Go ahead and pack up your holiday decorations, but keep in mind that the characteristics embodied by Santa Claus can influence your business strategy all year long.Read More
Everyone uses passwords. A lot of them. To exist online, either as a consumer or as a business owner, you must employ the use of secure passwords, and keeping track of them all is no picnic — especially if you're like me, and you try to come up with mixes of numbers and letters to make them extra secure. Like I once did, you probably find yourself more often than not racking your brain to recall that once so-clever-because-it's-so-tricky password, or even to remember which version of your usual password you've used for a particular site that you need to log into stat. "Remember Me" functions often have time limits (ex. two weeks), or are made null when you have to reset your browser or clear your cache. And sure, there's the "Forgot Password?" function, but even those can be time-consuming, especially when security questions you've long forgotten are involved.
The solution I've found for my business, and recommend to my clients, is 1Password, a software application that saves all your logins, e-mail accounts and identities in one easy-peasy virtual vault.
1Password is compatible with both Mac and Windows operating systems and its features go well beyond keychain tools that come with system software. Here's why:
+ This isn't just a matter of copying and pasting from stored data. By far, 1Password's best feature is that you open your vault, find the login for the site you want to visit and double-click it — next thing you know, the software is logging you in automatically. No copying or pasting of usernames or passwords. Of course, you have to enter them initially when setting up your logins, but that process is quite painless and will save you oodles of time in the long run. NOTE: In Preferences > Logins, you must have the box checked that reads "Submit automatically after filling a login (Autosubmit)" for autologin to occur.
+ Another fantastic feature is that if you ever change your password or create a new log in on a site, an 1Password prompt will ask you if you'd like to update your existing login with this info or save the new information as a new login in your vault. I cannot emphasize how convenient it is that I don't have to make a note somewhere myself regarding my password change.
+ You can backup your data. In 1Password's "Preferences" section, you can set how often you want to back up your password files, and where on your hard drive you'd like those backups saved. Of course, whether you do so is up to you. Some people don't like to store passwords or secure info on their computer, because in the case of a system crash (or a fire), they would lose that data forever. Others don't wish to employ the autologin feature, for fear that if their system was ever hacked, their account info would be compromised. How you choose to handle these security considerations is a personal choice, and you can always search user forums for advice from others who are grappling with the same issues.
+ You can set a preference for which browser you'd like opened when you double-click for autologins.
+ You can organize your logins in separate folders. For my business, I have different folders for different clients, with stored credentials I access on a regular basis. For my personal usage, my husband and I each have a folder for our regular logins, from social media sites to bill-paying to music downloads to online pizza delivery.
We are all looking for ways to make our crazy-busy lives easier. Getting password-keeping software is a step in the right direction toward freeing up your valuable time so that you can more effectively run your business, and your life.
Please note that I have no affiliation with 1Password; I simply like it. Try it free for 30 days and see for yourself.
Want more tips? Visit Facebook.com/saidandsung.
|Shop Talk Business happenings in and around Harrison
Written by Carla Rose Fisher
|Thursday, 5 November 2010|
In West Harrison…
UNIQUE IN NEW YORK: Shop Talk's first reader write-in recommendation prompted me to visit West Harrison last week. Walking into 23 Taylor Square, I discovered a gift wonderland that smells like Christmas.
Taylor Square Shoppe can serve as an example for retail storeowners, especially for ideas on how to bump up store traffic and holiday sales. And since we all have holiday shopping to do ourselves, you should stop in and view the store’s unique offerings, because you just may find you don’t need to shop anywhere else.
It’s amazing how many items 750 sq. ft. can hold. Turns out, the wonderful aroma upon my entering was the Frasier Fir scent in the Thymes candle line, also available in hand lotion and other products.
Owner Maria Anella opened the shop five months ago, and is planning a grand opening in mid-November, just in time for the holidays. Having managed the Chilmark Gift Gallery at Prescription Plus in Briarcliff for the past 12 years, Anella jumped at the chance to open a gift gallery in West Harrison, where she’s lived for 20 years.
“I love this community, and I fill my store with things I love,” she said. “It really is my dream store, and I love what I do.”
As a local merchant and mother to a son who came up through the school system, Anella continues to be a hands-on volunteer. She’ll soon be joining the community neighborhood watch and the newly reopened Harrison Chamber of Commerce. During each of the weekly neighborhood car shows over the summer, Anella gave away $25 gift cards. At last week’s Halloween parade, she gave away Silly Bandz to the kids. She knows that freebies are a great way to get customers in the door.
When choosing which items to carry, Anella considers her customers. “I like to find things that are different, and I think, ‘What’s a great gift for a great price?’” Here you’ll find stylish gifts starting at $3. And handbags start at $24. Kids can shop for inexpensive gifts for mom and dad, grandma and grandpa. Bosses can shop for company gifts. No matter the recipient, Anella has great taste: A bracelet she carries was featured in last month’s issue of InStyle magazine.
A sampling of what you’ll find at Taylor Square Shoppe: accessories like scarves, including pashminas; jewelry, from funky costume jewelry to high-end designers like Judith Jack and Crislu, as well as vintage lines like Annie Koplik and Clara Beau; tween gifts; boys’ gifts; baby gifts; men’s and women’s watches; wallets; handbags by former Vera Bradley designer Stephanie Dawn; Lolita wine and martini glasses; the Tea Forte line of silk-infused tea; fancy walking canes; Voluspa candles; lint-free flour sack kitchen towels; and greeting cards, from the popular Champagne line to homemade cards, including handmade cards by Samantha Shopovick, a ninth-grader at Harrison High School.
A certified pharmacy technician in her former career, Anella is huge on customer service. It’s why she offers free gift-wrapping and free local delivery (including downtown Harrison, White Plains, North White Plains and North Castle), why she takes pride in creating custom gift baskets and why she offers discounts — seniors and teachers receive 10 percent off, as does anyone visiting the store for the first time. She also ships.
During my visit, store patron Marie Tedeschi came in for her custom-ordered gift basket. “I’m not normally a shopper, but Maria makes it so easy,” Tedeschi said. “She comes up with beautiful ideas all the time. I just love this store; it’s so convenient to have this here.”
Gift baskets are Anella’s specialty. For individuals and companies, she fills them with Ferrara products and other Italian imports and items carefully chosen for the recipient. She also creates fruit baskets, baby baskets and wedding baskets.
A smart marketer, Anella maintains a mailing list for sending postcards with valuable offers, and her son helped her post flyers throughout Park Lane. Since marketing changes with the times, Anella knew she needed to be on Facebook when she was shopping online and saw the ubiquitous “Find us on Facebook” tagline. She’s received great responses from her Facebook page, especially from Harrison teachers.
Holiday hours are Monday-Wednesday 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Thursday and Friday, 12-9 p.m., and Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Call 914-949-3800.
In what ways have you reached out to customers in your community? Are there promotion ideas aside from those discussed in this article that have been effective for your business? Comment and share!
Shop Talk Tip: Time to Post Your Holiday Hours
Even in October, I started seeing signs in storefronts advertising holiday hours, the most creative being Quizno’s, on the corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues: “Quiz the Season.” Posting holiday hours early lets your customers know you care about their busy schedules so they can plan errands accordingly. Be sure to post the holidays you observe, not just Thanksgiving and Christmas, so your customers know you won’t be open on those days. Read more on my previous post about tips for posting holiday hours.
Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and Web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and is on the Executive Board of the Harrison Chamber of Commerce.
Need help with your company's marketing and promotions? Visit saidandsung.com.
As always, Carmen and I will discuss how we can assist small businesses and entrepreneurs in their marketing plan efforts. Listen in and call us at 203-661-5051 with your questions!
The following was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 30, 2010. Click to download a PDF of printed version of the paper.
Business happenings in and around Harrison
Written by Carla Rose Fisher
|Thursday, 30 September 2010 12:54|
|A BANNER START TO THE SCHOOL YEAR: My small-business heart was all aflutter a few weeks ago when those “Home of the Huskies” banners began appearing throughout the downtown area. To see the outpouring of support for our school athletics is a wonderful thing, plus the banners just make Harrison look so pretty. And guess what? More are on the way!The second shipment is due later this week, according to Lola Alvora, of the Harrison Booster Club. Her son, Duke, is a senior football player at Harrison High School. Alvora and two other Booster Club moms came up with the idea – Robin Basciano and Stacie Bogdany, whose daughters, Alexa (senior) and Angelica (freshman), respectively, are cheerleaders at the high school.
“We’ve seen banners like this in college towns and in a town in [New] Jersey,” Alvaro said. “When we saw these towns supporting their teams, we thought, ‘How about us?’” Initially, the Boosters had planned to keep the banners up until Christmas, but are hoping to keep them up longer, pending Town Board approval. They would also love to make this an annual event.
The banners represent any and all sports, plus band families. “They not only beautify the town, but also let any kid who participates in sports or activities know just how supportive the town is,” said Alvaro. In all, 95 banners have been sponsored, 50 percent by businesses and 50 percent by families and individuals.
The downtown banners were set to stretch along both sides of Halstead Avenue from St. Gregory’s on Broadway to the new flooring store near Parsons Street, but when they ran out of poles, the Booster Club decided to also make use of both sides of Harrison Avenue. Seven banners are up in West Harrison. Mayor Joan Walsh helped Alvora in her efforts to implement the idea, and also sponsored a banner, at the southeast corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.
“These banners are for anybody who wants to just plain support the town,” Alvaro said. “The fact that Mayor Walsh and Judge Marc Lust’s family each sponsored banners wasn’t political; rather, because they simply love the Huskies.”
Funds raised from the banners will go to anything the teams need, as determined by the coaches. A portion of the money will also be given back to Harrison in another beautifying way, to buy flowers to plant in some empty flowerpots in downtown.
From a marketing standpoint, sponsorship should be touted. So I ask:
1) How can businesses maximize the visibility of their sponsorship?
2) How does the proximity of each banner to its storefront play a part in bringing about awareness?
First, I suggested to Alvaro that they announce the sponsors at the football games. After all, people attending games are those who most appreciate the sponsorship and are a captive audience. Since no more home games remain this season, Alvaro said she’d happily implement that idea for next year.
Second, Alvaro said each business decides whether their two-sided banner should be placed out front or anywhere in town. From my perspective, having one directly out front reinforces the pride in sponsoring the teams, but having one far away from the storefront potentially draws in new customers who otherwise may not have that particular store in their daily travels.
Butler Bros. Market Place Co-Owner Brian Butler was one shop owner who didn’t specify where the banner should be placed; he just happened to land a primo spot, along with Station Cleaners, at the bus stop on the northwest corner of Halstead and Harrison avenues.
“It’s where people stop at the light to make a right turn, and are idle waiting for the bus, so we’re very happy with our spot,” said Butler, who is proud to be part of something that is being done for the first time in Harrison. “Our major goal was to support the town and the school and the Boosters. We got on board early because we wanted to help give them a head start.”
For those owners whose banners are not located outside their shop, you can opt to put your street address or a relative address on the banner, such as “Across from RR station” or “three blocks down,” which helps town visitors. Alvaro said some businesses put their phone number or website. Butler chose to have the phrase “Fine Foods” included on his banner, as a way of describing the business. Just keep in mind: The more you put on the banner, the smaller the letters will be.
If you prefer, put up a small sign in your store: “We’re proud sponsors of the Huskies!” Or, create a promotion with a sign that says, “Find our banner and get 10 percent off!” and then offer 10 percent off to customers who tell you the location of your banner.
Alvaro hopes the banners help boost the local economy. “I used to go to dinner in the surrounding towns, but now that I see the support our dining establishments have shown for our kids, I now go out to dinner in Harrison,” she said.
If you are interested in sponsoring, contact Alvaro at 843-3377 or e-mail email@example.com. Alvora wishes to offer special thanks to Signs Plus in Mamaroneck, owned by Ron and Debbie Linsalto.
A FOND FAREWELL: On Sept. 1, the small-business world suffered a great loss, as did I: My father, Anthony Arnone, passed away from cancer at age 71.
Though the bakery, deli and food importing business he owned and operated for 50 years is located in Erie, Pa., his legacy is here in Harrison, as he is the reason I am such a strong proponent of small business. Seeing how hard he worked throughout his life, and growing up in that family-business environment made me realize that opportunity is available if you have the passion and are willing to sacrifice and put in the hours. A lifelong Yankee fan, my father tried out for the Bronx Bombers when he was a teenager, but had to return home to take over the family store when his father suffered a heart attack. He sacrificed his dream, and created a new one for himself and his family. Thank you, Dad. I miss you and love you.
Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and Web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and resides in Harrison. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want some fresh ideas to strengthen your marketing efforts? Contact me at email@example.com.
Still think you don't need a website, or that yours was a waste of money? Pshaw! Read my latest column below, which was originally published in The Harrison Report on Sept. 2, 2010. Marketing guru/freelance writer Allen Mogol contributed to the research of this column. Shop Talk
|Written by Carla Rose Fisher|
|Thursday, 02 September 2010 13:46|
|Websites: Big-Business Value for Small-Business Owners“I spent all this money on my website, and it hasn’t brought me a single sale.” For small-business owners with sparkling, newly launched websites, this is a common lament. You’ve invested time and money in your website. Why, you ask, after three days — or three months — hasn’t my site paid for itself? Have I wasted my investment?
Probably not. Your website is a long-term investment. Instead of expecting your site to pay off immediately, consider that it takes time to attract and persuade a new customer to buy. A website can begin the process, but not necessarily seal the deal. A website can also remind your existing customers that you’re there for them 24/7, placing you on par with bigger businesses, and also let them know about new products, services, discount offers or special events. Your site can help keep you in the forefront of peoples’ minds when they need you, but may not necessarily result in an instant sale.
You actually may be getting business from your site without knowing it. If you ask your customers how they heard about you, you might be pleasantly surprised to hear how much of a traffic-builder your website has become. Especially if you’ve got video: Forester Research tells us you are 53 times more likely to appear on page one of Google’s search results if you have video on your website. And any good site designer these days will input keywords into the site’s coding to maximize its chances of being easily found on search engines.
5 key benefits websites offer:
1) Credibility. If your bank, favorite cable channel or preferred charity didn’t have a website, you’d wonder about its professionalism and reliability. By the very act of having a website, you’re telling your current and potential customers that you’re legitimate, current and committed to be there for them, not just now but down the road. When you meet someone in a business setting who makes a good impression, don’t you want to find out more about what they do? If he or she doesn’t have a web presence, it’s natural that you’d wonder about your new acquaintance’s level of expertise.
2) Convenience. Does that restaurant you’d like to try have vegetarian options? Is it wheelchair accessible? Busy consumers are used to getting instant answers not just when deciding where to eat, but when deciding on colors for their kitchens or where to buy school supplies. A website allows potential customers to get answers or even make purchases at their convenience, no matter what time of the day, often saving them the parking and traffic headaches that come with heading to actual storefronts. Whether refillable pencils or paint samples, a website transforms your business hours from 9-to-5 to 24/7.
3) Browsing. When potential customers are investigating a purchase, product photos online can result in a visit to your store when those customers are ready to buy, no matter if it’s tomorrow or months from now. It’s modern-day window-shopping. I recently watched an employee at a tea shop set up a stand in front of the store, offering free samples to dozens of passersby. Over 10 or 15 minutes, close to 50 samples must’ve been given out. And not one sampler walked into the store. A waste of time and product? Absolutely not. The product is delicious, and the shop made lots of impressions among tea drinkers that will likely pay off in the long run.
4) Reach. Let’s say you own a children’s furniture store. That’s usually the kind of store that potential shoppers will check out online first, before making in-person visits. They won’t go miles out of their way, not when they can go online first. And they likely won’t decide immediately. Your website is your chance to persuade customers to travel to your business, rather than go to the nearest one. Just know that the visit might not happen for weeks or months, as most people tend to research purchases — mostly through online reviews — before visiting the store to investigate further.
5) Branding. This may be the most important benefit of all. Your website is an ideal tool you should be tying in with all your other marketing efforts. In fact, you’ll increase site traffic by taking every opportunity to let your customers know you’ve got a website. Place your URL on fliers, your storefront display, business cards, coupons, menus, bags…virtually everywhere you promote your business. A website doesn’t operate in a vacuum; it’s part of your overall campaign. But you’ve got to make it known. Lots of companies Harrisonites do business with make sure their web address is prominent whenever they send out a postcard about a sale, an invoice for a previous purchase or a catalog promoting its whole line. Reminding customers about their websites gives customers a chance to find out more, and might persuade them to place an order or pay an in-person visit.
Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area or want more info on creating a web presence for your business, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Need a writer for your website? Visit saidandsung.com to view my writing samples.
Today, my Saidandsung Facebook Page got its custom URL, also known as a vanity URL. Now, I can use facebook.com/saidandsung in promotions, whether verbally or written, and people can easily find my page. To get one for yourself, read this previous post. I will be using my page to offer people insight on more effective writing; links to fun design, copy and innovative marketing; and ways to be more creative. The Page also features a 'My Band' tab, where you can listen to the songs I've written. Finally, my two worlds of copywriting and songwriting are together on the same site!
Visit my Facebook page and click Like to stay in the loop and to hear my tunes. Hope to see you there!
And send me the link to your Facebook Page.
Thanks for reading,
My business column for The Harrison Report debuted this week. You can view it on the newspaper's site here. I've reprinted it below with additional photos. Special thanks to Managing Editor Mark Lungariello for this opportunity.
|Written by Carla Rose Fisher|
|Thursday, 22 July 2010 17:12|
|As any Harrisonite will tell you, there are countless shops and businesses that give our community its charm and character. Many are doing their best to retain customers or attract new ones in this economy, and this monthly column will examine marketing trends in the area and enable other businesses to apply the wisdom gained to their own operations.|
In West Harrison … IT’S ALL IN THE NAME: Changing a company name is a major decision, especially in terms of brand marketing. Before doing so, be sure your new name is easy to remember, that it follows suit with your target market’s expectations and that it stands out amongst your competitors. Keep in mind that you’ll have to budget for the creation of a new logo; the printing of new signage, business cards and letterhead; updates to your website and more. Further, the change must happen strategically, so as not to alienate regular customers.
Summertime is a fine time for the Silver Lake area of West Harrison, with a variety of local commerce offerings and their proximity to the Ron Belmont Pool in Passidomo Park. “The summer is always better for business here,” said Tino Giresi, co-owner of Café Eats, a popular neighborhood delicatessen that recently underwent a name change.
According to Giresi, one reason he decided to change his company name from Giresi Salumeria is because the deli went from a family-operated business to one in which he and two silent partners merged with a company called Café Eats.
Giresi said the former name was also hard to pronounce. “Salumeria” is Italian for “cured meat shop,” more commonly referred to as “Italian delicatessen.” Though West Harrison features a large Italian-American population — with which the former name resonated —Giresi wanted to broaden his customer base.
In terms of impact, Giresi said his regulars were initially dismayed, thinking that the change meant their trusted neighborhood deli was leaving the area. But once those loyal customers realized that Giresi himself was there to stay, they got on board. And the fact that the deli added 75 sandwiches to the menu made the transition even tastier. Some have snarky names like “911” (which features a bevy of hot meats, including sopressata and pepperoni, topped off with hot sauce) and “Sting Like a Bee” (mortadella, ham, smoked mozzarella, broccoli rabe and roasted peppers), while others have local flair like “Harrison Huskies,” “Harrison’s Finest” and “Frank Russo.”
The decisions Giresi made have translated into greater profits. Sales are up 20 percent from the same time last year, just after the Silver Lake area was hit hard with the construction of the pool. “The construction didn’t just affect us; it murdered us,” he said. In fact, he had to close up shop for an entire week. To overcome such physical obstacles and get people in the door, Giresi offered a three-course family feast that fed four to six people for $35. It’s this type of forward thinking that keeps small businesses afloat.
But the deli’s specialty is European-style thin-crust pizza, featuring fresh basil, fresh mozzarella (sliced, not shredded) and San Marzano tomatoes, handmade by Chef Gaetano Mangano. “It’s the best-kept secret in West Harrison,” Giresi said, “We have people who come from downtown Harrison just to get our pizza.” I can personally attest to it; I thought I had to go into the city to get a slice this good.
In Development… Many West Harrison residents have been wondering what’s happening with the property at 97 Lake St. After speaking with Project Manager John Robinson, I discovered that the space — owned by Purchase resident Alan Smith — will soon house 97 Lake, a sports bar and restaurant, with an opening date set for mid-August. According to Robinson, the project is on schedule and a grand opening is slated for September. “This area is an up-and-comer,” Robinson said, “and as a resident myself, I believe that 97 Lake will fill a void.”
And in Downtown … After much delay, the CVS in downtown Harrison will be opening on July 25.
This Month’s Shop Talk Tip: Post Your Business Hours Don’t leave people guessing whether you’re open. Post your hours of operation clearly on your storefront window or door, and if you have to step away or close early, leave a sign, even a handwritten one. This past week, a shop in downtown Harrison left its door open with no staff tending the store, leaving a patron perplexed and disappointed. That could have been a future customer, maybe even a potential regular, so be sure to let your customers know how much you value their time.
Carla Rose Fisher is a freelance writer and web consultant who specializes in marketing for small businesses and startups. She is also an award-winning songwriter and resides in Harrison. If you know of a newsworthy small-business happening in the area, e-mail email@example.com.
Yesterday, I enjoyed a brief respite from work to play softball for my Broadway Show League team. During a post-victory conversation with a teammate, I mentioned I was on my way to a meeting with my writing partners for a new children's musical project. My teammate just happened to know a higher-up in the children's musical world, and thus, smack dab in Central Park, a connection — or the promise of one — was made.
The lesson here? My teammate had NO IDEA that in addition to being a freelance business writer, I am also a songwriter, let alone that I have children's songs in my repertoire.
This is a perfect example of what I call Pockets of Information. And they need to be emptied.
Don't assume that answering the question "What do you do?" (WDYD) with a job title is enough to spark a connection in the mind of the person to whom you are speaking, especially if you are in business for yourself. In fact, if you answer that initial question confidently (which you always should), then that person may assume that you are all set in your profession and aren't seeking new clients. You also should share more about your other interests, but I'll say more on that in a couple paragraphs.
I'd say a better way to answer the WDYD question (using myself as an example) is, "I'm a freelancer writer and consultant for Web and print, and I'm always seeking new clients in small businesses, corporate clients, even individuals."
As the conversation continues, you should then try to work in any other passions you are pursuing (in my case, this would be my songwriting). Side jobs or businesses, even extracurriculars, can lead to tangental conversations, which are great breeding grounds for expanding your network.
If you own a business with a storefront, that's one thing, because people can see what you do. But if you have additional businesses or are an independent contractor of any kind who keeps the other sides of you deep in your pockets, few people will be able to guess them. By opening your mouth, you open your work and your interests to a new world of possibilities.
So get out there and get talking! Get on Twitter, on Facebook and LinkedIn to share your likes and dislikes, your passions and your strengths. You'll be stronger for it.
In Part II, I'll discuss how Pockets of Information affect business teams.
Thanks for reading,
Business coach Carmen Carrozza and I had such a great time discussing business marketing on his radio show back in May that he's invited me back! Tune into tomorrow to "Forward Motion" on AM 1490 WCGH, from 4-4:30 p.m. Stream it online by visiting WGCH.com and clicking 'Listen Live' at the top left of the show's site.
Carmen and I will be discussing how I've helped his marketing efforts as well as defining which marketing works best for small businesses, large companies, B2B, mom-and-pop shops, retail and professional services. Call in at 203-661-5051 to ask your marketing questions!
Thanks for reading,
WGCH extends to the Bronx, parts of NYC, the North Shore of Long Island, Brewster and all of Westchester.
Much thanks to Managing Editor Mark Lungariello for initially finding what I had to say in my blog interesting enough to work it into a story!
Signs of the Times
Written by Paige Rentz and Charlie Johnson
Thursday, 20 May 2010 18:33
Branding a business in Harrison
|When Violet and Sean Gerguri opened their new bakery on Halstead Avenue at the site of a failed bakery at the beginning of April, many customers thought that the previous store had merely reopened after a hiatus.
This was because the Gerguris, who had been flooded out of the shop they owned in Hartsdale, found the new space perfectly ready for them to get to baking. They didn’t change the tables, the flooring, the racks, anything. Even the words painted on the windows fit their business perfectly, so they remained.
The couple soon found that even with their new name – the somewhat generic “Bakery and Patisserie” – stamped across their awning, they still had to contend with the previous tenant’s reputation in the village. Ms. Gerguri said that her new customers suggested ways that she and her husband could differentiate themselves: stickers added to their plain white boxes, flyers, signs on the door and windows.
In the month-and-a-half that the bakery has been open, business has begun to pick up little by little, she said. The main battle is luring the first-time customers through the door because she is confident that once they have a taste of what her bakery has to offer, they’ll surely return.
That battle for foot traffic is all about branding, said Carla Rose Fisher, a Harrison resident who works as a freelance writer and web consultant for corporations and small businesses. “I think that signage is so important,” she said. “For small businesses, a few simple, small adjustments could make a big difference.”
Fisher said that measures like temporary signs or banners proclaiming “Now open!” or sandwich boards advertising specials can make a huge difference to passers-by.
Bagelicious, another Halstead Avenue hot spot, kept the same name when the shop changed hands, but the store expanded its menu to include a large selection of sandwiches and other offerings. In such a situation, the shops should make use of a temporary sign reading something like “under new management,” said Fisher. “Unless they hear it through the grapevine, they won’t know.”
Fisher singles out Rue Des Crepes as a local business that “does a really good job of trying to get people in the door.” At 261 Halstead Ave., the restaurant’s outdoor seating and other inviting features make it a prime target for foot traffic.
Noting a recent store that opened before its sign could be approved by the town, Fisher said that it had been unclear that the business had already opened its doors. “It’s hard for a new business trying to break through,” she said, especially with the time-consuming process required to complete all the necessary approvals before opening.
Town Councilman Joseph Canella (R) said, “The town really needs to be sympathetic to the needs of businesses in general given the difficult economic times,” but that as far as signs are concerned, he thinks the town could use more regulation down the road. “By and large, I think we’re pretty user-friendly,” he said of the process of introducing a business in Harrison.
Just as small businesses in the downtown are struggling to draw in foot traffic, properties along Westchester Avenue seek to do the same on a much larger scale with car traffic from the I-287 corridor.
One property has floated a possible amendment to the zoning code of the SB-O zone (which covers office parks) which would allow more liberal signage for those complexes. Town Councilwoman Marlane Amelio (R) said that a drawing of the change that would be implemented indicates the addition of a rooftop sign at the petitioning complex on Westchester Avenue, a sign designed to be visible from I-287.
Harrison Mayor Joan Walsh (D) said that she is in favor of broadening the scope of allowed signage, within reason, as a means to help customers locate businesses in town. “This is a medical complex,” said Walsh of the office park requesting the zoning amendment. “I think it would be helpful to the patients referred to that building to have the sign.”
Although she said that she preferred not to have the sign measure the entire width of a building, visibility from the interstate would not be a bad thing. “If we limit it to 287 and say it can’t be seen anywhere except 287, then I don’t have a problem with it.”
Though she wants Harrison to be a place that attracts businesses, Amelio worries that any loosening of signage regulations will lead to a deterioration of the town’s aesthetics.
“We certainly do not want to discourage business,” said Amelio. “We want to welcome business but at the same time protect the value of the area.”
Amelio sees lightening of signage restrictions as a slippery slope that would eventually diminish much of the suburban beauty people often associate with Harrison.
“My concern whether it’s one [sign] or four is it establishes a precedent and a precedent that I do not think serves Harrison well,” she said. “Once you do that, it changes the character of the area.”
Amelio added that prior businesses seem to have had no trouble establishing themselves under current signage regulations.
Cannella not only wishes to keep the SB-O zone signage requirements the same, but he also feels that greater restrictions on signage in downtown Harrison could improve the look of that area in the future.
Several years ago, he and other town board members examined changing the signage code to create more uniformity, a measure that would have been “substantially more restrictive,” he said, modeling their recommendations after policies in towns like Scarsdale, which has had very rigid restrictions on signage in place for years.
“They just didn’t develop any traction,” said Cannella of the previous recommendations, “but the goal is desirable.”
However, ultimately there will likely always be a divide between visibility and aesthetics when talking about signage. As Fisher noted, businesses cannot rely solely on “grapevine” advertising to develop a strong customer base.
What strategies businesses are permitted to use in the future to visually attract potential customers could depend on the progress of the economy. If more people are searching, whether for doctors or bakeries, businesses can certainly hope that even modest signage will keep them easily afloat.
To read The Harrison Report and other town newspapers, visit http://hometwn.com.
Need some assistance with your business branding? Visit saidandsung.com to see how I can help.
As a freelance Web writer and consultant, I would be remiss if I didn't extend the sort of advice from my previous post to the world online businesses. After all, for many small businesses, a strong online presence is just as important, if not more, than the physical storefront. And this goes for both businesses that sell products or services online and those that use their site strictly as an informational calling card. Saidandsung's Top 3 Tips for Making Your Web Site Welcoming:
1. Be Complementary
When creating a Web site for the first time, some business owners think that the more colorful their home page, the better. This is almost always not the case. In fact, having too many colors on a page can come across as amateurish, or worse, non-legitimate. Instead, choose colors that match your branding. A common place to start is with your logo — are the colors in your logo conducive to an attractive Web page? You only need one or two major colors, and the rest can be complementary shades from those color families.
If your logo is bold or outlandish in and of itself (and you don't wish to do a redesign), then choose a shade from one of the logo's colors and see how that works. You want something professional-looking and soothing to the eyes. Along those lines, I caution you to use the color red sparingly. Red is attention-grabbing, for sure, but can also be hard on the eyes. Definitely do not use red for your text color, as it wears on the eyes and is also the standard color of error messages.
A good Web designer knows all of these things and can work with you to find a pleasing look for your online storefront.
2. The Font of All Knowledge
The same principle from tip #1 can be applied to your choice of text fonts. Sure, employing a variety of fonts on your site can change things up and let the site visitor know where to look, but I'm talking 2 different fonts, 3 at the most. Having too fonts many can again signal amateurishness, but more importantly, can undermine any chance for a cohesiveness to your site's overall look and feel.
Choosing a font should be based on a number of considerations, but here are a couple basics. Again, start with your logo and see if the font used in it is something you'd like to see throughout the site. However, make sure it's legible; some fonts look great in size 72 type, but are complete chicken scratch when you reduce them for use as body text.
Another important consideration when choosing a font is the kind of tone you're trying to project as your personal business style. Generally speaking (and there are always exceptions), the more conservative business should favor a professional-looking serif font (like Times New Roman or Georgia), and the slicker, more easygoing business can go with a streamlined sans serif font (like Helvetica or Tahoma). And any good designer will let you know if the font you're interested in is supported in all Web browsers. With so many to choose from, work together with your designer to find the one that suits your business best.
3. State Your Message Clearly & Succinctly
Nothing is more frustrating than to arrive at a company's Web site and not know what kind of business it is. If your logo doesn't have a built-in graphical clue to your business or a brand slogan, then be sure to state somewhere in a prominent header what type of business you are and/or what service you provide. The intro copy on your home page should clearly state these things in a concise yet engaging way, and should invite you to either "click here to contact us," or "read more on our such-and-such page ..."
Keeping your home page copy spare and employing "read more" links will draw your potential customers in, and make them click to other pages on your site to find the information they are seeking. And remember, pictures can be even more powerful than text in saying what kind of company you are. If you have a product, show it on your home page; if it's a service you provide (like landscaping, for example), then show pictures of a job well done (a nicely manicured lawn or flowers, to illustrate the landscaping example).
There are so many more considerations to make when creating a Web site to showcase your business — more than I can mention in a digestible blog entry. Just know I'm available to assist you, so call or e-mail me today talk about your online project!
Thanks for reading,