Retail SMB Owners: Community Education is Your Responsibility!

Retail SMB Owners: Community Education is Your Responsibility!

Listen guys and gals: Big box businesses are eating away at your future. Day by day; week by week. The same old signs and slogans just aren’t doing the trick.

How many Walmart, Walgreens or (ahem) Costco parking lots have you driven buy during business hours lately that were empty?

costco lineup

If you don’t start and/or continue educating your customers as to why they need to support small local businesses by ditching the nearest big box for a trip downtown (or uptown or wherever the majority of the SMBs in your town or city are located) — your future will continue to be more uncertain than it needs to be.

And you simply cannot rely on local government for this kind of help.

In my current place of residence (the town I grew up in) there’s marketing for “Buy Local” scattered all over the place. There’s also a special committee of politicians and SMB owners who’ve combined their efforts to support the beautification of the downtown, which includes encouraging small business owners to lay down roots.

But still…

Government Likely Not to Help You

But I don’t buy into any government’s stake in supporting small business initiatives…

Since we all hate (or love to hate) Walmart, let’s consider the average “taxable” square footage of a Super Center: 178,000 (Reuters).

Now the average retail store. Well, a true average is difficult to find, but let’s safely assume that most outside of warehousing, car dealerships and other showroom-type businesses don’t exceed 2,000 square foot. If you disagree, let me know in the comments.

Why am I harping on square footage you ask? Well, obviously it’s just one of many factors. But it does illustrate one of the reasons why your city hall really doesn’t care as much as you might think. Truly, most small businesses are nothing more than decoration for the landscape of most towns, so far as they’re concerned.

Many SMBs fail to pull in enough profit to get charged a square footage tax on their business. Home based SMBs actually get some deductions based on the size of their business.

The bigger the physical location and the more sales you make equals more money for local, state and federal government. Plain and simple.

Call this a rant, call it whatever you will. I’m just saying that it’s up to you and other businesses. Just because city hall is paying to put up the signs (if they even offer that much help) really doesn’t amount to a hill of beans.

Buy Local
Image Credit: Peter Blanchard/Flickr

Your Responsibility

It’s up to you and you, your competitors and compatriots to get locals and those from the surrounding area into your stores. Your marketing campaigns have to be tight. People need to understand the true benefit of buying from you — not just on price but everything!

The Marketing

Many SMBs have no idea of all the benefits. Most just harp on old values like “Where will you shop when we’re gone?” or “Buying local means creating local jobs? — etc. There’s a pretty clear answer to those questions.

They’ll shop at Wally World, of course!

Who’ll work at those stores? Locals, of course!

Let me arm you with some better selling points to pitch to potential customers:

1. Their purchases go right back into the community they buy in:

Most of you live in or around the communities you own businesses in don’t you? Tell your customers that. As I mentioned, it isn’t enough to put the “I hire locals card”. You’re the supposed big rich business owner all the locals talk about when you’re not listening.

Tell them how you own a house, how your kids go to school there, how you buy your cars from the local dealership and shop at the local grocery store. Nearly everything you make goes right back into community businesses and taxes.

This could be a point unto itself: You’re helping to build local prosperity by keeping hard-earned dollars from leaving. You invested in your community by setting up a business and continue to invest by putting the money you make there back into local businesses, schools, charities, youth programs and other initiatives.

2. Your employees aren’t a number:

Of course you hire local. But so do the big guys. Nobody’s naive about this, yet the “Keep jobs in our community” thing is still a major part of any buy local campaign.

Instead, you hire local people and treat them like actual human beings instead of the people who work the cash and stock the shelves at Walmart and Costco. There’s no Employee # 98438547‘s working at your store. The big boss (you) knows each of them by name and their kids names too — probably their second cousin’s name and occupation also.

3. You’ll actually go the extra mile for them:

Local SMBs actually find out what their customers want and find a way to give it to them. Basing their inventory on local income, way of life, cultural preferences, and much more. If there’s something they want and you can give it to them, then you will, of course. This’s the beauty of actually having to earn one’s business.

Big boxes are in such a lucrative spot, they actually make the rules.

Big box stores “test” product lines to find out what people are buying. Then axe the products that don’t sell and exploit those that do. They actually make startups jump through hoops which often require they find a venture capitalist to fund, thus giving up a considerable stake in something they created in order to expand.

Share Your Thoughts and Tips in the Comments

There are tons more reasons of course. The main point, other than the responsibility falls on you as a retail SMB owner, is that you have to expand your marketing efforts beyond a single catch-phrase.

To get attention from the locals, they need to have their head shook up a bit. Obviously, your demographic is going to be those who have roots or plan to set down roots. Getting the youth of your community through the doors deserves a dedicated post and is a much tougher challenge to overcome!

It’s up to you.

Image Credit: Lorianne DiSabbato/Flickr
Image Credit: Lorianne DiSabbato/Flickr



Main Image Credit: Ara Shimoon/Flickr

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