By Julie Bonnell, vice president operations, for the Resolutions blog series

Getting to know the other businesses in your area is a great way to springboard into attracting new customers. Understanding who is shopping their stores can help you refine your offerings to meet those customers’ needs and interests. Best of all, you can find ways to partner for mutual growth. Here are some great examples of like-minded businesses helping one another that I have experienced:

  • I live close to a butcher shop that features a service counter where people wait for custom cuts. Besides the self-serve coolers people can browse, the owner has a thermal carafe of coffee from the roaster a few blocks away with a stack of business cards next to it. Customers can enjoy a cup and see where to purchase that particular blend.businesses on main street
  • The main street in my neighborhood has a “shop the street” day a couple times per year. All the businesses – florists, bookstores, restaurants, art galleries, gift shops, and bars – promote the day with various signs and set up outside displays if the weather is nice. Store owners and staff engage with customers and frequently provide promotional fliers or samples from other stores along the street. These businesses work together to build interest in their fellow shopkeepers’ stores, and everyone benefits. The foot traffic continues to grow for this event.
  • Think this only works in an urban setting? On a trip to northern Wisconsin I stopped at a winery. The checkout clerk offered me a small map, made from internet software, showing how to get to a sausage maker in a nearby community and a cheesemaker in another. I had no idea these businesses existed; thanks to her simply bringing them to my attention, I visited both.

Take the first step. Go to stores that are drawing customers you would like to see in your store. See who’s shopping, when they’re shopping, and what they’re interested in. Think about ways you could meet needs that are not met by this merchant. Make some purchases so you know something about their services and products. Then, reach out to the manager/owner and see where the conversation takes you. A vibrant, cooperative business community can start with a simple cup of coffee.

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