We aren’t exactly out of winter yet. We are just one week removed from a -32 degree wind chill, but warmer weather is becoming more frequent. With the weather change, a cooped up populace is looking for more reasons to venture outdoors. We are still in a pandemic, so some of that outdoor exploration can be problematic if we don’t prepare. The pandemic itself doesn’t excuse us from some of our basic spring cleaning duties, because customers will still want to venture out.
The following are a few “to do” items as we prepare for spring:
- Do a visual inspection of your building exterior: When it’s super cold the last thing we want to do is spend time looking over our building. As it warms up, your exterior sets your first impression for customers. Your sidewalk, painted areas, windows, downspouts, and general cleanliness will tell customers a lot about your operation prior to walking through your front doors. What type of message are you sending? Is everything in a good state of repair?
- Plan for engaging customers starting outdoors: This doesn’t apply to all business types. Some businesses can’t really operate outdoors, and sidewalk widths coupled with ADA restrictions can make some outdoor engagement difficult. However, people are more comfortable with outdoor engagement than indoor options right now. Finding ways for certain businesses to emphasize the outdoors and engage customers in areas where they feel more comfortable could generate profits (if you have a plan to clean and monitor areas). How can you market your outdoor options and improve outdoor engagement of your customers?
- Cleaning inside and out: Spring cleaning needs to be a thing, especially during pandemic protocols. People want to forget the cold and breathe in something more fresh and clean. This is an opportunity to scrub down your building and segment areas for staff for “deep clean” opportunities. Do some rearranging. Change up your décor. Businesses that activate people’s senses to “think spring” will be more successful in engaging spring merchandise or services sales.
- Meet with local service professionals: As we switch from heat to air, how long has it been since you talked to your local HVAC provider? We hope that all the creepy crawlies froze last week (they didn’t), but it’s a good idea to talk to your local pest control agent. If you need to engage your outdoor spaces, contacting your local lumberyard or home improvement store may provide ideas.
- Engage through experiences: Again, we need to stay safe, but people have cabin fever that has only been made worse through a long series of pandemic restriction months. Give people an excuse for smaller groups that can be socially distanced to get out. Small tours, exclusive shopping experiences, safely planned group “games” and other activities can help drive traffic and sales.
- Offer an escape: This is more of a marketing strategy than a planned extraction, but people have a pent up desire to get out of their current circumstances. How can you offer something that feels like a “stay-cation” with your current products and services? How can your business offer something that decreases stress and feels like a change in scenery without actually engaging travel.
- Keep promoting your safety protocols: We can’t really emphasize this point enough. We have vaccines, personal protective equipment, and other mitigation strategies available to curtail COVID. If things trend down far enough, we can have businesses operate in a more traditional format. If we get lax and things spike, we risk delaying denser operations or jeopardize events/activities that can have significant positive economic impacts for our region. We have to keep safety protocols up, and communicating those protocols as people emerge from their pseudo hibernation is important.
- Partner with Emporia Main Street for events: Emporia Main Street is working with health officials, elected leaders, and event organizers to plan activities. If those activities can be held, there will be some obvious advantages for businesses that get involved. Working with Main Street on individual consulting activities to integrate your business into events can be very important for business profitability and viability. If your business wants to explore involvement in upcoming events, please contact Emporia Main Street.
- Time for a positive push: Cold weather, prolonged COVID impacts, infrastructure issues, and decreases in consistent customer traffic have some people noticeably down. People would probably rather spend money with someone that is energetic and positive rather than someone reminding them of life’s woes. Your aura inside and outside of your business may need to evolve if you want to keep consumers attracted to your business. Do a morale check with your staff. What are some things you can do to install a more positive culture in your business?
- Gauge your public: Emporia Main Street has surveyed the local public at large, but it may be time for your business to independently reach out to your customers. How are they feeling? What steps can you take to make them more comfortable in your business environment? What special products or services should you plan for to meet their future needs? Give people the option to respond anonymously through survey programs (Emporia Main Street can help) because some customers may not be comfortable providing face-to-face honest feedback.
- Engage planning for “flipping the switch”: The pandemic continues, but restrictions won’t last forever (they will last for the foreseeable future, but not forever). What is your plan to scale up operations to meet increased capacity? What are your protocols for staffing and training? What would you need to do with your inventory management to meet increased consumer demands? Planning out your response now is significantly better than being caught flat footed as the pandemic shifts into new phases.
It’s time to pull out the check list and get things done! If the public response to Tuesday’s weather is any indication, people are craving some interaction, and going through the check list above can keep people safer while improving your sales. Write down your “to do” list, make a plan, and then prepare for Spring! If you have any questions about events, activities, business assistance, or other topics you need help with please reach out to Emporia Main Street.