Following is a guest post by Cheryl Boggs, co-owner of Sweet Escape Adventures. Greater Harrison Chamber members are invited to share their expertise. Contact the Chamber to learn more.

Every business has highs and lows, and the times we are currently experiencing are certainly uncharted waters. With that said, it is important not to lose sight of the reasons you initially started your business. It is equally as important to not get stuck in a mindset or way of looking at things that doesn’t match the world we live in. The market is constantly changing and it is tempting to try everything you can to “keep up.”

With the rise of social media, your customers are constantly being hit with a barrage of images, things to do, places to go, people to see. The list is literally endless and ever-changing. Knowing this, you want to be sure to be using that to your advantage and do what you can to attract people to your establishment. Every business will be different and you have to find what works best for your business. Following are some ideas that will hopefully encourage you to find your own methods to enhance and grow your business to attract new customers.

You May have a Small Business, but THINK BIG!

As business owners, we tend to limit our market to our surrounding geographic area. While that is a great base,
and we certainly do want to reach those people, let’s not forget there is a whole big world out there! There are a lot of people who like to take day trips or “one tank trips” with family or friends. People will travel if you give them a destination! Consider growing your circle of advertisement, make sure you aren’t limiting your business. In the Harrison location, there are a lot of people that would consider themselves ‘close’ to Harrison that are 30+ miles away. Because they are between big towns and the area (Indiana especially) is so rural, there aren’t as many things to see and do in the smaller towns that dot the landscape. These people know that they are going to drive, either to Indianapolis or Cincinnati area typically to do any type of shopping or fun activities. You have to show them why they should visit your business.

There’s No Need to Reinvent the Wheel

Use down time to study other businesses that are similar in nature to yours (even–maybe even especially–if they
are in a different geographic location) and find out what they are doing right. You can take nuggets from other businesses and
being creative, implement a form of that in your own business.

While you definitely want to make sure you are implementing the business “staples,” consider changing things up a bit and incorporate things that people need to buy for their home, office, as gifts, etc. Having “wants” is nice and there is definitely a market for that, but why not try adding things into your inventory that are a genuine need, so that when the customer thinks of having to buy that thing, they think of your business. This also creates a different kind of customer, because there are many impulsive buyers and while they are patronizing your business for something that they “need,” they will most likely also see something they want as well.

Get Creative

What are some things that you can offer that no one else in your area offers? Perhaps a closed-in small area where littles can play while mom shops? Perhaps one day a week have a story hour that will keep littles busy while mom shops? Maybe a Prize Wheel a shopper can spin for a percentage off or a free small gift – or whatever else you have to offer, maybe use it
on a slow day of the week to draw in more customers.

Cheryl teamed up with Greater Harrison Chamber to create the Discover the District Scavenger Hunt. Check it out

Plan an event well in advance and market, market, market! You could even team up with other businesses that are similar or
compliment your business to plan an event together. Find a way to create a niche that no one else has and let everyone know.

Partner With a Non-Profit

Find a non-profit near and dear to your heart and team up. Dedicate a day that your business can give a generous portion of the proceeds to the organization, or create a different type of fundraiser that you don’t have to donate a portion of your proceeds… maybe just your time and a venue for an event. Get creative and then market to your customers, to the patrons of the non-profit as well as the community. Local organizations are especially good to help, as they are familiar to locals and would probably have a better turnout.

Relief benefit organizations may also be a good idea, for one of the many natural disasters that seem to be happening at a much more rapid pace. Perhaps collect items to be sent to fire or hurricane victims. Veterans. Consider creating a place where people can donate items to be sent to local enlisted service people. You could include letters, food, and other items that may be difficult to obtain for people who are deployed. You could market to schools, businesses and the general public. Just let them know that you have a designated place that they can come to, during business hours to drop off their donated items.
Team up with a school or business to do any of these things, send a letter or go in person to explain the efforts for your cause.
Team up with local benevolent organizations such as Kiwanis or Rotary Clubs. Get your face in front of as many people as possible.

Host an Event

Depending on your type of business, there are several types of events you could hold. Here are some ideas:

  • Find a local author and do a book sale/signing.
  • Have a story time for preschoolers once a month.
  • Customer Appreciation Day – plan things that will draw people to your venue, and make it visible for people driving by to see.
  • Holidays – Plan early and plan well! When I was a kid, I STILL remember going into 84 lumber and getting a box of cookies at Christmas time!
  • What ever you do, market, market, market! Make sure that everyone knows what you are doing!

Other Things To Consider When Marketing Your Small Business

Visit other businesses (near and far) find out what other businesses are doing well, put your own spin on it, and do it better.
Find people and/or businesses that set up at festivals, fairs, craft shows, etc. and do a display swap. Make sure that it is stuffed
with brochures, fliers or business cards that people can take with them with all of your contact info, including website, phone
number, social media platforms, etc. Add a QR Code that is a permanent part of the display to lead people right to your
website/social media.

creative ways to target customers for your small business

Offer Online Shopping!

You can do this by listing things on your website for purchase, by doing live or pre-taped social media
events. For the shopper who doesn’t have a lot of time, or doesn’t like to shop, they will likely get online, if they can shop your
sight and pay for shipping or even if you only have in-store pick up, that gives them the leisure of looking when they have the time. You can just pick the items from your inventory and ship them or have the ready for pick up on a certain day.

Know Your Customer

Conduct customer surveys, find out what your customer would like to see you do or sell. People will often have great ideas that you didn’t even think of. You may need to sacrifice something that you like but doesn’t to well to make room for something else, but if you are seeing multiple people mention a specific thing, perhaps see if you can try to make that happen!

If people are willing to pay for something, it is probably worth at least looking into whether or not it is viable for your business.
As a business owner, you want to try to interact with as many customers as possible. There is no replacement for genuine human contact and engagement and customers appreciate that and count it as part of their experience visiting your venue.

Create a Contest

Hold a contest that appeals to your customer base and maybe even to those outside of your customer base.
It could be as simple as a coloring contest or as elaborate as a Scavenger Hunt. Get people involved, and give them fun! Make sure there is some type of reward, some people are competitive and will do it just to win.

Don’t Be Afraid to be Different

Don’t be afraid to try new things! Do something different and unique. There are a lot of things competing for your customers,
including social media, so you have to get as creative and unique as possible. People are looking for that one-of-a-kind experience. Go ahead and give it to them! Try different things until you find something that works. Make sure your content is fresh and inviting.

About Sweet Escape Adventures

At Sweet Escape Adventures, Cheryl Boggs is constantly inventing new reasons for people to visit! With her husband Leon, they offer four escape rooms along with axe throwing. Located in historic downtown Harrison, Sweet Escape in is a great place to celebrate birthdays, have a team-building experience or celebrate anything else you can think of. Check the website for deals, escape room themes and more information.