Time Magazine Article on the Economic benefits of buying locally - http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1903632,00.html
A couple of high points I took away from this article are that part and parcel to what I say all the time... Small and Mid size businesses have a very tough go of it in many respects, specifically smaller margins due to higher costs. And, "[Local] purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive," says author and NEF researcher David Boyle. Read more
On the flip side, locally owned businesses have the benefit of being able to adapt and respond to market forces in some ways that the big boxes or chain stores can't due to their size and chain-of-command multi-level approvals. That said, a small business may have the flexibility to change but may also find some situations cost prohibitive.
This forces the small business owner or manager to continually be shrewd, creative and fundamental in their marketing efforts. What does that mean exactly?
It means not just having a client database, but using that database to grow itself and your customer base. Flesh it out by continually obtaining information from existing customers AND ask their permission to send them an email newsletter and special offers by mail. Make one of the pieces of info you collect are birthdays...then be sure to send each customer a card or coupon for their birthday with the goal of becoming part of their annual birthday routine which in turn can become generational via the family affair. Map it then refine strategy with it (see my blog posts Marketing with Mapping Parts 1 and 2).
It means not just knowing your neighborhood or town you grew up in, but understanding the community as a whole and in slices. Understanding your local community is a very very generalized statement. We can look more in depth at it later, but for now I'll pose a handful of questions one should know or be on the way to finding out:
- How do the demographics break down? How many potential clients are there living in my community? How many within a given radius from my location? How can I effectively reach further?
- What's the lay of the land (literally)? Are there geographic features in the area? How do they affect business?
- What are the commuting patterns? Why are they like that?
- What are some of the big local events? Involvement? Volunteer/donate? Do they have vendor booths?
It means not just knowing that you need to advertise, but understanding where geographically when and how best to spend every advertising dollar. Where geographically is covered to a large degree in Marketing with Mapping posts. When to advertising can be dictated by two main things, your philosophy and your peak season. Peak season advertising begins before hand and ramps up to the date or season, may be sustained through the season then generally declines in the off-season...by how much depends on the philosophy. The "philosophy" aspect of it applies to the off-season...do you increase advertising in the off-season or do you hold back (costs) and focus on the peak season to make the whole year? I find there to be a pretty even split in the two sides of that philosophy (much like most opinions).
Understanding how local purchases affect the local economy is a consumer choice issue which affects the local business owner tremendously. Sometimes it comes down to consumer awareness, or lack thereof. "Gosh, I didn't even know you were here" is probably one of the most frustrating statements for an owner to hear. It throws all of his advertising into question (at least in his own mind) so what should you think if you hear this statement? First, assess... who said it? A new local or a long time local? If they're from out of town, then don't panic. If they're local, start asking questions to find out more about this customer. Are they what you would consider "typical"? Or do they have a travel pattern that skews their buying habits? Or are they pointing out an area of opportunity (see Mapping post...)?
Community perception must also be considered, you might have to be in business for a couple of years just to establish your company as stable and reliable, which in turn requires an ongoing ad campaign to maintain awareness that you're there...and you're still there...and you're still there. In time your marketing efforts can decrease, however it can take decades before your marketing requirements drop to nill and for most businesses that will never happen.
Let me leave you with one additional concrete nugget. This nugget assumes that your business HAS a website...not just a website, but a GOOD website. IF you have a GOOD website, then consider this, make it (the website) do it's job! What is it's job? Well, if it's an e-commerce website it will sell products for you. If it's a static informational website, then it will convey the info you want including but not limited to your location, contact info and special offers. If you run a special offer on your website, make it easier to track by requiring a code entry or a printed coupon to be presented.
And all that is not even the nugget...here's the nugget... advertise your web address in the classified section of local newspapers! There are numerous ways to drive web traffic, this is just one among many. It also happens to be one that is very cost effective. Within The Daily Record I recommend our Here & There section.
Nugget delivered. Polish it and use it wisely!!