-- Bandera Business Association -- Four ingredients for a good downtown
Local downtown business owners understand the challenges of getting the customer in the door. Small towns across American face a growing crisis from competition from large malls and super stores offering a promise of better prices and bigger selections.
People are funny though and statistics also show that the small business owner can have an advantage - if they market properly.
Well known "Destination Marketing" specialist Roger Brooks shares his take on a "Good Downtown." A strong proponent of rebuilding downtown markets, he has made a really good living promoting this concept.
It is not enough for business owners to purchase products or develop services and just open the doors. They must look beyond the obvious and create the desire for a shopper to buy. Here are his suggestions:
• Create the 'Third Place' - Brooks purports that people are looking for the "Third Place" - a place to gather with friends and neighbors during their leisure time to socialize, relax, shop, dine and play together.
According to Ray Oldenburg, author of "The Great Good Place," the "First Place" is your home. The "Second Place" is where you work. The "Third Place" is where you go to hang out, spend your leisure time. If your downtown is a vibrant place where locals go to shop, dine and hang out, visitors will go too. But if locals don't hang out there, visitors won't either.
• Stop being all things to all people - We cannot be all things to all people. Thousands of advertising messages saturating the market cause people to simply tune out. Focus on what makes you unique and worth the drive, and promote the heck out of it. Don't try to be the "something for everyone" destination. That kind of promotion is largely ignored. This is why Bandera has been so successful at marketing the Cowboy Capital of the World. It makes our downtown special.
• Jettison the generic - If your marketing messages apply to just about any business, anywhere, it's time to take a fresh look at what makes you unique. Remember "stop being all things to all people?" It's worth repeating, and it has to carry into your marketing messages. Phrases such as "something for everyone," "unique," "discover" - and the most overused of them all - "a great place to live, work, and play" - should be avoided at all costs. If it is so generic it could apply to anyone, throw it out! Tell people what makes you special. Generic messages are meaningless and ineffective.
• Downtowns & tourism organizations must work together - Tourism is the front door to your non-tourism economic development efforts, and creating a great downtown is a big part of that process. Downtowns and tourism organizations should be joined at the hip. Working to create an inviting downtown will enhance all your tourism and economic development efforts, as well as creating that "Third Place" that locals and visitors are looking for.
Join the Bandera Business Association and the Bandera County Chamber of Commerce. Together we can enhance our "Good Downtown."
Source: Roger Brooks Destination Marketing.