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How to Be Your Customers'
  • 06 September 2017
  • Daniel Vahab

How to Be Your Customers' "Third Place"

According to Ray Oldenburg, an urban sociologist and author of The Great Good Place, third places are informal, public gathering places that serve to unite the neighborhood. They allow people to simply enjoy their surroundings and forget about their concerns—unlike first places (the home) and second places (the workplace). Coffee shops, cafes and main streets are often at the heart of a community’s energy. Think about these tips if you’re interested in creating a third place around your business for customers to come together and socialize.

1. Implement a multi-channel marketing approach

Many small business owners focus all of their marketing efforts on one major channel. In order to stay ahead of your competitors, you need to be creative and branch out. You might already be leveraging traditional marketing outlets such as television commercials, print ads, and billboards. But it’s important to keep today’s digital age in mind as you shape your marketing budget. Are you taking full advantage of outreach opportunities available through email marketing, content marketing, and social media marketing? For the best results, you should strive for a marketing plan that includes a mix of owned, paid, and earned media. By implementing a multi-channel approach to get the word out about your business, you will be one step closer to becoming your customers' go-to spot.

2. Market your business locally

The more you know about your target audience, the better. If, for example, some of your most valuable customers (and others like them) love to see films at a particular local theater, you may want to build a relationship with that local business, looking for marketing opportunities that may be mutually beneficial. Maybe you’d be able to post advertisements in the theater if you keep a current “Now Playing” flyer in your business. Or perhaps you can work together to create a special promotion or local event that rewards customers for supporting both local businesses.

3. Create an experience

It’s not enough to have a great product or service – you also need to deliver a memorable experience in order to maintain a competitive edge. An experience can be created in many different ways, whether through service, emotion, or senses. Think about natural tie-ins for complementary things people might do during or after they buy/consume/use a product or service that you sell. Consider how Starbucks has evolved in recent years to a place where people hang out. When you walk in, you see people chatting, working remotely, or simply relaxing, they’re not just getting coffee. Most people can describe their last experience at Starbucks in detail, from the friendly baristas to the way it smelled, what they heard when they visited, and even the local artwork they looked at while visiting.

Ask yourself whether you’re creating an optimal experience in your brick-and-mortar location.

The bottom line

As Forbes reports, Oldenburg's third place must "be convenient, inviting, serve something, and have some good regulars (which, he says, is actually more important than having a good host)." Still looking for a little inspiration? Think of your local community, and the things that make you really like a particular place. Then try to incorporate some of those community-building attributes into your brick-and-mortar location.

What steps are you taking to establish your business as your customers' third place?

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