I’m spending the weekend in a small town (the sign says population 350, but I’d guess it’s half that) attending my sister’s high school graduation. A large part of my time here will be spent just sitting and watching the customers in my mom’s small cafe.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about customer service, public relations and the importance of word of mouth marketing by sitting in my mom’s various restaurants. She has a 40+year career as a waitress, restaurant manager and now owner/operator of small cafes, and has always been full of lessons that she does not know she is able to share.

Reputation is everything

In a town of 350, bringing in new business is actually second to ensuring that the business you do have sticks around. Keeping the regulars happy, even the ones who come in only for a morning cup of coffee is vital to your long-term success. In PR, we see similar opportunities. That reporter at the small, independent blog could soon be leading TechMeme’s leaderboard. By taking care of those around you, you can ensure that your reputation bolsters your ability to generate results.

A quality product goes a long way

The Seiad Valley Cafe is known for its pancake challenge. You get two hours to eat a mountain of pancakes that occupies the space a medium pizza normally would. But by offering a great product that is of consistent quality, the success of the business is ensured. This means the avocado is freshly cut and the gravy is made every morning. Your product needs to keep the customers coming back. It needs to solve problems that customers didn’t even know they had and encourage them to want more of your products or services.

Community is key

This is the most important aspect of running a successful business. For my mom’s restaurant, it means treating everyone with respect, buying the occasional meal and welcoming weary travelers making their way down the Pacific Crest Trail. Similarly, we utilize social media in an attempt to share content and to embark on a “content marketing” mission. The reality is, by utilizing digital and social media, we are enabling our community to interact with our businesses as people. This is why being a human (and not a bot) on social media is not only a good idea, but something I advocate for as being a best practice. Even if you’re simply sharing a news item, adding just a slightly human voice can make a tremendous impact on your overall success.

By embracing the same principles as a small-town restaurant’s approach to its daily operations, you can build your business’ marketing and pr programs with ease. Just make sure your biscuits and gravy are the best in the area.