There are so many amazing small businesses that have added to the vibrancy and energy of Raleigh-Durham over the years but the landscape keeps changing. Many small business owners agree that after a few years in business, it becomes more challenging to differentiate your business and stand out in the eyes of your customers.
More than ever, business owners must find ways to distinguish themselves and build meaningful relationships with their customers to ensure they continue to grow their business and be successful in the long term. Here are 4 ways small business owners can stand out from the rest.
Ensure a stellar customer experience
It’s not just about what you’re selling or providing, it’s how you do it — the entire customer experience. “One thing a customer never forgets is how you made them feel,” said Ramon Ray, four-time entrepreneur and best-selling author.
A memorable customer experience often gets talked about which is a surefire way to drive growth and revenue. On the flip side, a poor customer experience can be detrimental to your business. With social media, everyone has access to broadcasting their thoughts so the connections you make are critical.
“Get to know your customers, and make sure you are providing them with the most convenient and pleasant customer service experience possible — from the moment they walk in the door to the point of sale,” said Ray.
Deliver speed and convenience
Speed and convenience are also extremely important. Accepting digital point-of-sale payments or credit cards like American Express help your customers pay whatever way they want. A finder.com survey found that 45 percent of millennials won’t do business with a merchant that doesn’t accept credit cards; 37 percent of Generation Xers and 33 percent of baby boomers feel the same way.
“American Express is a huge part of our business,” said Liz Goldberg, owner of the full-service design firm CAROLYNLEONA, based in Raleigh “We know our clients have peace of mind when they use their American Express Card and I use my American Express Card often for business travel. I love the customer service, attention to detail and I personally can’t live without our Membership Rewards. I can use them towards business travel, both flights and hotels, another perk as a small business owner!”
If your business does not yet accept credit card payments, you’ll be happy to know that American Express changed the way it works with small businesses through their OptBlue program. Merchant providers set the rate, not American Express, so you could find a better rate for your business.
American Express has also made some big investments in how it backs merchants, including enhancing fraud-prevention capabilities, updating merchant policies and other changes that help merchants reach more Card Members. Over 12,000 more places in the Raleigh-Durham area started accepting American Express Cards in the last year. 
Gather feedback and take action
Find ways to seek out and gather feedback across your entire business network — your employees, vendors and customers — to ensure you can get a diverse perspective, and hopefully honest, perspective on what’s working well and what needs improvement.
Once you have a good idea on what you need to keep doing and what needs to be adjusted, do it. Often times people gather feedback but don’t take any action. If you ask and people take the time to respond, they will want to know they are heard. By doing so you will build trust and further strengthen your network. Keep lines of communication open and encourage regular feedback.
“I am always asking my clients for feedback and I listen closely so I can make changes as necessary,” said Goldberg. “I know that to be successful, I must first and foremost stay true to myself. Luckily, we’re spending time doing what we love and our clients see and appreciate that. I also work closely, almost daily, with both the greatest consultant and marketing expert — they each challenge me in the best way possible.”
Get out and explore your surroundings. What do you love about your favorite shops and services from other businesses? What new technologies are popping up that have changed the way you connect with your favorite businesses? Be inspired by stepping out into the world and bringing the best of it all back into your business.
“As a small business owner myself, I can tell you that it pays to connect with other local business and learn from one another,” said Ray. “They may be facing many of the same challenges as you are, and it helps to get other perspectives when deciding on things like which vendors and partners to use. Ask your neighboring businesses what types of credit cards are they accepting? More and more small businesses in Raleigh-Durham are welcoming American Express Cards because of the benefits that come with accepting.”
Standing out in today’s fast paced world isn’t easy, but there is plenty of support and resources out there to distinguish your business from the rest. It pays off to do your research, evaluate options and exceed customers’ expectations.
To find out how you can start accepting American Express Cards through OptBlue, visit OptBlue.com or contact your merchant service provider directly.
 Source: American Express; based on internal comparison of American Express small merchant locations in December 2016 to American Express small merchant locations in December 2017.