A Four-Part Series
Part 1: Problems with Location
The New Year is a time for reflection, and while we think of it only on a personal level, it is the perfect time to evaluate and improve your business too. As business slows in the winter months, take the opportunity to determine what is working for your business, and what is not. Evaluating your business is something you can do periodically throughout the year, so the following series will look at four major things to consider while reevaluating your business, including:
- Involving yourself in the communit
- What you offer your customer/customer involvement
One of the most important aspects of any business is location, location, location. Not every business is blessed with prime real estate, and because businesses are pricey to get started, it is not always feasible to invest in a good location. But location is important because a poor location can mean less visibility and, in the end, less foot traffic and sales. Make sure that your location is suited to your business. “Maybe a restaurant isn’t good for that location, but another business is,” claims Richard Parker, a small business expert and author. Some locations do not foster great food businesses. If yours happens to be one, it can be a challenge to overcome this rather large obstacle without investing in a whole new location, but it can be done.
Sometimes a poor location is a direct result of the environment around it. Parker shares the example of an unsafe parking lot. If you receive feedback that your patrons feel threatened, take steps to make your location feel safe, such as advocating for increased lighting in your business development. Another problem may be the lack of parking available; while this can be discussed with your business development, another solution is to offer curbside service.
Low-visibility locations are among the biggest problem facing business owners. Visibility might be blocked by large buildings or freeways. For this reason, big businesses usually invest in large, free- standing signs advertising their location, which may not be a feasible investment for a small business. However, there are steps you can take to increase your physical visibility:
- At “eye level,” increase your appearance through signage, such as chalkboard stands, outside of your business.
- Consider becoming a partial “moveable business” through a gelato or yogurt cart. In this way, you have physically changed your location and are able to move where the people are. If you don’t have a cart, simply sample outside of your store.
- Make yourself visible on the Web, either through websites like Facebook, or through specialty websites that cater to your business and put you on the map, like www.whygelato.com, www.Yelp.com or Google Maps. According to Matt McGee of Small Business Search Marketing, as of 2008, “Google Maps now accounts for one of every 45 visits to a Google property.”
Poor locations might also result in low foot traffic. If you are in a shopping mall that is not well-attended or the businesses around you do not receive a lot of foot traffic, you could be negatively impacted. Try to draw a crowd to your store individually, or partner up with a store near yours. For example, if you are a pastry shop, offer to supply a nearby business with pastries for customers at the entryway (much like many grocery stores offer customers a small complimentary cup of coffee). This does not have to be an expensive treat, just something that gets your product into potential customers’ mouths and attracts interest. You can also partner up with a business across town and provide pastries wholesale to a deli, coffee house, etc. If your location is not providing you the visibility and foot traffic you need, take your business to the customers.
Finally, one major factor that no business has control over is weather. While you cannot personally alter any of these conditions, there are a few things to increase your business. First, if you currently offer only frozen desserts, start offering warm desserts as well. Diversifying your menu with complementary products, such as pastries, coffee/hot drinks, breads, soups or sandwiches, will help bring your business through the long winter months. If you do not have the space to make these products, you can always source them from other local businesses or through food distributors. As being “local” is a major food trend right now, you increase your value to your community by becoming an advocate to other local businesses. If your shop is mainly gelato or frozen yogurt, and you do not see other products working well in your shop, sell pints of your products to take home. Customers do not stop eating frozen desserts in winter months; they stop eating frozen desserts outside of the warmth of their homes in winter months. Offering customers what they already love in a take-home version will help you survive in the winter and keep them interested in your business when the weather warms up. Also consider making gelato cakes or pies for the holidays; these are underutilized desserts that add value and interest to your business. Last, offer weather-related promotions such as “buy one, get one on rainy days” or a “cold busters sale – $1 off an affogato,” etc.
Dealing with a bad location is not an easy task, but after all the hard work of opening your business, there are ways to get around it. If you have exhausted all resources, it may be time to reconsider your location when your lease is up. We all learn from our mistakes, and it is OK to admit you made a bad decision and make up for it. Just remember that if you have a successful concept, it will thrive when in the right place.
Next time, we will look at how becoming a vital part of the community (that thing called “going local”) can help promote your business and make you a vital asset to your community. Until then, happy business-reflecting!
Torres, N. (2005). Caste off the Curse: Make Your Business Succeed in a Location Where Others Have Failed. Entrepreneur.
Retrieved Dec 23, 2010, from http://www.entrepreneur.com/sartingabusiness/startupbaics/location/article81086.html.
McGee, M. (2008, Feb 4). Charting the Undeniable Growth of Google Maps. Small Business Search Marketing. Retrieved Dec 23, 2010, from http://www.smallbusinesssem.com/charting-the-undeniable-growth-of-google-maps/1046.