I had heard good things about Sola Coffee Cafe in Raleigh, NC.

And today, not only did I get to experience it for myself, but ended up with a great local reputation management case study to share with you.

When you enter a coffee shop at 10am and it’s packed, that’s a good sign from the outset. The store had a good vibe and was certainly more enticing than any Starbucks I’ve visited. The staff greeted me before I even stepped up to the counter and my simple request for a small, regular coffee was delivered with a smile–and not the condescending, “you’re not ordering anything more sophisticated than that” type of smile eitSola Coffe Cafeher.

Fast forward 60 minutes (business meeting) and I decide to head back inside for a take out order of their hot mini Pumpkin donuts. You see, I had read about them via a link they had shared on their Facebook page. The link to a local news recommendation was as hot and fresh as, well, their donuts.

The owner, John Luther, saw me waiting with no one available to serve me. He apologized and, as he was in the middle of catering order, made sure someone came to take my order. It was shortly after, that he asked how I had heard about Sola. I told him it was my first time, that I had visited their web site, then their Facebook page, and decided it would be rude of me to not sample their mini donuts. ;-)

He then thanked me for my business. Seriously, that alone was enough to form a positive first impression.

But John went a step further. He asked me if I was a coffee drinker, before getting one of the baristas to make me one of their specials: Maple Cinnamon Latte. I was informed it was like having an iHop pancake in a cup (and it was).

I was thanked again for my business and I left with an overwhelming positive impression and a desire to share my story.

The lesson here? Your small business doesn’t have to have the know-how, time, or budget for a sophisticated online reputation management campaign. It just needs to offer a great experience.

The great online reputation will follow.

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