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Sun Choi paused in mid interview to greet a customer approaching the front counter of her small restaurant.

The customer looked at Sun and said “breakfast.” Sun smiled and asked, “Linguisa?” He replied, “Yes, linguisa,” and took a seat at a nearby table as the cook started making his breakfast.

“I know most of my regular customers,” Sun said, “and I know what they like to eat.”

Paul Triplett has been a Realtor® for 35 years. His dad, Howard, is a Realtor®. His daughter, Elaine, has a real estate sales license and will join Paul in his business after she graduates from UC Santa Barbara this spring.

“I like working with people I like,” says Paul. “It makes it easier for them and makes it easier for me. I try to assist people with their real estate needs, answer all their questions – even if they don’t affect me at all. I try to develop a relationship with people as their expert in real estate, whether or not they come to me with a question that’s going to improve my bottom line.”

Sun and Paul don’t know each other, but they share a few significant business traits. They both care about customer relationships and they both have a flair for unusual marketing strategies that build customer community and loyalty.

Café McBryde is a small neighborhood restaurant on a side street in a blue-collar community frequented by laborers, retirees, and folks who work in the neighborhood. Sun Choi opened it 15 years ago. There are only 10 tables. It’s not a destination for anyone who hasn’t already been there.

On one recent trip, I noticed Sun giving an oversized menu to an elderly patron, who made a point of telling her that he appreciated the larger type.

“I’m 54 and I cannot see the menu too well,” Sun says. “I have to wear my glasses. I saw other people holding the regular menu out in front of them to read it, so I thought I’d make a bigger menu for my older customers. They like it. They tell me it was a good idea.”

While the larger menu was a lovely consideration for her customers, that’s not the only reason people come back. Mitch Inouye and his wife, Ann, have been eating at Café McBryde five days a week for six years.

“Sun tries to accommodate all of her customers, no matter what they ask for, even if it’s not on the menu,” Mitch says. “Once we mentioned a brand of corned beef hash we liked and the next day she had it. Other places with a set menu won’t change it for anything.”

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