There are a lot of people in Atlanta right now that are looking for just about any way possible to get off the roads. At the end of March, a bridge on I-85, one of our major thoroughfares, collapsed after a fire, and won’t reopen until the end of May. In the meantime, traffic (never great) is nearing the realm of ridiculous, and the already budding tendency to seek out alternate means of transportation has reached full bloom.
That makes it a great week to look at how one Atlanta company is addressing traffic issues in a different way. This week, I’m happy to welcome Eric Hunger, President of ElectroBike Georgia and Alan Goodman, CEO of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce. We talk about building your business in a way that addresses specific customer problems, finding the right location, and developing relationships with your local business community.
Know What Your Customer Needs
One of the spectacular things about my conversation with this week’s guests was their focus on building a business that both understands and meets their customer’s needs. Hunger explains, “We’ve had professionals that come in and say, ‘I want to wear my suit to work, and I don’t want to sweat.’ Aside from wanting a powerful motor, many of these clients want a bike that’s great with the power off as well, so they can get their exercise on the way home from work. Says Hunger, “So, just a lot of pressure on me to make sure they have the right bike.”
Hunger also recognized a creative way to meet a specific need for police officers. He designed a bike specifically for the Atlanta police. It has lights, a (really big) siren, and is programmed to go faster than other electric bikes. Goodman helped him bring it to the Brookhaven police chief, and the bikes are now a reality, filling a need for the local police department (and making ElectroBike more visible in the area, which doesn’t hurt either.)
Look at the Big Picture
It’s important to look at customer needs, and it’s also important to consider the support you’ll get when meeting those needs. Hunger took time to research what was happening in the bike industry before jumping in. Coming from a marketing background, Hunger did a good deal of market analysis before deciding to pull the trigger on ElectroBike Georgia.
Here are some factors he considered:
- A large percentage of the population is aging, and may be looking for alternative forms of transportation.
- There is a trend in which people are moving from the suburbs back into the cities, and many of them don’t want to bring their cars along for the ride.
- There is a lot of industry support. Explains Hunger, “The bike industry as a whole is pushing cities to put in bike lanes, and we’ve seen a resurgence of that, and a lot of money in Atlanta has been allocated to that.”
Hunger says, “Trying to balance all those out, I arrived at the decision that, after three months of researching, I might be a little early, but I think it’s the right thing for me to invest my money into.”
While knowing what need you want to meet is essential, having a good strategy for getting there is just as important. Do your research.
Be Where They Need You
Choosing a location is one of the most important choices you will make as a business owner. This is particularly true for those of you who are CEOs of retail establishments, but it matters for all businesses when it comes to culture, images, branding, and attracting the team you want. Hunger put a lot of work into choosing the right spot for ElectroBike. Here are some of the factors he considered:
Being urban. Brookhaven is an area of Atlanta that makes all things easily accessible. Shopping, working, and living are all in easy biking distance.
Lots of foot traffic. Hunger chose a location in Brookhaven with a lot of pedestrian activity. This allows him to effectively market his business just by setting a few of his bikes outside.
Great community support. Every week I ask my CEO guests to bring a trusted advisor, and Hunger chose to bring Goodman, who is the CEO of the Brookhaven Chamber of Commerce. That says a lot about Goodman’s relationship with business owners in his chamber. This fantastic community support also helped Hunger when he received a citation for having the aforementioned bikes on the sidewalk outside his store. He was able to reach out to the right people and quickly get the necessary approval to keep his bikes out where they could be seen.
- Proximity to MARTA. Hunger was aware that many members of his target demographic would be drawn to an area with alternative transportation options, and Brookhaven’s proximity to two train stations made it a perfect option.
- Growth. Brookhaven is in the process of fast growth, both business and residential. Increased jobs and dwelling places provide an increased need for transport, and ElectroBike is poised to fill that need.
- Proximity to the BeltLine. Atlanta is installing a bike and pedestrian path that will form a ring around the center of Atlanta, and millennials especially are seeking out residences close enough that they can use the BeltLine to commute to work. Brookhaven offers a close proximity to that demographic as well.
Whatever industry you’re in, looking at your customer’s problem from different angles helps highlight expedient ways to fill that need, including choosing a location that serves your end goal.
Build It and They Will Come
When you’ve found a need that needs filling, picked the perfect location, and found a well-researched way to fill that need, it’s time to tango. If you’ve done your work well, the people will come. For Hunger, especially since the bridge collapse, people have sought out his products. Hunger explains, “We have people walk in and say, ‘It took me 45 minutes to get here, but I’m determined to buy a bike from you.’” People can see the value that the bikes will add to their lives, and are willing to go out of their way to find one.
No matter your industry, when you keep the need of your customer in mind, as well as doing the homework needed to find an effective path to meeting those needs, the customers will come to you.