For many entrepreneurs, attracting customers and getting found by people in the community is a game of trial and error. In the small towns of Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, and Alton, Illinois, business owners tried everything from newspaper advertising to coupons to community events to promote themselves. But nothing seemed to deliver more customers.

As consecutive winners for a Main Street makeover, each town received a $500,000 revitalization from Deluxe. The transformations were captured in an original eight-episode series telling their stories.

The featured businesses are now taking time to look back on the experience and share which marketing improvements have made the biggest difference.

Online listings grab attention and retention

Merry Lovett and her son, Brad Chavours, took their passion for soul food from family reunions and turned it into a business. Though full of family recipes and quality, home-cooked food, Lovett’s Soul Food needed help handling the daily operations and turning a profit while drawing more dine-in customers — 75 percent of orders were takeout.

They listed their restaurant on Google, TripAdvisor and Yelp. In return, Lovett’s reached new diners and persuaded more locals and tourists to give its food a try. Filling out their listing profiles was simple and intentional: Merry and Brad made sure their passion for soul food and great hospitality translated online. They also made sure to add a business description and mouth-watering imagery to give a taste of the restaurant before customers visit in person.

In another success story, Benjamin Golley of Today’s Beauty offers affordable hair and skin care products that empower customers. It’s not about the money to Golley though, it’s about time: He wants more time to give back to the community. But when a competitor opened up nearby and sales decreased, Golley realized something needed to change.

Today’s Beauty needed a branding and marketing makeover so they could “look good and do good — and make money doing so.” With marketing updates like a new logo, website and more, Today’s Beauty saw an increase in online traffic and social media interactions and impressions. Today’s Beauty has more than doubled its monthly numbers with 2,192 searches, 6,580 total views on Google Maps and Search, and 224 total actions, including 65 phone calls.

“As we talk to the new faces we see visiting our store, they tell us that they’re finding us thanks to our correct information on these platforms,” said Golley. “I got an opportunity to tell my story and share how I felt, and Deluxe listened,” he said. “With our new branding, Today’s Beauty is a household name in the Alton community now, and for that, we can’t thank Deluxe enough.”

Revamped website brings refreshing experience

With a heart for the Irish experience, Lisa and Mary Morrison, and Mary’s daughter, Katey VanKirk opened a pub in the heart of downtown Alton. They focus on authentic Irish dishes and the authentic ambiance of a small Irish pub. New to owning a restaurant, they needed help managing expenses and traffic inconsistencies.

Morrison’s needed to revamp their website to communicate their authentic story and emphasize the Irish culture that is at the heart of the pub. Being a true taste of Ireland — including the entire spectrum of Irish whiskeys — was Morrison’s unique selling proposition, and they needed to show it prominently. To help, the Deluxe team created an easy-to-read whiskey menu and featured the whiskeys on the pub’s new website, social media pages and online listings. As a result, they were able to generate more customer interest, which led to increased foot traffic.

Google drives customers to auto shop

Megan and Roland Hems have owned Hems Truck and Auto for the last 10 years. Their challenge is the same as many other small business owners — finding the right balance between work and home life, and making ends meet on a weekly and daily basis. The Deluxe team provided business and financial advice and showed the Hems how to create a better online presence and mobile website experience.

Since getting verified on Google, the shop has gotten noticed by thousands of people searching for automotive services. Hundreds of those searchers have visited the website, called the business or gotten directions to the shop. Traffic to Hems’ Yelp page has also risen significantly, resulting in more inquiries and a steady stream of new customers.

“All of the changes, upgrades and improvements Deluxe made help us feel like a ‘real shop,’ and the customers, vendors and locals are treating us accordingly now, too!” Megan said in an interview with a local newspaper.

Social media attracts weeknight diners

Chef Robert Angelaccio opened Annabella’s Italian restaurant in 2003, bringing his passion for Old World cuisine back to the community where he was raised. Robert and his wife, Alison, take pride in making every dining experience memorable. Nestled in Bristol’s historic corridor, Annabella’s is perfectly situated just steps from the popular Bristol Riverside Theatre. When a play hits the main stage, Annabella’s is bustling, but in between productions, the restaurant is often empty.

There was a big opportunity on the table for Annabella’s to connect with would-be guests online. The Deluxe team outlined a plan to rebuild Annabella’s current website and improve its social media presence. Since the mobile-friendly website and social media improvements took effect, Robert and Alison say that business has certainly increased: The sales numbers have exceeded the traffic the restaurant enjoyed when it first opened.

“I am seeing a lot more new customers on a daily basis,” Robert said.

Email marketing creates repeat customers

Paulette Kirk Kasmer opened Polka Dot Parlor to encourage women of all ages to explore their sense of fashion in a fun, supportive environment. Between the steady rotation of new merchandise and Paulette’s eye for curating the perfect outfit, customers walk out of her shop with a fresh look and a spring in their step.

To boost her sales, Paulette sought ways to bring in new customers and encourage shoppers to return to the boutique, again and again. The Deluxe team encouraged Paulette to build an email list simply by placing a notebook at the register where customers could sign up for email updates. Within a month, Polka Dot Parlor collected nearly 100 email addresses — an adequate volume to launch the shop’s first email featuring a downtown sale event. Over the next few months, her list exceeded 500 people.

“Email marketing has really helped support my branding efforts. Every time I send an email, I get more people in my shop!” Paulette said.

Website builds trust among local families

A lifelong educator, Ramona Jones has shaped young minds and nurtured children’s growth in the Philadelphia school district for more than 30 years. Recognizing a need in her own community to provide a safe place for young children to learn and develop, Ramona and her son Marcelous decided to open their own learning center in Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania.

As one of the newest businesses in Bristol Borough, Pennsylvania, Discover Learn and Grow needed to get noticed by the community. The team from Deluxe outlined a search engine marketing plan to make Discover Learn and Grow stand out from the competition and attract local families searching online for a preschool. Ramona’s new website and search engine marketing plan has been a huge success.

“We are at capacity and are looking to expand to a second facility!” said Ramona.

Every small business is different: The marketing moves that do wonders for one business may fall flat for another. The key is to know your target audience and convey what sets you apart from your competitors.

Not a marketer? Not a problem.

This downloadable guide covers marketing in 8 easy-to-understand sections — each filled with professional tips and advice you can put into practice right away.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in May 2018 and has been updated and expanded for 2019.

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