Northwest Business Magazine

Small-Business Marketing Strategies: The Strengths of Main Street

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Our thriving downtown districts present great opportunities to market your business. Susan Dobbe-Leahy, of Dobbe Marketing, explains how Main Street is making a difference.

“Main Street” small businesses are thriving, bringing with them lots of opportunities for you to find your own success.

Downtown communities are thriving in our country, as you’ll readily see here in northern Illinois.


Towns like Batavia, Crystal Lake, Woodstock, Geneva, Libertyville, Dixon and Sterling have recharged their pedestrian and historic districts with successful shops, restaurants and amusements.


Small business on Main Street is more popular than ever.


What does this mean for your small business? Opportunity is calling.


The nonprofit Main Street America has been helping to revitalize older and historic commercial districts for more than 35 years. Today, it’s a network of more than 1,600 neighborhoods and communities, both rural and urban in nature. They share a commitment to place and to building stronger communities through preservation-based economic development.


In Main Street communities, of which Crystal Lake is one, historic architecture honors the past, even as future-focused products and services are offered within. More families are living upstairs above these shops and restaurants. Old churches, movie theaters and bank buildings, once abandoned or neglected, have been given new life with arts venues, cultural gems, gourmet food, upscale furnishings, live music and many exclusive adventures for those boldly seeking the best and newest.


Small-business entrepreneurs find their niche by offering expertise, excellent service, added value and relationships built face-to-face – not to mention, an exciting and attractive location.


Living and working in a Downtown Main Street community requires collaboration between business leaders and owners. Inevitably, there results a rich synergy of ideas and creativity, in addition to cross-marketing opportunities that build stronger customer bases for everyone involved.


These communities have strategically differentiated themselves as destinations for consumers and tourists, using advertising, events, atmosphere, earned media and cultural panache to draw new visitors.


In 2018, Main Street America studied 1,147 Main Street communities to measure the economic impact of reinvestment in building rehabilitation, job generation and business recruitment. The outcome was astounding. On average, $25.64 was returned on every $1.00 invested.


Behind these dynamic economic engines is a well-developed volunteer organization to lead the effort. It may be a Main Street organization, a tourism bureau, or a chamber of commerce – all collectively minded organizations. Many are partially funded by the municipality or county with additional dollars raised through events and memberships.


You’ll quite often see in these volunteer organizations a dedicated effort to construct brand image, host public events and produce a rallying cry.

Campaigns are distributed through local and regional media, social media, and faraway publishers whose readers fit your ideal customers.


Each community has its unique variety of businesses. Explore kitchen gadget stores, bookstores, toy stores, musical instrument shops, Pilates studios, jewelry stores, paint-and-sip galleries, and escape rooms in many downtown districts. Dine on cuisine originating around the globe and served on everything from paper plates to fine china. Enjoy music, theater, paintings, sculpture, farmers markets and holiday celebrations – always presented with a special local spin.


The diversity and creativity offered by local businesses is a dynamic journey from past to present on Main Street.

Susan Dobbe-Leahy is president of Dobbe Marketing & PR Inc. Founded in 1989, this brand strategy agency leads businesses, organizations and municipalities to build brand image awareness and communication.

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