By Bill Brunelle, Co-founder of Independent We Stand
On paper, it’s not hard to distinguish a local business from a big box store. The local business is the one that is unique to your community, supports local causes and returns more money per dollar of sales to the local economy. But in the real world, these important facts can get lost in the shuffle, and your local business can be outdone by the loud voices and the giant shadows of the big box. If that’s the case, then it’s time to change things up and use local to your advantage.
1. Tell your Main Street Tale.
Everybody loves a good story, and your small business probably has one of the best! Let customers know how long you’ve been in the community and why you’re there by telling them your Main Street Tale. Maybe your business was started by your great-great-grandfather and passed down through the generations, or maybe you recently opened up shop to bring a taste of your hometown to a new city. Either way, customers will be more likely to remember your business and enjoy their experience there if they can share in your story.
2. Show your local pride.
Local businesses are proud to be a part of the community. Because you’ve built your life and your business in the community, you have a lot in common with your customers. You probably root for the same football team, and your kids might go to the same high school – or rival high schools. Reflect your pride in the community by decorating with local memorabilia like high school sports jerseys, bumper stickers from other local businesses and historic headlines from the local newspaper.
3. Host unique events.
Your big box competition will probably do business as usual on most holidays – maybe they’ll even celebrate with a sale or extended hours. Your local business can celebrate the holiday in a much more fun and memorable way. Host a Fourth of July cookout for your neighbors and customers, or organize a charity baseball game right before the little league season starts. Unique events will help you engage your customers outside of the store, and your business will be remembered for something more than a flash sale on a federal holiday.
4. Start new traditions.
While you’re reflecting the history of your community and celebrating the present, turn your event or campaign into a new tradition. You could turn that charity baseball game into an annual event, for example, allowing you to engage new and existing customers year after year. Nothing says local like supporting and creating local traditions.
5. Partner with other local businesses.
You don’t have to take on the big boxes alone. A growing number of groups and organizations are dedicated to supporting small businesses and encouraging consumers to buy local. Get involved with the local chamber of commerce or join a ‘buy local’ group. Visit the American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) or the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) to find an existing group near you, or to start one if there isn’t a group in your region. When you work together, your group of small voices will have an even bigger impact.
No matter how loud the big boxes get, local businesses will always be the backbone of our economy. Leverage the support that’s available and use your unique, local identity to get noticed and be heard. For even more ideas, check out our list of 10 tips to promote your small business.