“What are those right there?” I gesture towards some raisin-lookin’ things under the glass.

“Raisin scones. They are wicked good,” the small town coffee shop barista tells me.

“I’ll take one,” I say, as my stomach growls for the umpteenth time on a rainy afternoon.

“Yeah?” She glows, “You want me to toast it for you with a little bit of butter?”

With a mouth-watering pause I manage to mutter, “….Well, I have to now!” 

If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: small town businesses do business right because the people behind the counter genuinely care about the experience and satisfaction of the customer.

…This is where you hear that same old, obvious advice:

“…if you want your customer to feel like that, you need to emulate that same behavior as The Small Town Coffee Shop Barista, only online…”

And the logic that follows is that you “care more” online by showing how much you care. By posturing on your blog. By emphasizing “I care!! Really!” in your tweets and Facebook updates.

And, that’s great. It’s fine. There’s nothing wrong with it. But when you sit down and put in the work for weeks, months or years at a time and don’t see the results you desire, you start to realize that caring is actually not an intelligent strategy.

Caring is only a small piece of the biz equation.

It’s step one. Basic. Fundamental. And if you don’t care, then just get out of the way.

The success of small town coffee shops is remarkably simple because it’s remarkably human. They want you to enjoy your experience, and you know it. And they prove it time and time again by giving you an experience that shows you that they care and that you matter.

They’ve seen you in their storefront dozens and dozens of times, and it makes you feel at home. Whether or not she knows your name, your family or what you do for a living (although in Rhode Island all of the above are possible), the small town barista has a palpable, personal and vested interest in your satisfaction.

And emulating this same behavior online and in digital business begins with literally stepping outside of your own head and ego and placing yourself in the shoes of your prospective customers.

Not “Buyer A” or “Client B,” but the human being on the other side of the counter — Lisa, James, Katie, Alex, Maria — who is living life no differently than you: with goals in the balance and dreams in pursuit, struggles to overcome and heartbreaks to heal, health issues to rise above and vitamin regimens to remember daily.

Caring — just like the small town barista — is not magic.

And it doesn’t require thousand-dollar courses, or tens of thousands of subscribers, or the front page of Digg or HuffPo to achieve your goals.

Maybe your new strategy shouldn’t be about showing that you care, but creating work that cares on your behalf. Creating services and books with uniquely-resonant ideas that are unapologetic, and not imitating the competition or niche blogger expert whom you love.

Maybe the strategy is to keep your customers feeling like a friend, like a peer, like anything but customers.

You do that by treating acknowledging, understanding, and continually honoring your people as human beings. James and Katie who you genuinely want to help succeed. Maria and Lisa who want to ditch their jobs and absolutely love doing what they do for a living.

Give them the raisin scone.

Toasted. With a touch of butter.