Climbing Out Of The Box For Business Success

I came across this article this week and I found it interesting to see how much rural Kansas has and hasn’t changed in the last 50 years. Our economy is still fueled by the agriculture sector but most of the disposable income comes from families where both parents are working and often have small windows to shop between 9-5. Some creative ideas may be needed to figure out how to accommodate the modern shopper. We have unique opportunities to draw in shoppers, reach new ones online, and keep our locals shopping here on evening or weekends. 



We hear it all the time. Just “think outside the box” they say but what does “thinking outside the box” really mean for business?

It means this. In today’s competitive, social media-oriented world we need to look at how we run our business from a completely different perspective. Frankly, there are no more “mom and pop” businesses, open at 8 sharp, close at 6 sharp and never open on Sundays, but that doesn’t mean mom and pop can’t still have a successful business.

People today do not maintain a 9 to 5, Monday through Friday schedule. In the business world, we must look at the demographic who has the disposable income and strive to meet those needs. Today that demo is the millennials and Generation X. They are consumers to the max and spend even when they shouldn’t. So how do we capture some of that disposable income for local business?

First, we can fill the needs that cannot be obtained on the internet. What does this mean? (Yes, it’s true there really are things not available on the internet like time with friends and family and we can use that to succeed in business.) It means that, while every business should be supplemented as much as possible with e-commerce sales, making those sales successful very often starts with an “in person” experience. This distinguishes your business from a gazillion other e-commerce stores and your customers will look for you on-line.

Those of us in economic development love and strive for, what I call the “linger effect”. It is a simple concept really. The longer a person “lingers” in a specific area, the more that person feels a connection to that area. Now, let’s translate it to business. The longer a person “lingers” in or near your business the more money he/she will spend and the longer he/she will remember the experience they had and the products they purchased. Next, let’s apply that to a downtown area, a specific “linger” area. It might be a two or three block space where people come to meet, talk, share “selfies” have lunch or buy a really unusual or unique gift. A place to “hang out” (and while doing so, dropping some of that discretionary cash, Folks!) Or, it might be a whole town or city, a campsite, an event. You get the picture.

Next, in order to make our “linger” area a success (and therefore our businesses) we must brand it. Oh, yes, there it is…. my favorite word when it comes to marketing success. Somehow, I just don’t think the company’s success would be the same if Pepsi called itself that Soda Pop Company. Too many small rural Kansas communities are just like the next one down the road. We must “brand” our downtowns and communities in Dickinson County to stand out and be “the place to hang-out” (linger, my Friends). We must create a unique atmosphere that leaves us with a memory and affection for what we have experienced.

Okay, easier said than done, right? Well, here’s when that pesky box usually shuts its flaps and we are stuck inside. In the past several weeks I have been contacted by several businesses telling me they can no longer make it. They tell me they are open 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday, have no online presence and do little or no marketing. Well, I can tell right away that the demographic they are catering to are the unemployed. Most of those with disposable income work those hours and don’t shop! Today, we even get our oil changed at 7 or 8 on a Tuesday night. So what’s to do? Maybe we want to spend time with our families, maybe we’re just not into making money, maybe, oh, I could go on for a million reasons but what is the solution? The “Linger Effect”! Economic Development is a funny thing. It is like throwing a rock in a pond. One opportunity creates ripples that produce other opportunities.

Oh, yeah! And it goes like this. If you draw consumers to your location or near it, your store will have a presence whether you are open or not. (If you have a website be sure your domain is right there in plain sight in your window. And you must have a website!) Let’s say, you want to be open from 6am to 2pm. And let’s say downtown prime space is scarce and expensive. How about partnering with a business that will open in your location from 4pm to 10pm? You are creating an “after work” linger area and a place to “experience”. It cuts down on overhead, you can share marketing expenses and can draw more consumers your way. Creating a special “downtown” district can open up the opportunity for unique, eclectic businesses, shops and food places that bring dollars to Dickinson County. Developing an outdoor eating or drinking area, maybe evening street entertainment, well, the ideas just keep coming. Actually, that’s called “thinking outside the box”. Just sayin’……

Jodie Stickney, Executive Director

Dickinson Co. Economic Development Corp. 785-280-9278