I was walking through a retail hardware store and greenhouse in rural Kansas. The owner and I talked about the amazing selection he could keep in such a small town. He spent a little time lamenting all the things he used to be able to offer, but can’t anymore. Then we started brainstorming ideas for crazy events, things that sound like a distraction from his real business.
He could do Tool Days. Bring in the guy who does blade sharpening for the afternoon. Set up tents in the parking lot and have people teach how you use tools of all kinds. Do demonstrations and hands-on (appropriate) play with tools. Make it a fun deal.
He could hold dinner in the greenhouse. It’s a wonderfully green and lush space in dry Western Kansas. There’s room for a couple of tables, and there’s a bubbling fountain. It’s great! Let’s have dinner there! Get a local eatery or aspiring chef to cater. Have fun with it. Use a jungle theme. Get creative. Since there are only a couple of tables available, turn it into a super-exclusive special thing that not everyone can do. Sell out early.
You may think these events are a distraction from his real business of running the store and greenhouse, but I disagree. To survive in independent local retail today, you must provide an experience that can’t be duplicated by chain stores or online or in the big city.
It’s the same idea as having musicians on the sidewalks and artists in businesses during Art Walks. It’s like the Sip ‘n Shop events or downtown concerts. It’s all about an experience.
The challenge to you is to come up with your own distractions. What experiences can you provide to customers that they can’t get anywhere else?
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Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband have a small cattle ranch and are lifelong entrepreneurs. Becky is an international speaker on small business and rural topics.