April 20, 2011
With LRT construction in the Central Corridor under way, what are retail businesses doing to draw more customers to their doors — and how can consumers who want to see small businesses thrive in the Corridor best support them during this challenging stretch?
The short answer is: Discover Central Corridor. For businesses, it means reaching out more than before through new marketing approaches. And for consumers, the Discover Central Corridor campaign makes it easier to keep the local businesses top of mind. Here’s how:
1. Visit the campaign website where you can Like the Facebook page and Follow the Twitter feed. Also, there’s a list that follows the tweets of Corridor businesses on Twitter. Then use these social media to comment and spread the word to your friends.
2. Attend a Lunch on the Avenue. Luncheons are scheduled all the way into July.
4. Attend a Corridor event, such as the upcoming celebration of the arts, “Hats off to the Central Corridor,” on May 5.
5. Patronize and mention Corridor businesses. By shopping, eating and visiting along the route you not only support the merchants — you help counter the impression that they’re hard to reach.
How local businesses can reach out to customers.
The Business Resources Collaborative (BRC) is sponsoring Corridor-wide marketing initiatives designed to:
- raise awareness of businesses in the Corridor
- help individual businesses market more effectively
- and draw consumers to businesses during the construction.
The BRC’s role is to be the “instigator,” says business owner Chris Ferguson. “We meet as a group and coordinate the different efforts so they are done in sync, and the members do the programs.”
Discover CCLRT. The Discover Central Corridor campaign is a "buy local" initiative started by the St. Paul Chamber of Commerce that encourages Corridor businesses to adopt common branding and build awareness through social media and traditional marketing tactics. The Midway Chamber of Commerce supplements the branding program with a grassroots marketing plan and tools available at the Discover Central Corridor website. Go here to get your business listed and download tool kits.
About 100 establishments are already signed up and listed on the website’s interactive map that directs consumers to shopping, dining, entertainment and other services along the Corridor.
Social media. Facebook, Twitter and mobile phone applications provide business owners a timely, low-cost way to stay in touch with customers, says Zach Schwartz, Manager of Transportation for the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce.
While Zach produces content for the Discover CCLRT Facebook page and Twitter account, he emphasizes that businesses can take advantage of these tools themselves to interact directly with customers. “Construction is fast-paced and changing daily,” he said. “A business can use social media up to the minute to say take this route today or promote an event, a special or a new menu.”
Businesses can place their news themselves on the Facebook page. Zach reposts content from the Facebook page on Twitter, and he is available (firstname.lastname@example.org) to answer business questions about how to better use social media in their promotions. Here’s an example of tweets aggregated on @DiscoverCCLRT.
Perks Card. Nearly 60 businesses offer discounts or other specials through the Central Corridor Perks Card available free at participating merchants. Businesses can join the program from the Perks Card site. Consumers can also go there to request a card, receive email or text message alerts about current deals or download a smartphone application that searches for businesses in the program and serves up their promotions.
Lunch on the Avenue. The Midway Chamber of Commerce has put together an ongoing lunch series for Midway members every other Thursday noon at a selected location along University
Avenue. So far, 16 different establishments have hosted Lunch on The Avenue. The next is this Thursday, April 21st, at Café Biaggio. For information on upcoming locations, check out the Lunch on the Avenue Facebook page.
Special Events. The Midway Chamber is also sponsoring four special events along the Corridor this year. Coming up: “Hats off to the Central Corridor” on Thursday, May 5, 2011 at The Lyric at Carleton Place in St. Paul. Local artists will unveil artistic pieces made out of Styrofoam heads and hats to represent the Central Corridor. Food and music from the neighborhood will be part of the celebration.