do that?

On the most recent episode of The Future of Local Business podcast, we were fortunate enough to get some time with Andrew Mondi, owner & President at American Color Labs in Austin, Texas, and he chatted with us about customer relationships, how to manage them, and what’s really important.

The Future of Local Business

For a lot of local businesses, particularly the ones that produce goods, the old rules have mostly been thrown out. The old rule of thumb was “you have price, speed, and quality, and you can pick two of them, but you can’t have all three.”

The landscape has become so much more competitive, particularly with the advent of online retailers. Business have become more sophisticated, and customer demands are only increasing. You can no longer  just pick two. You have to perform on all three levels, and you have to perform well.

You Have to Gain Trust

American Color Labs is a large scale print shop, and that industry has been around for ages, and the pricing is well understood. Everybody is familiar with what various services cost, so you have to set yourself apart by making it easier for your customer, and you have to gain your customer’s trust.

If you can know your customer, and make it easier for them to do business with you, they’re going to trust you.

A Changing Customer Landscape

It used to be that you could rely on referrals by word of mouth. You could rely on very general communications. You competed on a more general landscape.

Maybe there was a shop in town that was the cheapest, but not the best quality. Maybe there was that shop that was fast, but incredibly expensive. The landscape was well understood and general.

Now, the competition has to be more focused. It’s all about getting those referrals and being able to show new customers that you are credible and that you’re a good fit for their needs.

It’s about making sure that you’re relevant for each other, and that you are credible in the customer’s eyes.

Technology as an Advantage

You can use technology to your advantage. A large portion of local businesses now are reporting that customers are coming to them specifically because of online reviews.

Customers are smart, and customers are savvy. Think about the last time you had to make a major purchase. You didn’t blindly pick a shop out of the book. You researched and went with a place that people spoke highly of.

Customers utilize the internet. The online reviews that you get are crucial to your business. That validation can make or break your business. So give your customers a place to make those reviews and recommendations.

AI and the Future of Local Business

As a local business, you’re probably wearing a lot of hats, and would appreciate wearing less of them. Right?

AI can be a great way to streamline what would otherwise be an incredibly tedious process. You can identify patterns in customer behavior, and engage a customer in a way that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to do, or wouldn’t have had the time to do.It’s an exciting advancement, and it’s going to be very common place within the next few years.

If you want to learn more about American Color Labs, you can check out their website at aclaustin.com, or you can find Andrew on LinkedIn.

This post is based on an interview with Andrew Mondi from American Color Labs. To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe  to the Future of Local Business on iTunes.

If you don’t use iTunes, you can listen to every episode here.