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Business By the Numbers

Whether or not a small neighborhood business survives comes down to simple math. At the end of the month, employees, rent, and (dare I say it) owners need to get paid. And whether or not the business brought in enough money that month comes down to how many people walked into the store, how many of those people bought something, and how much did each of those people spend. Subtract your cost and you're left with your earnings. Simple.

So what does this tell us? Also simple. If we can get more traffic, more people will come into the store and which means more people will buy something. If the percentage stays the same and the only thing you did was bring in more people, you're in a better position.

So the million dollar question: how to get more people to come to your shop? Traditionally, you wanted to be in a high foot-traffic area so that people could find you easily. They see your store when they're shopping for something else. They know what you sell because it's up in your display window.

When it finally comes time for them to want to buy that item that they know you have, they will already have seen your store dozens of times, know that you're an established business, and have no second thoughts about walking in and making their purchase.

Today, the math and the strategy are the same. The tools and how people notice you is what has changed. When people already know your shop before buying anything, it means that they are aware of your brand. Building brand awareness in the web-based world of today is no different.

What's changed is that in the past, a small business was at the mercy of their rented, physical location. If you were in a mall that suddenly fell out of favor, or on a street that suddenly got hit with major construction (*cough cough* Montreal *cough*), you were doomed. Your math would stay the same but all of a sudden, your most valuable metric, the foot-traffic, was taken away.

If you were in a popular area of town, you would be at the mercy of property owners demanding high rent for busy shop-fronts. If you started doing well, you would have your rent raised and you would be stuck.

Today, you can build brand awareness online instead. Using tools like Facebook Ads and Google Adwords, you can make sure that people are used to seeing your brand before they decide to buy. When it comes time to search for a vendor online, they will have already recognized your logo and know that you're established. If they are looking for an item or an experience in their hometown, knowing your brand means that they will simply look you up by name. Building that solid name recognition is key.

But tools like Facebook Ads Manager and Google Adwords are extremely technical to implement and difficult for novice users to navigate. This is where hiring a marketing team comes into play. Get back to building your business and serving customers. Leverage the modern-day web to work for you by building brand awareness with your local community before they even know they want to buy from you.

Make sure you are found online and people know where your physical location is. Step one is to have a proper website with the proper analytics tools in place. Then you move on to building a solid plan for getting your name out to your local area. In the hands of a professional, advertising online is by far the cheapest option to get your brand recognized.

I obviously have a bias in favor of these strategies but I've seen time and time again small businesses struggle to keep up once their competition has woken up to the online world. My advice is to take the initiative before you're left behind.