(Note: Thanks to our longtime friend and small town, small business owner and expert on the topic, Becky McCray, for sharing these tips with us. Her blog, SmallBizSurvival.com, is a must-read on the topic of starting and running businesses in small towns. Follow her on Twitter: @BeckyMcCray. The tips are from Clay Forsberg (@clayforsberg), another person who writes about the attitudes small business owners need to succeed in small towns in the next decade.)
Though small towns and rural areas teem with small businesses, starting a company in those areas poses some unique challenges, especially if “you’re not from around here.” Here are some tips that will help you (and your small town small business) turn Main Street into the road to success.
1. Embrace change
(Image: on deviantart via incognitodaydreamer)
Change is the only constant in life—even in small towns. Maybe especially in small towns, because changes (like your new business) are more apparent. Be prepared to be surprised—the best security you will have will be your ability to navigate those unexpected events with a clear business plan.
2. Embrace technology
(Photo: on Flickr via spieri_fs)
Use technology, especially the internet, to avoid total dependence on the local economy. Social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter will allow you to reach a broader audience of potential customers to supplement locally generated revenues. The internet can also help you generate revenue as a business that’s location independent.
3. Reach out to the community
(Photo: via wikimedia commons)
In a small town, the community has the power to make or break your small business. First impressions are important, they will set the tone for word-of-mouth advertising. Find ways from the start to become an integral part of the community. Get involved in local groups and lend a hand to people, programs or businesses that need help. If you become the “go-to” person when someone in the community needs assistance, you will not only earn a positive reputation for you and your business, you will also inspire helpfulness in others.
4. Reach out to the youth
(Photo: via wikimedia commons)
Your town’s youth will be your future customers—just as their parents are today’s clientele—so reach out to young people. Consider sponsoring internship and mentoring programs—these can help persuade young people to remain at home and build their lives there. Also sponsor or assist with youth programs, such as buying ads in the high school athletic teams’ programs or more direct involvement.
5. Look for out-of-town customers
(Photo: on Flickr via Angela Sevin)
Look for ways to bring out-of-town customers to your business, so you won’t only be taking customers from other neighborhood businesses. Maybe its through extra touches that competitors can’t offer, such as decor, special offers and, of course, pricing. Technology can help bring in outside traffic, too, such as encouraging customers to rate their experience on sites like Yelp.com (just be sure to provide a consistently excellent customer experience!).
(Featured photo: by Laurie on Lalalane.blogspot)