Ah, what a delight to visit an old fashioned town square!
North Georgia has dozens of old town squares perfect for niche-driven businesses. Recently, my family and I had the itch to enjoy our local Roswell, GA historic district filled with popular eclectic shops and restaurants. The spring pollen was low and weather forecast was perfect, so the sidewalks were full of casual strollers and happy to get out and about. Every street café offering al fresco dining was at full capacity. It was so refreshing!
How do niche-driven businesses market?
Despite the casual atmosphere, the marketing geek in me couldn’t avoid scanning the street signage, nor could I help but keep my ear attuned to the customer service chatter of servers and shopkeepers. (It’s a disease with me – just ask my family!)
What is consistently surprising about the niche-driven market is how naturally consumers are drawn to unique, “artsy” shops, restaurants, galleries, and cafes. They seem consistently willing to patronize unknown businesses located in these stylish districts. One almost need not market one’s business if located in such an inviting pedestrian mall.
Each small business nestled in these street malls must be mindful of next door’s competition. Small town storefronts tend to blend, one to another, fighting for identity. If a storefront doesn’t provide enough to call forth a venture inside by passersby, then their window is simply display along the way.
So, how does a small business in a popular square catch the attention of the carefree stroller enjoying the weather and atmosphere?
Old and new-fashioned marketing
From a physical marketing perspective, there are many old-fashioned marketing methods to grab attention.
- Color, distinctive graphics
- Catchy sidewalk boards
- Flowering plants
- Barkers at the door to hand out flyers or samples
- Water dishes for dogs
And for a few pennies more, invest in promotional giveaways with imprinted logo and tagline to create a subconscious imprint:
- Fans for the overheated on scorcher days
- Balloons for kids to carry down the street and maybe tie to an outdoor cafe chair while dining
- Water bottles
- Shopping bags and back packs
Why the fuss?
…to create a pause in the motion and imprint your brand.
While some pass by and some stop in, be ready and be cued into your visitors’ remarks. Ask questions rather than just pitch product. Engagement is key to moving product. Successful sales people keep their mouths mostly closed and their ears wide open to the cues and clues provided by shoppers. And yes, everyone is a potential shopper.
Throughout this enjoyable day, I was struck by the lack of calls-to-action. No one asked for my zip code, email address, no visible sign-in books or clipboards, nor a QR code to lead me to a landing page or shopping site…
While that lack did provide a slight sense of respite for me on that casual day, I recognized later I might not remember the names of the businesses which I did visit and enjoy because once I walked out, no one would follow up on my visit.
I also wondered how some of these niche-driven businesses survive during the cold, off season months when pedestrian traffic is gone. How does one maintain profits during the cold months without a contact database collected from when traffic was strong?
More seasoned and experienced business owners know you move product online or via catalog through data capture, but new businesses are often overconfident about loyalty or falsely believe their business is only seasonal. And even loyal customers have a short memory when other more aggressively marketed businesses capture attention. There is an old saying in retail, “A be back is not a come back.” The terminator meant it when he said “I’ll be back,” but most consumers won’t be back if you don’t forge a strong connection and maintain it.
That’s why you market all year
Collecting email addresses are critical to promote business all year long. It’s all about keeping front of mind.
Think. How often have you strolled a town square of businesses and restaurants and not remembered their brand? It’s usually “that artsy little gift shop” or “that fun Irish pub” or “that corner cafe with the amazing sandwiches.” But yours isn’t the only one.
What makes your business stand out enough for your brand to be imprinted on a first time visitor’s memory?
While it is imprinted on your receipt or perhaps stamped on your product, what if they didn’t buy today? If they made a purchase, incidental receipts are often trashed. And what if you are that little cafe sandwiched in between other little cafes? Will they remember which one was yours and your business name?
Don’t underestimate the power of an email.
No matter how annoyed you get by a cluttered inbox, you must admit you stay subscribed to emails from businesses who made an impression, provided good customer service, and can furnish your needs. You may occasionally delete a marketing email without opening it, but you still catch the name and subject line. That is enough to keep that brand front of mind next time you need what they offer – and you will occasionally open their emails if they have effective subject lines.
Don’t overestimate frequency. Once a month is minimum. Too infrequent and you risk people unsubscribing because you lost instant recognition. Budget your time to create and send emails just like you budget your time to order goods, pay bills, etc. It’s that important.
Market while you do well, and you will continue to do well. Tell stories of how and why you do business. People buy the why not the what. And people are attracted to success. That is why waiting until traffic slides is the worst time to market.
And don’t forget the power of social media and accurate local search listings. That’s another post or dozen 😉
Make an impression, keep in tune, and stay in touch.
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