Posted by Steve Skibbie
Over the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure to observe many businesses open up shop in Downtown. Each owner is excited about the prospect of customers and being a successful proprietor of their new place. In relating with many of these owners, you can fell their optimism and excitement as they plan for the future and watch other empty storefronts around Downtown Fresno start to fill up with new opportunities. The recent 5-2 vote at City Council to restore traffic to Fulton Street through the Mall is also thrilling, even for the businesses in other parts of Downtown who realize the impact of new multi-option traffic to our central retail and business district.
Most of my previous blog posts were written to share with the general public about a new or interesting business in Downtown Fresno. This blog is lovingly written to our current business owners, hopeful start-ups and those entrepreneurial folks who have their hearts set on being the next big thing in Downtown Fresno.
Beyond all this looms the day-to-day things that business owners must face. Employee deductions, collecting sales tax, business license, insurance, business plans, profit-loss, expenses, etc. These details often cloud the vision for other ways of making business happen in a somewhat fragile, but improving, environment. Here are some simple things to can add to your business’ lifespan and your sanity in the process of being a small business owner. Many of you already exhibit extreme brilliance in your business operations and that’s where I drew my inspiration for this blog.
Hang A Shingle
Displaying a sign is simply a good thing. First, be aware of City of Fresno regulations for signage. Next, make the your sign look great–first impressions are the most important. While hand-lettering on a chalkboard might be appropriate for some, a nicely printed sign on an A-frame sandwich board can be a great way to say you are open for business.
Signs are great for showing your daily specials, new hours, new products, etc. Put a simple arrow on it to point to where your business is located. Put your business hours on it. Heck, put your big, smilin’ face on it, anything to turn passers-by into stop-and-shop customers. Work with other businesses to share a sign on a street corner.
Your front door should have your business hours and other information clearly posted for potential customers.
Tweet Your Facebook Off
More people than ever are using Facebook, Twitter, Yelp and other types of social media to learn about what’s available nearby. They’re looking for you. Smartphone users are often explorers and they’re looking for recommendations. They’ll learn about your business when people check-in with their smartphones This is one of the cheapest ways to get your business in the minds of your customers.
Do a sidewalk sale! Stay open late on certain nights of the week. Cooperate with other nearby businesses as it might bring even more customers to your door if there are several options in one area. Conditions are improving to do this as more restaurants and nightlife-types open up. It’s a chain reaction, really!
Unique Selling Point
How are you different from other businesses like yours? What sets your product up as being uniquely different or better? Maybe you can dominate with your customer service abilities. Maybe you have your grandma’s amazing recipes. These are things to capitalize on for your business. Your advertising should reflect this, too.
Curb Appeal Matters
Check the outside of your store. Bring a second set of eyes. How does it look? I know, sometimes you can’t control the appearance of your exterior. You might be at the mercy of your landlord who really digs the circa 1968 faux marble tilework on the outside. Work with it. Put those little sparkly LED lights in your window. Flowers on stands outside. Put a shine on your place wherever you are.
Get To Know Your Neighbors
The other businesses in our Downtown are not your competitor, really. You are allies and comrades-in-arms. You both are working to reinvigorate the business economy of our Downtown. Patronize as many businesses Downtown as you can. Get to know the owners. Look at how they are operating. Form an advocacy group to promote good business practices Downtown. Group up and influence City Hall on Downtown parking issues. Become a member of the Downtown Fresno Partnership, too. They advocate for the property owners and businesses here and are taking on some very difficult tasks on behalf of Downtown.
Get To Know Your Customers
Make friends with them, their kids, the whole deal. This is what a lot people are looking for these days.Create frequent customer rewards to bring those people back into your store. Have customers “like” and share your business Facebook page. Remind them to “check in” on Facebook and other social media. Have them rate your place on Yelp and Urban Spoon. Remember your Unique Selling Point. If your customers like you, they will be the best kind of advertising. Remember, social media depends on you to use it often–even daily–to help people connect with you.
Revitalization Begins With You
Your business should be part of the revitalization chain reaction, not a chain store or big anchor business that all those critics of Downtown Fresno keep insisting upon. Downtowns are truly made great by the small businesses and restaurants that exist there, not by giant corporations. Those are certainly welcome entities, but you should ignore anyone who says they are the key to revitalization. Nope. You are. Downtown Fresno is your oyster. In the difficulty of running a business, you can make a great pearl. Do it!
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