This post goes out to all of the businesses, especially the independent mom and pops, who assume that just because a neighborhood has density, that neighborhood will support your business. These thoughts apply to any neighborhood in any part of the country.
I’ve lived in Chicago’s South Loop neighborhood for eight years. Some call it the land of high rises, but those of us on the inside track know that sure, we have high rises, but there are townhomes, great lofts and other spaces that make the area one of the best to live with families. We also know that there are so many amazing parks tucked in the corners and side streets, it would make anyone north of Roosevelt jealous.
I’ll also state the obvious perks - we enjoy amazing walking distance to all of the cities museums, in addition to being a stone’s throw away from Soldier Field and Chinatown.
Because we are a savvy bunch (did I fail to mention the organized parent groups that are down here, with members in the hundreds?) of city dwellers, we also pounce on the excitement and opportunities bestowed down to us from new businesses setting up shop. How savvy are we?
If it isn’t a fellow parent, especially moms, we would be getting some email forward, tweet or Facebook message from one of many groups down here: Greater South Loop Association, Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance and South Loop Neighbors. Or, one of the Aldermen would send out an email blast. Or we would read some of the blogs dedicated to the area.
Net net, we like to stay in the know because we enjoy living here.
This is where things get a little wonky. Businesses post their license outside their doors. Construction begins. Chatter starts to pick up online and amongst neighbors for MONTHS. Then the business opens. That’s it. In all the time I’ve lived here, I can’t seem to remember ANY real proactive marketing, announcements or neighborhood-how-ya doing effort by any non chain business. Zilch.
It’s only AFTER some of these businesses realize how strong and tight the larger South Loop/Printer’s Row/Prairie District is do they begin talking back to people on Facebook. Here we are, doing what is essentially free advertising/word of mouth for these businesses, yet so many of them don’t put any effort into getting to know the neighborhood or marketing to us. It amazes me.
We’ve had many businesses open, then close. I don’t know specifics behind every business closing, but I can guarantee that many of them didn’t have the foot traffic one would think they should. If you are a business who wants to open in the South Loop (or any neighborhood), please consider:
Starting a Facebook page/Twitter handle for your business. Place the handle on the OUTSIDE of the business right after you get the license posted.
Contacting the Alderman and every single local neighborhood organization to let them know you are opening shop.
Finding out if the neighborhood has mini neighborhood organizations and let them know you are coming
Contacting the local bloggers
Carving time out of your day OR hire an intern OR get a family member to do some basic online/social listening. What are people saying about you?
This is just the top of the iceberg as it relates to building a relationship with your new neighbors. Just as the work doesn’t stop with you getting inventory, materials, etc neither does the work behind using social media to build connections with people who would want to continue coming in the shop. So you had a terrific opening weekend. And now you were written up in Chicago Magazine. Congrats. This doesn’t mean that you get a free pass and shouldn’t market to your customers.
I know, it seems so easy. It’s alot of work. If you need help? Call me. Happy to help.