If you’ve got a storefront, you’re probably thinking it’s a good idea to have it on a busy street with lots of foot traffic. And you would be right. It might cost extra to be on the high street, but you get more walk-ins and better turnover of inventory. And you won’t scrimp too much on making sure passers-by like what they see in the window.

Better still to attract customers to your location before they’ve even come to town. If you’ve got a good retail trade, you can make it into a regional destination. And the best way to do that is to work the virtual world so the real world comes to you.
When was the last time you took a good look at your web site—or your social media activity?

Did somebody say “I did that already”?

Most small retailers have. But too often, not in a good way. They’ve put up a web site that, today, looks as dated as that rusty Oldsmobile that runs the groceries. Would you meet a client in a rustbucket car with a missing tail-lamp? Not to say the Olds wasn’t new—years ago. But it just doesn’t say good things about you anymore. And if you’ve got a web site that looks several years old; or if you’ve got one you sort of built yourself, be prepared to fool no one at all.

Visitors today spend serious time scoping out their destinations. Especially in the Hudson Valley, most of your traffic is not going to be the guy down the block. Nothing wrong with him of course, but he already knows about you and he was going to come by anyway. Your growth market is the day-tripper, mainly up from New York City for a day of greenery and cool stuff in a cool store. They may not have the energy to wander up and down looking for something to do—often enough, they will have already planned their day.

You can become part of their plan, but you have to be ready. First, you need a site that looks as fresh as the new visitor you are looking to see. It does not have to cost a fortune–but think again if you think you can have it done by an intern, or if you think a “free” service is going to buy you entry into the stream of commerce coming up the river. Make a small investment in having your site turn visitors into foot traffic. If they see it, and they like what they see, they may put it on their list of things-to-do. You become the destination.

But just building the site is has never been enough. People also have to find it. Building a key-word program helps folks find it when they do a search on your town or region. Adding a social media component, and doing regular content updates, keep your site prominent in search. Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and beyond give you more ways to reach out—and build a following. Targeted advertising and link-building add to the mix. If you want to understand whether visitors engaged with your site, and what they liked most, add a layer of “digital analytics”—simple reports that tell you about traffic patterns.

You might put attractive things in your shop window, but chances are you didn’t build the shop window itself. And you might have decided what to put on the sign, but if you constructed and lettered the sign all on your own, you should probably offer the service to everyone else and make it a business. Most likely, you’re not doing that—and instead you are concentrating on what you know best: your own business.

Web-site building, digital marketing? Hire a professional. Not just anyone, but someone who has demonstrated they can do the job—and who understands how businesses work (not just how web sites work). Look for someone who has experience in project management and customer service—because if you simply bring on a “designer”, they may not get you all the way to a digital marketing platform.

And that’s what a site needs to be: a platform for attracting visitors and becoming a regional destination. Building and maintaining an up-to-date site–and getting it noticed–are required ingredients these days. But only if you want to get beyond the pedestrian.