Getting feet in the door- the value of good directions

You have an address,  so everybody should know where you are, right?  Not so fast.  Even with a GPS it’s not always easy to figure out where exactly you are.  Good directions can mean the difference between people actually making it into the store or not.  Directions for getting there without a car are especially important, since they’re harder to find. If you have a website, it’s easy to embed maps and you have nearly unlimited space to write directions and include lots of details.

Before you get to the directions, take a walk outside the shop.  Is your sign clearly visible for a long distance both ways? Or is it obscured by things?  Is the street number for your building clearly visible?

If you sign isn’t clearly visible, FIX IT.  Either move it or remove the obstacles in front of it.  Sometimes you can’t move obstacles, but at least here in CT, runaway greenery is a frequent cause of hidden signs.  Five minutes of pruning can fix a lot.   If you really can’t fix it, good directions become even more important.

Make sure the street number is also visible.  How many times have you gotten lost and you can’t even figure out if you’re even close to an address because you can’t find a street number?  Your customers may experience the same frustration. You may want to add numbers to your sign.  Or if that’s not a viable option, paint them on something.  Or ask the town if you can stencil them onto the curb (some may do it for you. but ask first!)

I have the street name and number stenciled onto the front of my planter in foot tall letters.  It’s the only thing nearby with numbers or the street name on it. Not even the cross street tells you what street you’re actually ON.  If people get turned around, those numbers can get them back on track and into the shop.   (in areas with older 911 systems this may also be a boon for fire, police, and EMT services.  Your local services may know where you are, but if they have to call in support from a nearby town, those guys may have trouble finding the right number.  Big, easily visible street numbers are a public service)

While you’re outside, make a note of what the EASIEST thing to see that is near you. From both directions.  Our directions point out there’s a HUGE tree next to the driveway.  It’s twice the height of the nearest building and it’s the only tree close to that size for blocks.  Before you get to that point our directions lists other landmarks like the grocery store and railroad tracks.  Giving people landmarks before they end up on top of you means they know when to start looking for you.

Now go write your directions from nearby towns.  Don’t forget to include alternate names for roads!  Many times roads will changes names when they cross town lines.  Or state routes will have both a route number AND a local name that appears on the street signs.  For example, my shop is on Route 302 in Connecticut.  In Bethel, Route 302 is better known as Greenwood Ave.  Most of the signs are for the street name, not the route number.  Including both names means people will have better odds of ending up on the right road, no matter how the road is labeled.  Telling them the name changes at the town line also prevents people from panicking and thinking they got lost.  The road just changed names underneath them.

But what about other forms of transit?

Good question.  Do you know where the nearest bus station is?  The train station?  Do you know where the bike lanes are?  Not everybody travels by car, so driving directions may be useless or downright dangerous to use.

If you really have no idea where they are, try checking out Google Maps.  Most large areas, you should be able to input your address and ask for directions and you’ll see icons offering mass transit directions and bike directions.  The mass transit directions will show you the nearest station stop for the train or bus and you can then can use Google’s walking directions or write your own.  Google isn’t always good at knowing which streets have sidewalks and which don’t.  Make sure t double check the directions in person before posting them. In some cases that may be too far, a walk, but you may be able to combine the train/bus directions with bike directions and bring in more people.

The bike directions are a brand new feature and take into account the location of bike lanes, bike trails, AND the grade of the street to offer a route that doesn’t involve climbing steep hills.  The data isn’t complete for many locations, so you may want to take bike directions with a grain of salt for awhile.

The forgotten step: Where do I put the vehicle?

Don’t forget to include where to park!  People from farther away may pass you up if there’s no nearby parking, never realizing there’s a huge parking lot they can’t see just around the corner.  If you include bike directions, don’t forget to include where they should chain the bike!

2 thoughts on “Getting feet in the door- the value of good directions”

  1. This is great. Well thought out and something we can take note of for much more than a bookshop. I do like the way you made putting the number and street name in front of your shop as a public service.

  2. This was a really great article! I actually went outside and walked up and down the street in both directions to see what I could see! Now, my store has the number on it – large!

    Thanks for some great advice about a not-often-thought-of problem!

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