Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Independent stores

     Free daily tips, ideas, information and advice for people in small business
     from personal experience starting, operating and growing small businesses of my own.

     Small single-location independent operations are often the backbone of communities. But all of them--neighborhood grocers, bookstores, hardware stores, butcher shops, cafes and restaurants--face big time competition from big box chains.

     Example: William took over the family butcher shop when his father died back in the 1980s. William had learned butchering at his father's knee. He quickly began to realize that it took more than butchering to survive in the face of the big supermarkets. He took a multi-faceted approach: (1) He spent more time with customers--explaining different cuts of meats, answering their questions on how to cook a roast and what to do with left-overs. (2) He added recipes to his web site, along with tips on meat preparation. (3) He posted conspicuous signs in the shop--grass fed, hormone free, all natural, etc. (4) He took pictures of sides of beef and more pictures as he butchered the various cuts--and he posted them on his Facebook page. In short, William promoted the shop and became the "go to" butcher in the area. Today, he has many loyal customers, and they bring referrals.

     Promoting is the key to thriving in today's competitive marketplace. And there are many ways to promote your business.

     More examples: I know small bookshops, fitness centers, small cafes and restaurants, gift shops, hardware operations and others that use all sorts of techniques to promote service and value. Small independent cafes and restaurants target specific classes of customers. You cannot be everything to everybody, but you can concentrate on hearty breakfasts to attract office workers and tradespeople. Offering healthy lunches featuring fresh foods or farm-to-table can attract certain customers. Small independent book stores can order and get a requested book overnight, they run book clubs (popular with children), they schedule book signings, and they partner with other businesses in the community to hold events. Small independent gift shops specialize in one-of-a-kind creations by artists and artisans to attract a loyal and returning customer base. Small independent fitness centers provide personal trainer services to clients, they might target specific types of clients--out of shape middle aged, students looking for more training, strength enthusiasts, seniors needing exercise.

     When you target your customers and promote your operation, you are getting your business out into the community. Clients remember you and refer others to you.

     Educating the public (and your customers) is very important in small shops. Everyone has been disappointed with the lack of knowledge and concern by clerks at the big box stores. Play off it. 

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