Archive | August, 2012

Creating a Destination Downtown: One Business at a Time

24 Aug

Jon Schallert is an internationally-recognized speaker and business expert specializing in teaching businesses and communities how to turn themselves into Consumer Destinations. Schallert speaks to thousands annually on his proprietary 14-step “Destination Business” process, which he developed over the course of nearly 30 years of working with independent business owners. 

Be sure to check out Jon’s plenary, Destination Downtown! on Thursday, September 13, at 8:00 am.

There are so many reasons why downtown business districts never reach their potential; however, in my 16 years of speaking and consulting in over 500 downtown districts, I have seen one glaring issue over and over again: the proliferation of averagebusinesses.

Yes, you read that right: there is nothing more damaging to a successful downtown district than having an overwhelming number of average downtown businesses.

You may think that businesses delivering poor customer service, keeping unappealing storefronts, or having limited hours of operation could be most damaging to a downtown district, but this is not necessarily true.

Personally, I would prefer a horrible business to an average business any day! Why? It is a natural tendency for consumers to detect deficient businesses immediately. They can spot a horrible business simply by the unkempt or undecorated storefront window. Consumers who enter a poorly run business can sense it. The business is dismissed and consumers avoid it.

An average business is another matter. Average businesses don’t openly display to consumers that anything is wrong. Consumers can’t detect average from the street, so they go to the store, and leave with a forgettable experience.

The problem with an average business is they believe they are doing fine when, in fact, business is stagnant. Take a moment and think of the businesses in your downtown district: Is there a business you tell your out-of-town guests that they MUST visit? I can bet that this business is far from average.

In order to create a Destination Downtown, districts must hold a higher standard to their businesses! Vow to improve average businesses and help these owners to see how important becoming a Destination Business is. Learn how to help your district business owners to see how this can be achieved and improve their bottom line significantly.

Spotlight On…Sterling

9 Aug

Located in the northeastern corner of Colorado, Sterling is known as the regional shopping hub and has the largest population of communities in Colorado east of Pueblo (estimated at 13,900). The city’s proximity to Interstate 76, and State Highway 14 provides great potential to bring passers-by to the community.

DCI brought a technical assistance team to Sterling in mid-July. Throughout the assessment, the technical assistance team met with community stakeholder groups to determine the needs of the city. Council members, business owners, community organizations, and residents met in focus groups to update the team on past revitalization efforts, and what they would like to see for the future of their community. Common observations included the need to eliminate one-way streets, improve sidewalks and design, make use of historic buildings, and satisfy the organizational needs to bring all downtown business owners on the same page. Downtown business owners expressed the concern that most of their business came from out of town, and very few Sterling residents go to the downtown district to shop.

Recommendations from the technical assistance team included the need for clean storefronts and to take advantage of vacant spaces by incorporating business incubators, holiday markets, and programs for Northeastern Junior College students and the Small Business Development Center. The team also stressed the importance of promoting downtown businesses both online and through community events to encourage residents to visit and shop at downtown businesses. To accomplish the recommendations, the team presented the need to have a full-time or part-time staff-person or director dedicated to the improvement of the downtown business district. Having staff focused on these efforts helps to create a focused vision for promotional activities, and coordinating volunteer efforts. A number of downtown organizations in Colorado have utilized the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America) to provide a full-time staff at a low cost.

Following the team’s recommendations, the community at-large was ready to make improvements–business owners were spotted cleaning up their windows and sweeping their sidewalks that night!

Interested in DCI’s technical assistance program? Visit www.downtowncoloradoinc.org for details or contact us at 303.282.0625.

Social Media in 4 Easy Steps

9 Aug

Social media can be a great way to promote your organization, events, and projects in a low-cost way. Unfortunately, when there seems to be a never-ending load of work with even less time available to complete it, social media and marketing seem to be the first project to be dismissed. With a little bit of planning, you can come one step closer to making time to market your community or online! Below are four key tips to consider when managing social media in a small organization:

1. Set a schedule in advance. Did you know you can schedule posts on Facebook? This is a great tool to use on a weekly or monthly basis to make social media manageable. For example, if you would like to post at least 3 times per week on Facebook, schedule for Monday’s to post a link to an event, Wednesday’s to post an article, and Friday’s to post any announcements or program information. On the days without regularly scheduled posts, with time permitting, you can read through your news feed and share links that others have posted. (See how to schedule Facebook posts here!)

2. Track visits to your website. This can help you determine which social media is routing the most visits to your website and then help to determine which area you should most target. Google Analytics is a free program that tracks how visitors find your website.

3. Ask all employees and volunteers to chip in. You can link personal Facebook profiles to your organization’s page so anyone can post an update any time and from anywhere. Ask employees to post links to articles or topics they may find interesting to get the conversation started. Have an active marketer or social media guru on your board of directors? Ask them to help promote your organization from their personal media accounts; the more people in the discussion the better!

4. Utilize student volunteers and interns! Students and young adults are on social media all the time, and this can be a great resource for your organization. Approach area schools to see if there are any needs for student volunteer or intern projects. This can be great work experience for the student, and provide an active social media presence for your organization! Be sure to have the student create a plan with detailed instruction for when their service ends.