Making the Most of Operating a Business in a Small Town
Remember —the market evolves, even for a business in a small town. Be ready to evolve along with it if you want your business to survive.
There are so many different factors that go into how successful someone’s business becomes. Obviously, the type of business and the demand for the product or service are important. So is marketing. But when it comes to a business in a small town that relies on a brick-and-mortar storefront, location really matters.
Small towns have a lot of charm, but it can be tough to build a thriving business. In the city, rents are higher and there’s more competition, but there’s also a lot more in the way of foot traffic. So, how can you make the most of the opportunities you have as a business owner in a small town? Here are some things to consider.
Revisit (Or Create) Your Business Plan
Whether you run a bookstore, a coffee shop or a pharmacy, you don’t have to think that far ahead when you’re the only game in town. Chances are, you’ll get a decent amount of local business. However, it’s always smart to look to the future and to have goals for your business.
For a business in a small town, your plan can be a kind of “north star” to help you maintain and grow your business as much as you can. Even in an area with a low population, having a business plan is important and will help you make the most of the market you’re in.
Don’t Ignore Marketing & Data
It’s likely that everyone around knows about your business in a small town. Because of that, you might think that it doesn’t matter if you don’t put any time or money into marketing — that the people who live nearby will come and support your business. Unfortunately, that’s not always true. Unless you stay top-of-mind and give people a reason to frequent your business, they might order online or drive to the nearest big-box store.
Marketing can help you maintain a presence among your current and potential customers. In a small town, a mix of digital marketing online and more traditional methods like putting ads and offers in local publications can be a good way to get strong sales.
You should also start collecting and analyzing marketing data that can help you better understand what’s working and what isn’t. Consumer analytics are powerful for helping you shape your message and bring people through the door.
Offer an Online Store
Depending on the type of business you run or you’re thinking of starting, providing an online shopping option to supplement your brick-and-mortar store can be a smart move. Giving people the opportunity to shop online and pick up in-store, or even offering local delivery and shipping will help to remove barriers for potential customers. In some cases, you might not even need a storefront — many people run businesses from home, very successfully!
Leverage Tourism Traffic
Many small towns get additional traffic and revenue from tourists, especially during the high seasons. Offering products and services that cater to tourists can be a good way to make the most of your business in a small town. Selling souvenirs and travel essentials or adding some local flavor, if you run a restaurant, is a good way to help please the tourists as well as the locals.
Be Involved and Engaged in the Community
In a small town, that sense of community is everything. Everyone knows everyone else and businesses have to stay engaged with the community to be successful. Hosting events, offering sponsorships or raffle items when you can, and helping out people in the community who are struggling are all great ways to stay engaged.
In addition to building buzz and goodwill, you’ll also have the opportunity to see how the community evolves and constantly re-evaluate your place within it. Small businesses have their own image within a town, and you always need to understand how your brand fits in.
Don’t Stagnate or Get Too Comfortable
When business is good, it’s easy to get comfortable and start stagnating. If you stop making goals and never make changes, however, it will be harder to pivot and succeed when things DO change — and they will. Companies that never change will ultimately become obsolete, from the small mom-and-pop shop to once-dominant corporations like Sears.
Fear can be healthy, as long as you don’t let it take over you and your business. Remember —the market evolves, even in a small town. You need to be ready to evolve along with it if you want your business to survive and even thrive.
Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in a number of industries from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He implements lean methodology and is currently writing a book about scaling up business.