No business operates in a vacuum, and the success of your business can be heavily influenced by the success of your whole neighborhood. Making friends with your neighbors and working together can help everyone succeed. The more reasons you give for people to come out to your neighborhood to eat, shop, and play, the better the experience will be for each customer coming to visit your restaurant. Try not to think about each business as competition but as partners. When everyone in a neighborhood is working together, it has a huge impact on everyone’s success.
Here are my 5 favorite tips for reaching out and working well with your neighbors:
1. Introduce Yourself
Sounds obvious, I know, but it’s so easy to spend all your time running your business and never getting out your own door. Devote some time to doing a loop around your neighborhood and popping into all the shops to introduce yourself. People who work in retail are running their own store, but are also ambassadors for your neighborhood and city. They are constantly being asked for recommendations for other places to check out. If you’re brand new to the scene consider bringing them your menu, coupons for their staff, or even little samples. They’re far more likely to recommend you if they have first hand knowledge of your business. You’re all in it together, so don’t just talk about what they can do for you, ask how you can help them.
2. Connect On All Social Platforms
Be sure you are connected to all your neighbors on the social platforms that you use and share your social media handles so they can follow you. Create a Twitter list to easily check in on the neighborhood tweets. Retweet and share each their posts and updates and they’ll be likely to do the same for you. If your neighbor is having a huge sale, help her spread the news. Someone who comes down for a new pair of shoes may feel like meeting up with a friend for a drink afterward. Also, just comment and engage a lot, even with other restaurants, chime in if they’re posting delicious looking photos or are having an event themselves.
3. Partner Up
Always stay up to date on what people have going on and see if you can be a part of it. Is one of your neighbors having an event? See if you can get involved by offering some snacks, coupons for their goodie bags, or be an official sponsor if it’s something like an annual party. Being involved means you can potentially get included on promotional materials, and it helps you reach an audience that you may not otherwise reach.
4. Plan Neighborhood Events
One sale is a great reason to come into a neighborhood but three sales is even better. Coordinate with your neighbors to see what events they are planning and see if you can jump in on the fun. Maybe everyone with a receipt from one shop gets a free dessert with their dinner, or a free appetizer with two glasses of wine. Likewise, maybe diners who eat with you during Restaurant Week get a discount at a shop.
5. Start a Merchant Association
These can be a lot of work, but can also be incredibly beneficial to a neighborhood if people are engaged and enthusiastic to participate. Being able to coordinate bigger events like block parties or pooling money for larger advertising efforts can make a big difference for small businesses. The key to the success of a merchant association is having everyone on board, with clearly defined roles and active participation, so that everyone contributes to the success and no one gets burned out by feeling like they’re carrying others along.
Added benefit to working with your neighbors? Meeting other entrepreneurs, restauranteurs and getting to know the people making your neighborhood tick.
Writer Bio: Kristin Crane is a writer and designer living in Providence, Rhode Island. She works with small businesses to help them promote themselves in various industries including food, wine, and the arts. She also contributes as Travel Editor to The Lady Project blog.