Are you available to your customers? What I really mean is your business information available to customers?
Today when travelers are planning their visit to the Great Allegheny Passage, most are pre-planning where they will start, eat, play, sleep, and so on all from the comfort of their home on their personal computers. Finding out where they might eat can happen before the trip by checking out sites such as urbanspoon.com or tripadvisor.com. Both of these and other sites offer reviews from existing customers on service and quality of various establishments. Have you ever checked out your reviews? This is an opportunity for you to see what customers think about your product. A bad review listed can result in less new customers coming off the bike trail into your business. In some cases, business owners are able to reply back to both good and bad reviews to help ease the concerns or positives of the reviews. Business owners should consider these pages as an addition to an exist webpage or an unexisting webpage. Having the correct infomation - hours, telephone, contact, address, etc - are all essential to getting customers to your door. Having a wrong address can turn into someone else's business!
Many businesses also use Facebook and Twitter as their own website. These free services can let you see where your customers are coming from, but also let them share stories about their experience at your lodging or dinning facility that can encourage others to visit your business as well. Tagging other popular pages such as the GAP Facebook page can extend your reach and increase your advertising for free!
Another online opportunity is having your infomation on the offical GAP Trail website - www.gaptrail.org. While bicyclists are checking out mileage and town infomation they are also checking out where to eat and sleep during their trip. Make sure your business information is available and can be linked to your website. In addition to having your information posted on the offical GAP website, you may also consider investing in a web ad. Several options are available and many businesses that have or currently do advertise here have seen an increase of both web traffic but also customer traffic to their business.
In addition to having the right infomation on the web, make sure your have the right information at your physical address. Establishing and displaying your business hours will first off let people know when you are available, but also when they can come back! A plain OPEN/CLOSED sign will not do the trick. Window shoppers are both locals and visitors who are looking to do shopping or eating. Perhaps they have only viewed your business with a "Sorry, Closed" sign. This could lead to a potential customer thinking you could be out of business and that's not good for business. Posting your address, contact information, and hours help customers plan their visit to your store, especially if they are planning a back and forth trip on the GAP and would like to stop in on their way back from biking the day (or days). Also, if you have any special sales or food of the day, pair this next to your hours and intruige guests to spend time and money in your Trail Town.
Posting at your physical address is always helpful, but have you considered additional advertising right on the Trail? At many major trail heads, bulletin boards are available to post infomation about the trail but also the neighboring community. Each location might have different rules or regulations regarding posting, so make sure to double check with the local trail group. Here you can reach those that use the trail on a daily basis and those who are passing through from Pittsburgh to DC and in between. Information about your business on the trail can allow trail users to explore your unique community and check out your business.
These are just a few simple ideas to get your infomation (and the correct infomation) out to potential new customers. Are you considering taking a few of these steps for your business? Using these tools can help promote and develop your Trail Town business!