• 57°

Downtown Salisbury presentation helps small businesses in ‘the age of Amazon’

SALISBURY — Larissa Harper wants downtown business owners to think of her as their advocate.

“We decided it was really important to show business owners in the downtown the variety of ways that we can support them,” said Harper, director of Downtown Salisbury Inc.

To show that, the agency asked national consultant Hilary Greenberg to give a presentation at the Salisbury Business Center on Tuesday morning.

Harper said she saw Greenberg make the presentation — “Competing in the Age of Amazon” — at this year’s North Carolina Main Street conference in Clayton.

“And I thought, ‘Well this was the perfect topic from what we were hearing with business owners downtown in our talks and conversations with them,’” Harper said.

In her presentation, Greenberg talked about five ways small businesses can compete in the modern era.

One of her five tips was to know who your customer is.

“I ask a business, ‘Who’s your customer?’ and they go, ‘Oh, honey, it’s everybody,’” Greenberg said. “And I say, ‘Well, what do you mean by that?’ (They say,) ‘We have folks from 200 miles away.’”

Greenberg said if customers come only when they are visiting out-of-town relatives, they are not a target market.

“So a lot of us really don’t know our customer. We started knowing our customer, but over time that customer has changed,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg said businesses could get to know their customers by gathering focus groups, getting demographic reports or doing sales gap analyses.

“You need to know whether what you are selling matches their lifestyle and behavior,” Greenberg said. “And you need to know whether that behavior is going to be changing over time and how do you adjust to it.”

Greenberg said customers are gravitating more toward experiences and personalization than in previous years.

“And these are things, thank God, we actually kind of do have some competitive advantage,” Greenberg said. “So it’s not all doom and gloom. We may not be able to do the same delivery and technology, but we can do other things.”

Greenberg said one of the most important things downtown businesses can do is work together.

“I think there’s beauty and power in working as an organization that far transcends what any one of you can do individually,” Greenberg said.

Greenberg said having a “game plan” would be the first step.

“That is something that DSI is working on right now, and they’re still fine-tuning. But you want to really understand who you are and what you have to work with,” Greenberg said.

After her presentation, Greenberg said it was meant to “kick off DSI’s commitment to supporting small businesses.”

“One workshop is not going to solve anybody’s problem. But the idea being is that they’re starting to focus on what we can do in Salisbury to protect, because you guys actually have a lot of good small businesses,” Greenberg said. “So the question is how do we support them and help them if they want to grow, expand or change?”

Harper told business owners gathered Tuesday that, as a former small business and restaurant owner, she understands their concerns.

“I’ve been up 24 hours. I’ve had a cook not come in and had to throw on an apron and get to cooking,” Harper said.

Harper said she wanted to meet with downtown business owners one-on-one to see where Downtown Salisbury could help them.

“Let’s set some time when you don’t have customers, when you’re not having to stock inventory, and let’s have some one-on-one time. Because I’d love to talk with you,” Harper said.

Harper said another DSI presentation on marketing businesses on Google is planned soon.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

Comments

Crime

Prosecution weaves story of betrayal as trial begins for man charged with killing father

Elections

Alexander, Sheffield maintain lead in cash on hand, fundraising in mayor, City Council race

Education

Livingstone offers full scholarship to Liberian teen who returned money

Education

Realtors association donates $3,000, books to Yum Yum Bus Program

Education

RSS celebrates principals in October

Education

Shout outs

Local

‘It all comes back to community’: Rowan United Way three-fourths of way through campaign

China Grove

In bid for China Grove Town Council, Cheryl Sheets hopes to ‘pay it forward’

Education

Education briefs: Catawba helps build Habitat home

Education

Students take a trip into the past at the Roller Mill

News

Cooper still hopeful on budget deal with NC Republicans

Nation/World

Biden urges bill over ‘finish line’ as Dems eye new surtax

Nation/World

Cheap antidepressant shows promise treating early COVID-19

News

Former North Carolina sheriff indicted on additional charges

News

She asked to bring oxygen to work — they fired her instead

Crime

Blotter: Oct. 27

Crime

Man faces charges in juvenile’s shooting on West Bank Street

Education

RSS gets clean audit, firm says no misappropriations of school funds

News

Rowan County recalibrates plans for Woodleaf Community Park after missing out on grant funding

News

NC NAACP elects first woman as president; Salisbury’s Black finishes third

Coronavirus

FDA OKs Pfizer vaccine for young kids

News

State news roundup: Davidson County parents charged in abuse of 6-week-old

Coronavirus

COVID spread down substantially in North Carolina, state data shows

Sports

ACC eyes new headquarters options outside Greensboro