We’ve heard you loud and clear. You LOVE hearing about all the new developments in Vermilion Parish. Well, we do too! But, with all the new development in the retail sector, we want to make sure our new entrepreneurs aren’t chasing their tails. This advice can really be used for all types of businesses, so if you’re an insurance agent, fitness coach, or babysitter, don’t look away. Here are some general tips that can help you get your business on the front page and in the forefront of shoppers’ minds and a nod to a few businesses we’ve found doing it right.

  1. Merchandising – now, I’ll admit, this can be a little tough if you don’t have tangible things to sell, but merchandising is key for a retailer. Have you ever been inside an establishment and “don’t know where to look”? Me too. It’s so frustrating to know what you want and not be able to find it. Or worse yet, knowing you need something, but hate the thought of making multiple trips around town or forgetting a key item. That’s where merchandising comes in. For a shop owner, taking the guess work out of a purchase is a quick way to loyalty, not to mention that grouping like items also gives the seller an opportunity to introduce new items to an interested buyer. Take a clothing store for example. I wandered into Beau Lane – a new clothing boutique in Maurice – earlier this month and was immediately drawn to a full ensemble ready to snatch up. Not only were the clothing pieces artfully put together, but the accessories that would be normally scattered throughout the store, were readily available on the same rack. For the novice shopper, gift giver, or person in a hurry, this added feature makes it easy to shop. Savvy boutique owner Kelli Pickett told me that she caters to moms on the go. Often with a job outside of the home, looking for easy to assemble wardrobes at good prices. Well, Kelli knows her customer! Her selection was fashionable, affordable, and merchandised to perfection. This can be done easily online, too. Pair up like or complementary items in a social media post to show a “back-to-school bundle of supplies” or a “barbeque chef’s toolkit.” No matter what you’re marketing, showing a few selections increases your likelihood of a purchase.
  2. Finding Your Niche – this is easier said than done when people are accustomed to bargain stores carrying everything from kitchen toys to the kitchen sink (quite literally). But, research shows that today’s shoppers are looking for more than just convenience. And as millennials become more active as consumers, retailers need to respond with a deeper understanding of their products and experience to really set themselves apart. What do I mean? Well, take another new business Backyard Pools & Oasis. I visited with owner Brock Dubois after his grand opening; he really understands his customers. What began as a full-service pool company turned into a full-service brick and mortar with supplies, accessories and most importantly, expertise. Rather than being served by a high-school kid who doesn’t know chlorine from chloroform, you are greeted with a seasoned professional who can walk you through home care or completely take over your pool operations if you’re “in too deep.” Brock gets that you can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be meaningful in your own field. Decide what you do and do it well. If you have a specialty in working with a certain type of client, advertise that. Use word of mouth to tell those networks how you can help them specifically. Clean up your inventory – sure someone may eventually by that random product, but if it’s taking up valuable floor space, it’s undoubtedly also taking up valuable mind space. Use your limited square footage to sell what you know and what fits with the rest of your wares.
  3. Visualize Success – Shoppers like to know what they’re getting before they ever step into your establishment, so without having a website it’s nearly impossible to get new customers. WRONG. Social media has become a game changer for new businesses. As Facebook becomes a search engine, potential customers are checking out businesses before their key ever hits the ignition. Experts used to say, “post to stay relevant,” but now it’s all about the visuals. Pictures and videos speak far louder than a few words. And well-timed photos delivered at peak shopping or planning hours are even more essential. Take my favorite new lunch spot, Soulful Eats. Proprietor Roderick Darby not only serves up mouthwatering dishes from fried fish to etouffee-stuffed baked potatoes (yep, you read that right), but he’s also manages to bring his tasty creations to your social media feed. As you get hungry before lunch around 11 am, the posts begin with not only pictures of the menu, but pictures of the dishes being served. All of us on the other side of the screen don’t have to decide what to grab for lunch, we’re being told where to go! It’s a genius and cost-effective means of reaching your customers.
  4. Cross Promotion – This is my favorite tip! Cross promotion lets business owners share in each other’s successes. No matter what you’re doing, there is bound to be a business out there with similar values. Chances are, if you care about the same things, you’re probably marketing to the same crowd. Consider a referral system. Maybe you’re a real estate agent, and you work with tons of new homebuyers. Wouldn’t it be great to refer them to a lender with experience in their market? Or maybe you’re a home store and having a basket of goodies delivered to that new homebuyer could be a great way to introduce your services. Maybe you make candles and that home store can sell your locally-made items knowing you’ll promote their establishment. See how this works? Find businesses that use the same level of care you use with your customers and work out an agreement. In the end, the customers will appreciate the extension of offerings, and your cash registers won’t be complaining either.

We are so excited to see the flurry of new businesses in all our Vermilion Parish communities. We want to share your success with our readers, too. If you or someone you know is doing great things in the business community, or has a good tactic worth sharing, please contact us at info@developvermilion.org or (337) 740-0433 to discuss how to get noticed. And remember to always Keep It Local, Vermilion. The success of these businesses depends on all of us making purchases and frequenting these Vermilion Parish companies.