Years ago, I took over as a manager of a restaurant in a major city. As expected, we had a good sized lunch rush every day, but the place never seemed to be filled.
The previous manager, although well-intentioned, had been gruff with customers and staff alike. Most of the staff was teenagers, and sometimes I didn't blame him. Look, I was a teenager myself, and can remember not always being the best employee. Not because I was bad, but just because I was a teenager. You remember? Right?
Anyway, I worked with the departing manager of about a month and then I was in charge.
One of the first things I did, even before the old manager left, was to make sure I called everyone, including my 16-year-old employees, "sir" and "ma'am. I also made certain they got plenty of praise for a job well done and gentle but firm guidance (always in private) when they erred.
It wasn't long before, "YO! Dude! Bring me some ketchup!" was replaced by "Excuse me, sir (or ma'am)! Could you please bring me some ketchup?"
Over the next few weeks, the lunch crowd slowly began to grow, as did the dinner crowd, and I wasn't absolutely certain why. I DID know that my young ladies and gentlemen were making the customers feel more comfortable in our establishment, and the employees themselves were taking on more responsibility for taking care of the customers and getting the job done and seemed to be enjoying themselves in the process.
Of course, we had our regulars, and one day I noticed a pair of gentlemen I had never seen before. What struck me was that they were watching the employees and me with eagle eyes. As I moved around the room, chatting briefly with diners and making sure they were taken care of, one of the men called me to his table.
This is what he told me...
He and his friend worked in a nearby office building and had once been regular lunch customers, but had quit coming in several months before I came to work there. The reason they had stopped dining at our establishment was simply that they did not like the way the previous manager had treated the employees, and they had also felt the trickle-down effect in the negative way the employees interacted with customers and other employees.
Recently, people in their building had begun talking about how pleasant it had become to eat in our restaurant since the "new manager" had taken over. They had decided to check it out for themselves. Even though they enjoyed the food and the restaurant was nearby, they had been choosing to go elsewhere because of their discomfort in the previous atmosphere. They told me that they were extremely pleased with their experience and really liked the way I treated the employees and the employees treated each other and the customers. They definitely would be returning regularly.
THE MENU AND FOOD PREPARATION HAD NOT CHANGED.
THE FACILITIES WERE THE SAME.
THE EMPLOYEES WERE THE SAME.
THE ATTITUDE AND ATMOSPHERE HAD CHANGED.
With the right attitude and with lots of respect for peers and customers alike, your business can grow even if you sell the same product or service as thousands of other internet or brick-and-mortar businesses.
So! Why not sell service? There's sometimes quite a lack of competition there.
Postscript: Between the time I drafted this article and typed it up, I received an email from a webmaster who complained that while I had a nice website, it was just like several others he had seen, and he doubted I would have any success with it.
Oh well, he's welcome to his opinion, I suppose. I just didn't have the heart to tell him that last month I deposited over $10,000.00 in commissions from a website that everybody else was using.