Cities have their share of notable small businesses. In Calgary, I have found a little Greek grocery with authentic feta and olives and an Italian store with a soul enhancing European atmosphere. I notice how my senses come alive in these shops; the hum of conversation, the smell of brine, oils, and fresh bread, and the visual of deli cheese and meats on display and not trapped in vacuum packs.
In addition, specialty shops for tea, coffee, and clothes boutiques offer choices and services that we don’t get online or in bigger stores. But there is also something else that small business provides – connection.
According to Ray Oldenburg’s book The Great Good Place, independent shops and businesses such as “Cafés, Coffee Shops, Bookstores, Bars, Hair Salons and Other Hangouts are at the Heart of a Community.” He describes how people must live in a ‘balance of three realms: home life, the workplace, and the inclusively sociable places.’
At long last, the small independently owned shop is getting recognition for contributing to the economy, adding to community vibrancy and their role in a healthy lifestyle as a ‘sociable place.’
In turn, these businesses have stepped up their game when it comes to marketing. Whether brick and mortar or solo entrepreneur, social media pages have engaging videos, real-time photographs instead of stock ones and most importantly, a regular schedule of posts. In turn, social media algorithms reward this creativity and consistency, so the struggle to be visible to new and existing customers gets easier.
While customers/clients appreciate and enjoy the visual and helpful information you share, the full circle of communication (what makes you one of the all-important ‘sociable’ businesses) is too often forgotten—the essential but crucial details about hours, address, contact information and website. Yes, you know when you open, but someone who is going to find themselves in your part of town needs to be reminded.
Create templates of hours, address, contact information and website. The design can be seasonal, feature your logo and brand colors or use a photograph with an overlay. Then pop them into your social media scheduler. Periodically introducing yourself as the owner is also a friendly touch. Do the same with staff but only with their permission.
Other areas that should be kept current are your Google Business profile and website/blog.
Customers want to feel confident about your business before entering the doorway. From there, the verbal interaction and inviting environment will keep them returning.
NOTE: I learned about the ‘Third Place’ from Stanley Tucci’s Taste: My Life Through Food. A book that is not so much an actors’ memoir but about a foodie and traveler who happens to be an actor. Overall, a delightful book; easy to pick up and down as your schedule requires.
“To me, eating well is not just about what tastes good but about connections that are made through food itself.”
Tucci writes about his experiences in London’s food shops; how a visit to neighborhood butchers or fishmongers enhances his love of food and cooking. Sociable places where familiar greetings are exchanged, then discussion ensues over the right meat or fish needed for an upcoming meal—making us aware that the freezer area of a large grocery store is not providing everything we need as humans.
Jill Crossland is a business and marketing consultant who can take your business and social media to the next level.