By Princess Jones
Local businesses are en vogue right now. But there are some small business owners that think that being local is the benefit. It’s not. A benefit is what your customers get from you. You being a local business doesn’t mean anything if the customer doesn’t benefit directly from it.
If you’re a local business but you’re not providing the benefits your customers expect from one, it’s time to get to work.
Often, big box stores are hiring warm bodies with smiling faces. Obviously, they’re looking for good employee but being particularly informed is not a priority. On the other hand, customers expect some specialized knowledge from the person behind the counter at a local business.
If you’re hiring from the same pool as the big box stores in your area, you can still make your staff stand out. Make it a point to educate them into brand ambassadors. If you sell coffee, make sure that your employees can answer every question about coffee someone could possibly ask. Hold regular education sessions and make it clear that you expect your employees to know their stuff.
Local stores rarely beat big box stores on pricing. High volume discounts allow those retailers to price items cheaper while maintaining the same margins. But where local stores can win is in the product selection. Big retailers tend to be collectors, meaning they try to stock as much variety as profit allows. But small local businesses need to be curators. They need to be selective about what they’re going to stock. Not everything will fit and sometimes you’ll have to say no.
Let’s say you’re running a local tea shop. The Walmart down the street carries five or six brands tea bags, too. But you’re not competing with them because you are curating your products with a certain standard in mind. You carry teas from various countries, teas with certain flavors, and teas with homeopathic properties. You’re not catering to the casual tea drinker who is also looking for a six pack of socks. And it shows in your product offerings.
For a customer to make a choice to buy locally, they have to drive past all of the big box stores and chains to your store. If the thing they want isn’t there when they do, they are that much likely to stay home next time. We all stock is an investment and affects your business’ liquidity. But one of the benefits of being a local business is that instant gratification that comes from putting a product in a customer’s hands immediately. If they wanted to wait a week for it, they could have ordered it from Amazon for less money.
Isolated from the Community
When most consumers make it a point to shop local, they want to support their local economy. They want to support a business that affects where they live. If you have small business that operates like it’s not a part of the community, you’re not providing this benefit.
One way to get connected to your local community is to sponsor local organizations, like a kids’ baseball team or an animal shelter. You can also participate in local events, like a festival or Small Business Saturday. Show your customers that you’re a part of their community and the money they spend with you goes back into it.