Montevallo chamber discusses business strategies

The rich smell of coffee mingled with business chatter early Wednesday morning as members of the Montevallo Chamber of Commerce brainstormed ways to draw more shoppers to the college town.

In a down economy, cheaply and effectively promoting a business can be key to maintaining a successful store, the nine early rising chamber members concluded after the morning session at Eclipse Coffee and Books.

Everything from word-of-mouth advertising to Facebook groups can be powerful tools in maintaining a business in the Shelby County city of about 5,000, according to the group.

“You need to make your promotions as pointed to your audience as you possibly can,” said Chamber President Mary Lou Williams. “You have to know what your story is, and you’ve got to be able to make it sound good.

“Be ready to tell people something that makes them interested in your business, and something that leads them to ask something more about your business,” Williams added.

Though today’s business owners have access to myriad high-tech communication options from Facebook to Google groups, promoting positive word-of-mouth advertising may be one of the most effective communication tools available to businesses in the small town, said Eclipse owner Cheryl Patton.

“In Montevallo, people can sometimes be slow to give new businesses a chance, so word-of-mouth advertising can really go a long way,” Patton said.

But because many Montevallo stores are making a greater push to draw customers from North Shelby and other areas in the Birmingham metropolitan area, targeted Internet advertising also could boost the town’s economy, Williams said.

“I was surprised that, out of my 170 or so Facebook friends, there were about 40 people who I thought would be interested in my chamber information,” Williams told the group. “When you pair that with Google groups, you really have a way to reach a lot of people.

“People don’t care what you have until they’re looking for it, so you have to make that information available to people,” Williams added.