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Tuesday
Mar222011

Noho in Summer and Small Biz Tips

JAPAN RELIEF CHALLENGE! I know on posts I am usually reaching out to you, my awesome readers, to help support Financially Digital and Financial Literacy. Today I’m reaching out to give aide to a much bigger and life supporting cause. I want to issue a challenge to you all that the amazing patronage here can raise $5,000 to be donated to the Salvation Army’s Japan Response efforts. Everyone that donates gets their name and website published on the Benefactors Page as well. I will post a weekly update to show you all where we are and how we can make an impact together. I’m also trying to come up with something to give away/do if we hit that mark so if you can think of anything you’d like to see just leave it in the comments below! 

Now this article orignally showed up in my first writing for Executive Forum Magazine. I think it's still very appropriate more than a year later - especially as the weather starts to get a little nicer. Even if you aren't from the Northampton, MA area, I'm sure there is something here for everyone. You can take advantage of these tips whether you are in business for yourself, in a non-profit, or are just looking for more exposure. We all have great little communities like this close to us. 

When I think of my trips to Northampton every week the things I get excited about are the cups of espresso that I’m going to enjoy at La Fiorentina and the foot traffic I am going to see on Main Street. Northampton does not need me to be a cheering section for it here because there are plenty of great residents, patrons, and a Chamber of Commerce for that. What my attempt will be is to reach out to the business owners who thrive on the foot traffic during the summer months and offer some insight from a Business Consultant’s (and arm chair behavioral economist’s) point of view. Seeing the weather the last few days I don’t have to tell you that summertime has hit Western Mass hard but, with this time of year come summer vacations and an exodus of college students and ultimately consumers.  Before we get into the meat of the article, one of the most interesting things about the economy, that is Northampton and its direct neighbors, is an underlying loyalty to supporting all things local. From selling and preparing locally grown foods, to selling locally produced goods, to showcasing local talent it is amazing to see that amongst all the volatility and angst in the economy that small business-to-business communities like this still exist and thrive.  Now onto some consultative points.

Regardless your age as an owner/manager of a business in Northampton one of the easiest ways to help spread some summer time love (if you aren’t already) is embracing social media. Touting the benefits of social media is an issue to be addressed all on its own but sites like Twitter, Yelp, Foursquare and Facebook are proving to be synonymous with developing a brand. What it also does is create an e-community for your patrons and stakeholders. You can create a forum to test ideas and get feedback from the people that are already supporting your endeavors. What it also does is allow people to help spread the word about your business, getting involved, and ultimately being a part of an identity that they already enjoy.

The next one seems pretty obvious but it’s definitely worth mentioning. From restaurants to coffee shops the managers should break out the extra tables and chairs and setting up outside. In the writing of this article I conducted an unofficial survey but the sentiment is what really counted – crowds attract crowds. The idea here is to take full advantage of the real estate you have available.  You don’t have to read Thorstein Veblen (20th century sociologist and economist) to understand that people are drawn to crowds and to emulate what they perceive to be behaviors of a higher class. The same things apply to retailers and art galleries. When you’re trying to capture that foot traffic why not get right up close and personal. If you are limited to the space you have available outside then proactive measures could be as easy as opening up those windows so that passersby can get a sense of what they are missing. Even putting a little extra effort into the outside chalk board listing the daily specials shouldn’t be rushed. It’s all about exposure.

Collaborations are another great thing you can do to position yourself as a supporter of the local community while trying to increase sales numbers. This is one of my favorite things to talk about because everyone likes a deal, allow me to elaborate. If I have lunch at a place like Fitzwilly’s wouldn’t it be great if I could take that receipt into a place like Faces and get a discount on my purchase, and vice versa. There is nothing wrong with trying to give consumers a little extra incentive spend in a place they were probably going to stop into anyways.  Another great thing is that these collaborations can take almost any form they don’t have to be just a couponed incentive. Getting people involved with local charities, not that the Chamber doesn’t do an amazing job of raising money, but when you collaborate with a specific non-profit you strengthen your position as a resource in the community. It all comes back to getting that foot traffic to identify with your brand and wanting to be a part of it. On the whole consumers love feel like they are getting a deal and that their consumption is also supporting a good cause. I’m sure the good causes out there will thank you for your support as well.

This pretty much wraps up my rant. If I was able to inspire at least one owner or manager out there to be a little more proactive this summer then it makes this worth it. These are just a few personal notes I would mention if I were to ever have a conversation with anyone in the business community. I am a huge supporter of the Northampton community and wish all the vendors and business professionals the best of luck this season! 

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