Main Street Today

Using Crowdsourcing for Downtown Revitalization.


            Today I want to talk about how downtown revitalization can benefit greatly from using crowdsourcing. If you haven’t heard of the term, don’t worry; I’ll fill you in. According to Wikipedia,

Wikipedia Logo

“Crowdsourcing is the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas, or content by soliciting contributions from a large group of people, and especially from an online community, rather than from traditional employees or suppliers.”

           Crowdsourcing can take place in a variety of ways. For example, the definition I included came from Wikipedia. Wikipedia is a crowdsourcing website that thrives off users writing and editing articles. It’s awesome in the sense that anyone can contribute. Baseball Haven Logo

            Like Wikipedia, crowdsourcing is a perfect fit for small and rural towns because they both rely on the same thing, a strong community. When this community works together towards a common goal, cool things can happen. In the case of a small town in Connecticut called Torrington, an organization called Our Baseball Haven used a form of crowdsourcing called crowdfunding to bring summer collegiate baseball back to their town. Local residents were offered the chance to buy into the baseball team for a fee of $100. If they decided to buy in, they received member voting rights that allowed them to vote on issues relating to the team. Crowdfunding

            I love this example because it shows how community collaboration can create powerful results. It also gives insight into the endless possibilities that can be achieved. For example, what happens if members of your community started talking about how awesome it would be to have an ice cream then shop downtown. By using the power of crowdfunding, these people could donate money to a fund towards the development of an ice cream shop. As I said before, the possibilities are endless! If you want to see a good example of a community using crowdsourcing to help revitalize their downtown, check out Bristol Rising .

            As a rural business, crowdsourcing can also have enormous benefits.

  • Need help deciding on a logo? Include a poll on your website to allow customer’s express their opinions.
  • Need help deciding on a new dish for your restaurant? Ask your customers on Facebook.
  • Want to know what products your customers wished you carried? Create conversations with them on Twitter.

            I think you get the general idea. If you want to get more information on how to use crowdsourcing for your small business, check out Business News Daily’s article, Crowdsourcing Business Ideas: How to Do It. Crowdsourcing

            Luckily, there are many different crowdsourcing services currently available. I’ve included a couple examples to showcase how diverse some of these crowdsourcing campaigns can be.

  • Feed the Hearts -Members earn virtual currency by taking surveys, watching videos, and shopping to fund up-and-coming musicians.
  • Crowd Rise -Offers the ability to create an online fundraiser for any social cause.
  • Kickstarter -Online fundraiser for creative projects.
  • Cause Pub -Crowdsourcing for publishing books.

            Do you have any good examples of how crowdsourcing could be used for your current or potential businesses? I’ve always thought a cool idea for crowdfunding a BBQ restaurant would be for every person who donated $50 or more gets a personalized brick with their name and a quote on it. These engrained bricks would then be made into some fixture located at the business. I’m curious to hear your ideas though. It doesn’t matter if your idea isn’t feasible; I encourage thinking outside the box!

Downtown Revitalization Using the Three Rules of Five

       To piggyback on yesterday’s post; I want to provide some commentary on an article that Martin Lindstrom wrote to help promote his series on The Today Show, “Main Street Makeover”. In the article, Lindstrom provides three rules to apply to your business to avoid becoming one of the 100,000 small businesses in the US that go out of business every year. These three rules are called the “Rule of Five”. Here’s a short summary of the rules:

    Here’s a short summary of the rules:
  1. 1. Does your customer spend more than five minutes in your store each visit?
  2. 2. Do more than five of your customers recommend your business to friends and family?
  3. 3. Do your customers refer back to your window display more than five times a week?

       If you caught yourself answering no more than once, Lindstrom believes that’s a problem. The problem arises because according to his research, there is significant evidence to the benefits of sticking to these rules.

  • Stunning window displays have the potential to double revenue.
  • For every additional minute a customer spends in your store, they spend an extra 1%.
  • Customers who recommend your business to others spend an extra 10% each visit.

       He also provides several strategies to take advantage of these rules; however you can follow the link I provided at the top of this post to learn more.

       Now that I provided some background information on Lindstrom’s article, I want to evaluate it in the perspective of a business owner in a small town. First off, I have to agree with his three rules for the most part. However, I don’t believe that customers need to refer back to your store front’s window displays more than five times a week. I think a more realistic number is once or twice, but that completely depends on what type of products or services you offer.

Marketing Funnel

       The reason why I believe customers only need to refer back to your window displays once or twice a week is because although a window display can be part of the awareness phase of the marketing funnel, it’s part of the consideration phase for most customers. This is due to the fact that making customers in a small town aware of your business isn’t the hard part; it’s the consideration phase that causes business owners trouble. You want to educate your customers about your products so that they are more tempted to shop local rather than going to a large city nearby. I think of this strategy of educating customers in two phases.

       Going back to our window display example, this could be called our initial phase of educating our customers. This display tells a simple description of your business and your businesses purpose. The description can include anything from specials, discounts, or just general information about your business. Somewhere on this window display, there should be information for customers to find out more about what you just described. This information could include a link to your website or details about where this additional information could be found online.

Window Display

       Once the customer then visits the online area you have designated, you can partake in the second phase of educating your customers. In this phase, you do your best to completely educate your customers on what you sell and the value that your products or services will provide for them. Once your customers are educated on your what products or services you offer, they will be much more likely to shop at your business. *include marketing funnel illustration *include small business window display picture

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    If you’re anything like me, you love to hear about the hard work business owners put in behind the scenes. Sometimes though, this hard work isn’t directly translated into success. This is where branding expert Martin Lindstrom comes in. In The Today Show’s special, Main Street Makeover, Lindstrom works with small business owners to help turn around their diminishing businesses. I hope this video strikes a chord with you and in the process, you gain some valuable insight how to better run your small town business.

Captializing on Small Town Stereotypes

            Today I was listening to KOKE FM on the radio and I was astonished that I was actually paying attention to a commercial. Now this commercial wasn’t selling some ground breaking product, it was just a regular old advertisement. However, unlike a regular old advertisement, this one had a different feel to it; it felt genuine. For a lot of people this can seem shocking since most advertisements seem more calculated than genuine.  

            By now you’re probably wondering, what was so different about this one radio ad. To tell you the truth, it wasn’t all that original. In fact, a lot of radio stations do the same type of ad that KOKE FM did. It merely consisted of a well-known radio jockey talking about some service or product and how well it worked for them. But despite the similarities of this ad with others of its kind, this one was purely genuine. It’s hard to describe what exactly I mean, but if you heard it you would understand immediately.

            I bring this up because this is a large advantage that a lot of small towns possess. The level of genuineness seems to be a natural characteristic of small towns. As a result, businesses in these small areas have the advantage of capitalizing off this. Now this doesn’t have to be limited to radio or televisions ads, it can be applied to any part of your business; anything from your social media efforts to your in-store customer service. The important fact here is that you’re using it. This comes incredibly handy for businesses that heavily rely on touristy. It helps differentiate your business and gives out-of-town customers a fresh perspective on things.

            All in all, there are certainly many advantages for doing business in a small town and being genuine is one of them. Simply put, two commonly perceived stereotypes of small towns are that everything is slow paced and the people are nice. Might as well take advantage of the stereotype and continue to grow your business in the meantime.

Shotgun Lovesongs

Shotgun Lovesongs

       If you’re looking for a book that resonates with the culture of small town residents, look no farther. Nickolas Butler gathers inspiration from numerous small towns to deliver a compelling novel about how four childhood friends deal with their journey in life as adults. Although the book’s plot takes place in rural Wisconsin, Butler believes the book can strike a chord with readers of any geographic location.

“The feedback I’ve been getting from people in other states is that it doesn’t matter that it’s in Wisconsin,” he said. “They can see their own small town, which really makes me happy. People are connecting with it more than I thought they would.”

       Although I could go on for days talking about how great this book is, I think it’s better if you make that decision for yourself. If you head on over to 77 Square , they have a great write about the book with comments from the author. However, if you’re already intrigued enough to really see what all the talk about this book is about, I’ve included a link to the book on Amazon.

Using Deal-of-the-Day Services

     Deal-of-the-day services such as Groupon have had vocal critics of their services, in particular of their pricing model. Critics say that Groupon’s commission of 50% might be too high, but personally I see nothing wrong with it. Despite certain circumstances, Groupon shouldn’t be used solely for monetary objectives for businesses in small towns. Instead, I think it’s great for increasing a brand’s visibility. Due to the public’s awareness of Groupon, many people can find out about new places relatively easy by using the service. This becomes extremely beneficial for a new business looking to gain potential reoccurring customers.

     If you’re interested in tips on using Groupon, check out How to Avoid Getting Burned by Daily Discount Sites . However, if you’re only looking for a platform to host your deals, Try It Local. Might be more your style. A cool thing about using Try It Local is that if you only choose to run one discount a month, you pay 0% commission to them. However, there is a fee of $9.99/monthly if you choose to run more than one discount a month. Note that you are responsible for credit card transaction costs for your customer’s purchases.

     My two cents, businesses in small towns should only use Groupon if potential customers in your area use Groupon regularly. If they do use Groupon regularly, make sure your products or services are a good fit. Personally, I would advocate using Try It Local’s services. It’s not a massive financial obligation, and it allows you to personally market your deals through your other social channels such as Facebook and Twitter. In the end, it’s all about growing awareness for your business. How you do that is your decision.

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