Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?

December 20th, 2008 by | Print



“Oh, who are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neighborhooOODD……”


Do you remember the song from Sesame Street where Bob and the Muppets would sing about different people in their neighborhood? The baker. The fireman. The policeman. I do. But, I didn’t realize until recently how applicable this little number about neighbors is to a successful small business.


My wife and I purchased a restaurant (with my wife’s sister and her husband) about 3 years ago. We did quite a bit of research ahead of time to determine if the business made sense for us. The demographics indicated that there were some other fine dining establishments in the area (i.e. sign of demand), but not too many (i.e. not saturated). There was a significant amount of retirees with good to excellent cash reserves. The local population was growing – many coming from larger metro areas (who would be accustom to finer dining) also with good to excellent cash reserves.


The restaurant had been on a decline – an aftermath of the owners’ passive involvement due to a desire to retire. Our belief was that with our new, young, positive energy (and experience) that we would be able to capitalize on turning the business around and capture the new finer diners moving into the area.


Q: After performing research resulting in numbers that made sense, winning awards for excellence, and travel writers penning our praises for superior cuisine and service, why weren’t we capturing this pool of prime diners?

A: We live in an area where many of the local millionaires will pay $12 for a microwave entrée from a commonplace chain restaurant before they could stomach paying the same price for a delicious, award-winning, freshly prepared appetizer from a classical trained chef – even for a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday.


How did we make this blunder?


We were new to the area. We had just moved in when we bought the restaurant. We made trips to the area before buying it. But, we hadn’t LIVED here until we took ownership of the business. We thought that the statistics and businesses data that we read gave us insight into the human nature of the neighborhood.


So how do you get to know your market as a solopreneur?


Live in the area that you plan on servicing. Living amongst your community will allow you to understand the mindset and motivations behind the masses. Participate in community events. If you’re trying to make your money online, you can still live in the virtual world of social media, blogging, and forums as a way to interact with your audience.

Work in your industry. Before making the jump from employee to entrepreneur, gain some working knowledge. Experience is an excellent teacher.

Score a mentor. Find a successful solopreneur that you respect with similar values. SCORE.org is an excellent resource for gaining a mentor. Let the mentor clue you into the humanity behind the data about your target demographics.

Become a pollster. Create specific polls to help answer questions about the “what”, “where”, “how” and “why” that result in your customers coughing up their cash contributions.


Your neighbors aren’t numbers. You need to get to know the nature in your neighborhood to understand their perceptions of value, their desires and their problems. Learn how to successfully accomplish this and your neighbors will keep you singing all the way to the bank.


All The Best,

Doug Dolan
The Solopreneur’s Guide


4 Responses to “Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood?”

  1. Jared Lyda Says:

    Thanks for your comment! That’s a great point Douglas….
    Do you have your mission statement memorized?
    Reading & recommitting to a mission statement is vital to retaining focus and direction. Often I notice mission statements and they are too long, generic, and apparently there only because people believe they have to be….
    I’ll be putting this into better practice immediately…


  2. Douglas Dolan Says:


    I do have my Mission Statement memorized, but I often like to go back and re-read it as a reaffirmation of my purpose.

    I know companies that use their mission statement as a marketing tool. However, I believe that it should be a daily mantra and an inspiration for action.


  3. spyware destroyer Says:

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  4. Douglas Dolan Says:

    Thanks, Mary.

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