Three Lessons From Ride-Share Drivers That Apply To Small Business Marketing

Post written by

Marie Rosecrans

As SVP of Essentials and SMB Marketing at Salesforce, Marie empowers small and medium businesses with the resources they need to grow.

Here in San Francisco, ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have become the typical form of transportation. The ride is efficient and relatively low cost, especially when you consider the savings in terms of gas and parking dollars.

But for me, the cherry on top is the human connection. I’m a people person. Plus, as the senior vice president of small business marketing, I love to seek out entrepreneurs and hear their stories. What I’ve found is that these drivers are their own brands: They provide unique perspectives of small businesspeople because they operate within the gig economy.

The drivers I’ve met come from a rainbow of backgrounds, often have profoundly fascinating perspectives and offer veritable treasure chests of knowledge. Here are three small business lessons I’ve learned this year from my Uber drivers.

1. Always be a student of people. 

Sometimes when you climb into your ride-share, the driver immediately opens up. Other times they drive in silence. How do they know when someone is willing to engage? Often you can tell by voice and tone, of course, but one driver told me it starts earlier than that. “You can tell before a rider even opens the door,” he said, as he proceeded to detail his observations on shoulders, facial expression, gait, efficiency and more.

Ride-share drivers are constant students of people. They observe the way we carry ourselves in the wild — how we stand, move and interact with the world around us. Often they can, in a glance, tell whether or not someone is willing to engage and to what extent.

That kind of “spidey sense” or intuition is useful for small business owners, too. Understanding your customers and how they’re feeling helps you provide superior service. You may not take them on a physical journey, like an Uber driver does, but anticipating the needs of your customer and personalizing their journey with your company is just as important.

2. Time management is everything.

Several of my most recent Uber drivers were immigrants who told amazing stories about the challenges they overcame both to get to the United States and to stay here. They drove for companies like Uber, Lyft and Grubhub to earn more money in their spare time between running their primary businesses

(Full disclosure: Uber, Lyft and Grubhub are customers of Salesforce.)

As these drivers relayed their daily routines, I was awed by their sense of time management. Small business marketers have to be efficient and resourceful, and I find that many of these folks are shining examples of that. They’ve tracked and served their clients faithfully, yet they also know where they can sneak in an extra few rides and still have time to spend with their kids after school. Impressive.

For small business owners and marketers who often have to manage a number of tasks and clients at one time, borrowing a page from the ride-share drivers’ book can be quite rewarding. Ruthlessly prioritizing each day and developing a schedule that maps back to these top priorities can make all the difference and help you to use your time more wisely.

3. Form your own path. 

I’ve never met a driver who used Uber or Lyft as their primary employment. Most use it as a side gig, committed to doing right for themselves and for others in their lives. Not everyone wants to be the next unicorn founder — they just want to be able to carpool their children, care for their families or earn some extra cash.

Today’s gig economy is full of companies that fulfill orders on demand and for small businesses. This has opened up entirely new opportunities for everything from business management to financial support to various marketing needs. Entrepreneurs can work for companies like these and others to bring in extra capital while getting their businesses off the ground.

At the same time, you have the ability to hire others for short-term work such as graphic design for branding purposes or even something as small as passing out promotional materials on street corners. For small businesses, there is not one simple path to success. But leveraging options like these can help you find the way that works best for you and allows you to focus your time on putting your customers first.

Forbes Communications Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

As SVP of Essentials and SMB Marketing at Salesforce, Marie empowers small and medium businesses with the resources they need to grow....