If you own a local, community-based business, you certainly understand the challenges of competing against national chain stores, emerging online competitors, and mega shopping clubs in your area. You can quickly recite the benefits your business offers and the reasons customers can find competitive prices and better service by patronizing your business over faceless corporate entities. However, do you “practice what you preach” when it comes to procuring goods and services for your business needs?
The benefits of buying local, for consumers, businesses and communities are undeniable: increased dollars in the local economy, more long-term job creation, increased diversity, choice of goods and services, and unmatched personal service and expertise. If you are a local business that is not making an effort to buy from, work with, and support other local businesses, you could be missing out on some important opportunities.
As a group of over 350 independent office supply dealers, many of our members are active in their communities and developing innovative ways to promote the ”Buy Local” concept. For example, one of our members, Baker Office Products in Lubbock, Texas, has developed a customer reward program that offers gift cards redeemable at various locally-owned shops. Baker usually receives a small discount on the gift card (versus what a similar card costs at a big box) and the local merchant receives free exposure on Baker’s website and in program literature. In addition, the participating business also gets the opportunity to convert these reward redeemers into future customers. Baker, in turn, offers preferred pricing on office supplies to these businesses, creating a symbiotic “win-win” for all involved.
Beyond the obvious economic and strategic benefits of local businesses purchasing goods and services from each other, there are other potentially overlooked opportunities that working with other local businesses can offer. The higher level of personal service and expertise provided by a local business can be a great time saver for busy business owners needing advice on complex purchases. Partnering with other local businesses in “lead clubs” can be an effective and low cost way to uncover promising new sales opportunities. Joining or starting a grass roots “Buy Local” group in your community can raise visibility for all local businesses, with little to no investment. Finally, local business clubs and groups can learn from each other in overcoming common challenges that many of these businesses face.
By supporting other local businesses in your community, you can help improve the local economy, ensure more choice and diversity, and uncover hidden opportunities to grow and expand your business. The same unique benefits that you provide to your customers over mass merchants are likely to be found in your hometown as well for the goods and services you need to run your business effectively. The “Buy Local” concept is more than a neat slogan for a bumper sticker, but a business practice you should employ whenever possible that will bring rewards to both your business and your community.