The best businesses are the ones that feel like they were put there just for you. They carry all your favorites, at a price you’re willing to pay. The people who work there can speak your lingo when you ask a question. It’s in a reasonably convenient location, and you feel good when you do business there.
What is it about those places? We all have at least one. Mine is a great little restaurant in Denver that specializes in a drink called Mezcal and exotic ice cream with flavors like Rose and Avocado. Now, that may not work as a viable business in a different city, but the owners of that particular business saw a market and built a place that constantly has a line out the door.
How can you do the same? Well, predictably enough, we at Shopventory have a few tips to identify your market and build your business around your customers— rather than trying to conjure customers around your business:
1. Location, Location, Location
This is more than just cross-streets. It’s also the city, the region, the country, the decade. Where is your business located in place, time, and culture? Does it fit in with the identity of the people you want in your store? Are there enough of them to make a profit?
For example, if we rely on stereotypes about my fellow Texans, it probably doesn’t make sense to open a vegan establishment in the capital city of Austin. But any good Austinite knows there are more than enough like-minded herbivores to support a neighborhood eatery that offers a meat-free menu. Of course, a proper barbecue pit is also a sure bet.
The bottom line here is to make sure your target market exists in the place where you want to set up shop. The best way to do that is to ask around, follow local message boards, and check out other successful businesses in the area.
Make sure you have an e-commerce option available as well. Giving your customers the option to buy online, (even if it’s only a few items) will be a significant boost to revenue if you play your cards right!
2. Embrace the reviews, especially the bad ones
Businesses are found online. You can advertise, put out flyers, even pay for a TV spot, but your entries in Google Maps and Yelp will probably do more than all other efforts put together. We wrote a whole separate blog post on review sites as well.
Your business is being reviewed. Fairly or unfairly, with or without your permission, people are talking about your establishment and giving out an arbitrary number of stars. Monitor what’s being said. Be proactive! Respond, react, apologize, show gratitude, and above all, add high-quality images! A picture is worth a thousand words. Never let a bad review go unanswered. Ideally, with an acknowledgment and an apology from a senior manager.
Also try to get in touch with local reviewers, both online and in your local area’s newspapers and magazines; ideally before they show up to get their input. Ask them what they’re looking for. They may or may not tell you, but they will be flattered you reached out at all.
3. Wear your identity with pride.
Being small is not a bad thing. For many, it’s a reason they do business with you, not an obstacle. Connect with your local community and show them who you are. Hang a few pictures on the wall that show the story of your business, your family, and your employees. It makes people feel good to know they’re supporting local families rather than some faceless corporation.
Get the local newspaper or magazine to mention you, then hang that clipping. Be sure you also tune your music to match your identity, music says a lot to customers who just walked in.
4. Create a vision of your ideal customer.
It’s best to have the perfect customer in mind. Create a fictional person. Ideally a male and a female version. What do they wear? What do they drive? More importantly, what do they buy?
This is the person you want in your store. Perhaps you know a version of this person. Get their insight. Beware of getting too niche, but trying to envision the types of clients you want in your store is going to guide your decisions. Let it!
Ask yourself along the way, is this person realistic? Have you seen them around? Do they walk into your store? How might they find out about your business? What will they tell their friends?
These are the questions you need to answer. If that person doesn’t exist, or if there aren’t enough of them, it’s time to make some changes.
In the case of that mezcal/ice cream place I mentioned, they knew they were in a trendy hispanic neighborhood. They knew there were other successful businesses around them that had exotic menus. And they knew that they wanted to be the place people go for drinks and dessert.
Their Google and Yelp profile is immaculate, with quality images. They’ve also responded publicly to the few negative reviews, letting their critics know that their concerns were valid and have been heard, plus inviting them back.
I know they didn’t make it just for me, and there are a few things I would do differently, but I know they cared enough to get close. And that makes me feel a-ok with paying $4 for a scoop of gansito-flavored ice cream.
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You can start a trial today and join the thousands of merchants worldwide using Shopventory to serve their preferred customers!
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