We recently had our first really warm weekend out here in Lubbock, Texas. My entire family spent the better part of it outside, weeding and tidying things up in anticipation of spring. As we worked, my wife I got to reminiscing about our first house. At only 1,100 square feet or so, it wasn’t much to look at. It was a starter home in a new subdivision and the amenities were pretty sparse.
I can remember our first attempts at landscaping. As a new home, the outside was bare and we were desperate to make it as homey and inviting as possible. Two things stood in our way, however. We were broke and we knew nothing about landscaping. For our home to have any curb appeal, we had to get creative.
We started reading and looking at pictures in the magazines at home improvement stores. We asked friends and neighbors for advice. Mostly, we just drove around the fancier neighborhoods for inspiration. We gathered cast-off bricks from construction sites to use as edging for flower beds. We planted cuttings provided by family members and rescue plants that others had thrown away. We did what we could with what we had.
A lot of businesses could use some curb appeal. The results of a consumer survey by Omnibus shows that 95% of the time, a business’ exterior appearance influences the decision to shop there. 67% of those responding to the survey said that they had decided not to visit a particular store based solely on what they saw from the outside. I would hate to think that a potential customer chose a competitor over me simply because of what they saw from the parking lot.
Of course, many businesses find themselves in the same position that Susan I were in as newlyweds. They simply don’t have the budget to hire a landscaping company or other professional to come and make the necessary improvements. The desire may be there, but the means aren’t. Like us, they need to get creative.
Here are some quick ideas I thought of to make your location a bit more attractive from the outside.
1. Get trashy. Do the employees entering your building step right over trash in the parking lot or around the entrance? Maybe they feel this is someone else’s job, but it isn’t. Sure, they pick up their own trash should it slip out of their hand, but someone else’s? I don’t think so. This kind of thinking isn’t healthy. We spend too much of our time at work to shrug off this responsibility.
At Disney World, every employee – from the CEO down – is expected to pick up any trash they come across. In the Boy Scouts, we believe in leaving a campsite better than we found it. That means we train young men in our organization to pick up the trash (any trash) instead of passing it by. Sprucing up an exterior space doesn’t get any more basic than this.
2. Park it. Have you ever passed by a business with an empty parking lot and wondered “Are they even open?” People don’t necessarily like to be the first, or the only, customers to walk inside an establishment. Yet an empty parking lot sends the signal that you’re either closed or not very popular. Neither is good for attracting business.
Bartenders are trained to put a couple of their own bills in the tip jar. It sends an unconscious signal to customers that they should also be tipping. If your location suffers from spotty traffic, you might consider having an employee or two park in the customer area as an indication that you are indeed open for business. That subtle hint might be all a prospect needs to prompt a visit.
3. Sign up. Does your exterior signage serve to invite people inside? It should. Some small businesses use this technique to great advantage. They advertise a special of the day, promote a new product, or just display a funny line designed to showcase their personality. All provide a reason to come inside.
If you have an electronic marquee available, use it. If you don’t, go analog. Think outside the four walls of the building. A white board on an easel can be used outside to catch the eye of passersby. I once helped a guy at Home Depot load some plywood into his truck. He told me he was making a large chalkboard (they make paint for that) to sit outside his storefront. I can think of a lot of ways to use something like that.
4. Go green. Nothing attracts attention like nice landscaping. Some greenery breaks up boring walls and make a building feel settled. Colorful flowers beg for a closer look. Both make a commercial location feel more approachable. And you don’t have to break the bank to get there.
While thinking about this week’s article, I read about a small business located in an office park without any landscaping. Everywhere you look, there was concrete and asphalt. The employees each brought a potted plant of their own and they were grouped by the front door. Each employee took pride in their contribution and made sure it was watered and cared for. People started walking inside just to comment on the flowers. They usually wound up buying something too.
Maybe these ideas appeal to you, maybe they don’t. My intention this week isn’t to advocate a specific action for you to take. It’s to make a point, and that is: You don’t have to break the bank to add curb appeal. You just have to care enough to act. Don’t let the absence of a huge landscaping budget keep you from doing what you can to improve the look of your workplace. If you won’t do it for the customer, do it for yourself. Like the clothes we wear, the environment we work in affects the way we approach our job. Why not take a step or two to improve that environment?
Addressing the curb appeal of our first home was an adventure. We made a lot of mistakes, but we learned a lot and made some memories. We also attracted the attention of our neighborhood association. They came to visit us one day to talk about our front yard. It seems we’d created quite the buzz with our creative approach – so much so that we’d won first place in the inaugural neighborhood landscaping contest.