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What’s Your Small Business Vibe?


locally owned restaurant atomosphere

Friendly? Uptight? Hipster? Disheveled? Disinterested? Every small business has a vibe. And it typically plays a HUGE part in defining your small business brand. In fact, I would argue it’s often more important than any product or service you’re selling. Your customers experience it the moment they walk in your front door. It shapes the way they perceive you, your products and your services. It defines their shopping experience.

Right before Halloween, I had a chance to check out The Penn Avenue Fish Company. Their vibe was the first thing that greeted me at the door.

Although I couldn’t pin it down precisely, they had music playing in the background that gave the place an urban hipster vibe. Whatever it was, it immediately told me two things 1) it’s probably not in the regular rotation on Spotify and 2) that’s the way they want it. They understand that music helps to create a mood.

But you don’t have to be a trendy restaurant for music to matter—the same rule applies whether you own a hair salon, bicycle shop, gas station, or consignment shop (actually, I think it also extends to your “hold” music but I’m going to save that one for a future post). Think about the mood you want to create for your customers and choose your music accordingly. If you don’t know where to start, think about what you like to listen to.

The next thing I noticed was the guy standing behind the sushi counter. He was dressed from head to toe in Native American garb. I’m still not sure if that was his Halloween costume (99%) or if it was his “everyday walking around” outfit (1%), but either way it was memorable. It had a way of making you feel like you were part of an “in” crowd even if you didn’t know it existed.

What made it cool wasn’t his outfit, but the fact that he was cool enough to wear it and that The Penn Avenue Fish Company was cool enough to let him—both of which helped to reinforce that same urban hipster vibe you could glean from their music selection. Their employees created a unique personality for their business in much the same way Southwest Airlines was able to do (think “jokester/unconventional airline”). 

Of course, to be successful over the long haul you need to have a great vibe and a great product. To that end, I have to say the folks at The Penn Avenue Fish Company didn’t disappoint. The sushi was delicious, the music and lighting were just right, and the guy wearing the Halloween costume was just the icing on the vibe cake. 

Think about your vibe—what’s the personality of your business? Fancy costumes notwithstanding, what makes it truly unique and memorable?


[Image: Flickr user atl10trader]

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