By John Espley

Customers, customers, customers. Our businesses survive only on the good graces of our customers visiting our stores or using our services. For many months now they have found our service is shut down or if open, with limited offerings. Our government is offering lots of information on grants, wage supports, and safety. Indeed, we need all of those but to thrive, to return, we need our customers back.

The first thing, always, is to understand where your customers are going for information. For those driving by your business, signage is always key. Make sure it is clear that you are open and serving. Now, how do you compete with all the other services out there that have signs? Will your potential customer stop at their business first? The goal here is to build or maintain a relationship with your customer. Make sure they will choose your service over your competitor.

Our world has been driven over to the online world faster and in greater numbers than ever before. A recent OECD report found traffic or bandwidth demands increasing all over the world with Canada showing the largest increase of all the countries studied. Is your business online? Are you connecting with your loyal and potential customers? Being online is one of the key ways to be marketing your business right now. There are free or inexpensive options and paid options.

Why would people follow a service station or convenience store online? Well, have you seen how many people follow cat videos, pumpkin carvings, even live streams of people cleaning their own houses? Give them content that matters. Give them content that’s funny and makes them laugh. Give them content that connects with their needs.

Understand that your customers vary in age, economic situation, and lifestyles. Each online channel appeals to a different segment of the market and your posts should vary based on those segments. Facebook has a far more casual feel to it, whereas Instagram tells stories with images, LinkedIn is all about business and twitter… it’s newsier these days. And then there’s Youtube which is used by all and can be either very serious or funny. Lastly, there’s email. Yes, email is still one of the most widely used forms of electronic connection. If you have loyal customers create an email list and start connecting with them regularly (abide by the CASL regulations).

I suggest your first priority, once you’ve established a few social media accounts is to publish that you are open and what services you are offering. It seems simple but a reminder is always a good thing. All these channels have paid advertising options if you wish to accentuate your reach. An option if you are just starting. Although, if you are just starting, make sure to ask every one of your friends and family, associates, and people you meet to share your page(s). This can work like the old story of doubling a penny. Each person is connected to many and the more they share…well you get the picture.

Use images to show your staff is there to serve, there to help. Have fun with it if you can. Sing, dance, show someone filling up a very cool or bizarre vehicle. Talk about your products in the store. Do you carry local products? Highlight that. Have fun and share why you or your team thinks Doritos should be a staple in every diet. Do you know and really cool or fun facts about a product you sell? Do you know a funny story about how or where a product was used? Share those stories. That’s what people want, what they need. Say your milk is $1 more than the grocery store, do your customers have to drive further using more fuel to get it. Let them know you appreciate that they have to buy more fuel but perhaps they could save more by buying with you.

What about facts and statistics. Show that your store or station understands your products. Business people travel and buy lots of fuel. Are there interesting stats about when to fill up your vehicle to get the best mileage or to take care of your fuel system? Are there local effects that matter (elevation, weather)? Are there other reasons they should stay topped up? Can you use or reshare your franchise commercials on your channels? What about the community work or volunteering you do? How many groups use your facilities? Share those stories. They matter.

Whether you are using the online channels for free or buying advertising, using them consistently and properly will bring you awareness, help build your loyalty and differentiate yourself from others. As we get our country moving again, help people choose your service! Don’t just rely on the major companies to do your advertising. Connect with YOUR local customers. That’s where you can make a difference and be a standout.

If you’d like more information on building relationships with your customers or customer service skills go ahead and connect with me at

John Espley has done many things in 40 years in business. He’s been a senior executive, board chairman, speaker, and volunteer. His very public persona is as a connector and skilled networker. He’s been advising, supporting, and mentoring people for most of his career. His passion is to share his experience and help you build real connections, a real network. Learn to network in a fun and professional manner, find creative solutions for marketing, sales, and ultimately build your networking skills so that you can use your network, your connections to achieve your goals. For more information, visit

*OECD report view/?ref=130_130768-5vgoglwswy&title=Keeping-the-Internet-up-and-running-in_times-of-crisis

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