Small Steps, Big Payoff: Tips for Making Your Small Town Business Thrive
Being a small business owner in a small town can be a very different experience from owning a business in a bigger city.
While there may be less overall competition in a small town, chances are there are already solid and long-standing relationships between your competitors and your target consumers in the community.
Here are some tips to stand out and help your business succeed:
Offer something that makes consumers want to branch out of their comfort zones.
When you go to a restaurant do you always order the same thing? If you do it's likely because you know you're going to like what you choose and you know what to expect. The same "play it safe" mentality can also impact where people shop in their small town. Often times, when people have limited selections to begin with, they tend to stick to what they know and already have a preference for a company, or for a small business owner or a specific employee. They may even be related to your competitors. It's important to find a way to stand out and get people into the door of YOUR business. This could be as simple as offering lower prices than competitors, better deals, more variety of products or services, or better customer service.
Host an open house, launch party, or opening month promotion.
A special event to kick off your grand opening is a great way to introduce yourself and your company to the town. It might take the form of some type of discount for people who do come to your open house or purchase your products or services within the first month you are open. Maybe you offer a coupon for a future purchase or a deal on gift certificates. If you're selling services, such as hairstyling, you might have an event where you offer a complimentary blow-out to the first ## of customers who book a cut or color service.
Create special events and moments throughout the year.
There are great options to sustain that new business excitement and interest throughout the year, too. For example, say twice a year you do a sale on gift certificates for your business, such as a buy one get one half off option. The customers who buy those gift certificates may use them for themselves, but since it's discounted it would be a great gift, and therefore new people coming into your business. You could also consider a special program for loyal customers who refer new customers.
Get involved in the community.
Small towns are bursting with opportunities to get involved. Forming relationships are key when you live and work in one of these communities. Often times there are local festivals or celebrations to get involved in, such as a heritage day's celebration, events with local colleges, festivals surrounding the holidays, or sports leagues. You might even consider sponsoring certain parts of events. This could be in the form of supporting a little league team where your company name and logo could be on their jersey or offering out donations or prizes for fundraisers, sponsoring an activity or band at a festival, etc. Additionally, you can use social media to connect with the community through community groups or pages on Facebook. This is a great way to engage buyers or identify target customers to offer specials to.
Make your location known.
Even in a small town, it can be easy to find yourself in a location that is tucked away from the public eye. People may drive by your business every day and not realize what it is or what you do if it is not obvious. It's important to come up with a way to stand out. Maybe this is having a sign above the door or a big banner. Perhaps there is an open wall space and you could create a giant sticker or mural showcasing your business. Maybe when you place advertisements you give key directions such as "on the corner of 1st and Main next to Big Top Dry Cleaning". The key here is to spread your message and location to as many people as possible.
Above all, when running your small town business you want to be engaged and connected to the community you are working in. Developing strong relationships with your target market and customers can have a lasting impact on your business and bring success for years to come. Starting strong locally can also set the stage for you to expand into new markets, perhaps even taking a global approach and establishing a website, or selling your products on other e-commerce platforms such as Amazon or Etsy.