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Lessons in small business building

With the weather hanging around 70, there was no better way to spend this past Saturday morning than at one of the local farmers markets.   Fresh veggies, fresh baked goodies, people walking their dogs on nearby streets, lots of people smiling and having a good time.  

This one particular farmers market runs on a side street perpendicular to the main downtown strip of this town.    On either side of this street and on the main street are a ton of local brick and mortar businesses, from services to restaurants to small shops.    

I have been going to this farmers market on and off for 8 years and I have noticed that several of the brick and mortar shops do well during the hours of the farmers market whereas others lose out.   Some argue that the farmers market should draw in traffic for these permanent shops, but from my observation, some don’t get that expected bump.

This past Saturday, I saw something really interesting happen.   Some of these brick and mortar shops finally woke up and realized that they need to draw these people into their shops on their own measure.    Of course there have always been handouts and some signs, but nothing really creative to draw the eyeballs in.   So, what started out as someone giving one of my daughters an easter egg turned into a mini treasure hunt through several different brick and mortar shops.   While we didn’t buy anything in those shops that day, we plan to go back to one of them as they had some really unique toys.    And from my observation, after spending a bit of time in each shop, these businesses were not only drawing in the traffic, but converting them into dollars.  

So, what were they doing and why was it effective.

The 3 or 4 businesses involved in the treasure hunt had filled the easter eggs with little coupons.   The easter eggs were given to children only.  The eggs were given out to the people visiting the farmers market only.   Each coupon was for something absolutely free—dog treats, bubbles, chocolate covered oreos, etc.   The stores were a doggie store, a toy store and a chocolate shop.   The stores were all very close to the farmers market, less than 2 minutes away.    My kids were super excited to go on this little treasure hunt.  Even though we don’t have a dog, my older daughter said we could give the treats to her best friend’s dog.

To me, this is just plain and simple smart proactive marketing.   It follows some very basic psychology. Parents take their kids to the farmers markets.   This community is somewhat affluent and full of a somewhat overindulgent parents.   With the kids in the lead, it is hard to say no to first going on the treasure hunt and secondly, buying something once in the store.    

What was even more interesting was how the business owners of these stores operated.   I witnessed a conversation between two of them.    It was basically something like this:   ‘this is working well, I will start making more coupons and eggs for next week’.    No meetings, no lengthy discussions, no arguing over dividing up the labor, just a quick decision to try to be more proactive. 

I am surprised that other stores have not chosen to be more proactive during the farmer market hours.  Either they see a bump already or are just resigned to the fact that business suffers.  I am glad to see these other businesses doing something easy and smart.   I wouldn’t be surprised if next week my kids just happen to get some more eggs.  

At the end of it, I realized these  shop owners were adapting to the presence of the farmer’s market and using it to their best advantage by tapping into the family oriented atmosphere it creates.  Bravo!

03:37 pm, by mymaitv