This morning Erin and I drove to Tucson. She's here for an annual work conference.
I have the middle of the day free so I thought I'd check out a new coworking space.
Common is in downtown Tucson. I've been there enough to know parking wouldn't be straightforward.
And I've done enough driving around in little circles of confusion in congested downtown districts. Enough to be motivated to call ahead and ask about parking.
A friendly woman from Common confirmed they allowed drop-ins and started to tell me the best parking lot to use.
The call connection got bad right at that moment, but a minute later a text came through with the exact parking lot to use. Nice! I had a good feeling about this place already.
I found the parking lot, got to Common and got the tour. Was not surprised to find that the space is really nice and has a great vibe. Well done Common.
So that's a mildly interesting story, but what's the point here? Why is this worth even reading?
Ever since managing Urban Yoga I have been slightly obsessed with seeing how other small businesses optimize their client journey. The parking part of the journey is a massive missed opportunity for most businesses. (Yes I know there are other modes of transport. You can apply these principles to walking, biking, public transport, etc and I encourage all businesses to do that as well.)
In my experience, most businesses fall flat when it comes to educating first time visitors (or even repeat visitors for that matter) where to park. In an industry where 50% of first time visitors never return again, parking is important.
You've probably experienced this yourself. You go to a new city, want to check out a new restaurant or yoga studio. You ask your friends for recommendations, maybe check Yelp or Google Maps.
You settle on a place, throw the address into Google Maps or Waze and head off.
But when you arrive you realize you have no idea where to park and now you are driving in circles of confusion, looking all over the place trying not to run over people and trying not to be late.
If you own a brick and mortar business, your clients are having this same experience.
Some of them actually never make it in because they couldn't figure out parking. It's true - people have told me this.
Some of them figure it out but they come in all frazzled and stressed out. Some of them now want to tell everyone around them about how hard it was to find a parking spot. Or they parked somewhere they shouldn't have and now they have to go move their car.
It's not the kind of first impression you want your new clients to have.
And it's not the kind of energy you want in your business.
Wouldn't you rather your staff spent time orienting this new client to your space and telling them about all your amazing services instead of talking about parking?
If yes, here's how to save your clients from the Land of Parking Confusion:
- Anywhere your address appears, explain the parking there also
- If you have automated emails for new clients, explain parking there
- Make all the details clear: is it paid, is it free, is it covered, how does validation work
- If it's paid parking, what forms of payment are accepted
- If there is overflow parking, explain that
- If parking is on-street, metered and difficult to come by, explain that up front
- Train all your staff on how to explain parking when the client comes up
- You can use google maps to create a new place name and pin to make it clear where your parking is
- If at all possible, give your clients an address which will take them exactly where they need to go for parking
- If someone call and asks about parking, be prepared to also text them a pin or address of where to go
That's it. When we implemented this at the yoga studio, the parking issues went almost to 0.
The staff were happier because they weren't explaining the same thing over and over like a broken record.
The new clients tended to arrive earlier so we could spend more time with them. They were more likely to buy something in the boutique since they were relaxed.
When you take the time to tell people up front how to get into your business, you send the message that you were expecting and prepared for a regular stream of new clients.
It's subtle but effective. And it sets a tone that you are prepared and poised. Your clients will pick up on that energy and be more likely to return.
Periodically take time to check in on this part of the journey. Ask your clients if they were able to find parking easily. Follow your own directions to get to your business and try from different directions. Adjust accordingly.
Let me know what you think and if you want me to do a quick parking audit of your business I'd be happy to do so.