Updated: Aug 28, 2018
Working in the shop local space, I am constantly talking to small businesses, and many times I hear the same scenario play out. Businesses tell me that sales are down, it is becoming harder to compete, and costs are forever increasing. You then only have to look around these businesses and you see many empty shops, which is a sign that many have tried and failed in this space previously.
I can appreciate the struggles that many of these small businesses have…and I would possibly be in the wrong game if I didn’t! But what does annoy me, are those businesses that say these things, but then are not willing to try something different in an attempt to change their current situation.
First and foremost, businesses need to realise that they are operating in a global market place. Even if you are the only shoe shop in town, this doesn’t mean that you have a monopoly on the market. In the palm of your hand, you can buy anything you want from anywhere in the world, and it will be on your doorstep within a few days. Plus we are a more physically mobile society due to better roads, expressways, air-conditioned card, cheaper airfares etc. So we are exposed to more options outside of where we live.
This doesn’t mean that small local businesses can’t survive. However, the likelihood of surviving is very low if you are standing still.
My team and I at Why Leave Town are constantly trying to develop and discover more ways that will help local businesses continue to flourish. One of the things we do regularly is look at those local businesses that are growing and see what it is about them that sets them apart from the rest. Most of them have something unique about them. It might be their product offering, their customer service, their regular promotions, their loyalty program, or a combination of many different elements. The main thing is that they are not content with letting things remain stagnant.
Technology is another thing that many of these thriving small businesses have embraced. How customers are consuming media is rapidly changing and therefore marketing your business needs to change accordingly. If your customer base spend several hours a day on Snapchat, but you are putting all your advertising dollars into running print ads, it is no surprise that you are not seeing a return on your investment.
This sometimes might also mean investing ahead of the curve. That is, looking out for what is going to be the next trend in your target market. This will also mean that sometimes you have to play the long game, where you are operating in a space that has not yet taken off. However, if and when it does, your business will already be well established in that area, and that is where you will reap the huge rewards.
Of course, there is some element of risk in doing this, and there are likely to be some failures along the way. But if you are constantly listening to, and studying the needs and wants of your customers, then you will be in a much better place to pick up on these emerging opportunities.
Personally, I would prefer to fail several times in trying to find growth opportunities for my business, as opposed to just letting it slowly erode away.