Small business retailers compete with national chain stores by doing things which the chain stores by focussing on the local community. Generally a chain store will write a cheque to show local support by sponsoring a sport team or a charity. Real engagement takes more than a cheque, it requires a connection with the local community such that the community wants you to succeed.
Here is some free advice for small and independent retailers from our many years experience serving them with our Point of Sale software. This advice could be used by anyone regardless of the software they use.
1. HONOUR BOARD
Either as a separate promotion or on your notice board have a space to recognise a local hero. Make a award regularly – quarterly, monthly – you choose. Invite brief submissions. Make the decision. Put their photo and story on the board. No prize – just recognition of a local hero.
Either on your notice board or separate create a local gallery. Invite customers to provide photos of local happenings. Name the people in the photos. The idea is to create something local people want to look at.
3. AMBASSADORS: EMPLOYEES
Your employees have a HUGE role to place in your local connection. Whenever possible hire locally.
Let your employees in on your focus on being locally connected. Seek their suggestions. Encourage their involvement. Give them guidelines on customer communication but encourage them to find their own words.
4. LOCAL NEWSLETTER
Monthly, quarterly – publish a newsletter for customers about your business and its local connection. Write some local stories. Explain how support for your business helps the local community. Promote local products you carry. Keep it simple – stay away from the slick approach of the chain stores.
5. RECHARGE AND LOCALISE YOUR PROMOTIONS
Make this 100% local: local businesses, owned and operating locally; local sport teams and their results. Local clubs; Local events. Headline the board: YOUR LOCAL COMMUNITY BOARD – CONNECTING YOU WITH YOUR NEIGHBOURS. Appoint someone in the shop to manage the board and check contents each day. A fresh and well arranged board will attract attention. Do not charge for the service.
6. JOIN IN
Join the Chamber of Commerce, go to meetings, get involved in their projects. It’s a great way for you to influence local government spending in your area and to connect with other independent businesses.
7. INVOLVEMENT OUTSIDE THE BUSINESS
The community needs to see your involvement beyond the walls of your business. Your presence and the presence of others representing your business at local events will prove your connection in a way your corporate type competitors will not be able to match.
Focus your charity donations on local charities. While the bigger charities might complain and say they also work locally, there are charities specific to your area which struggle against the better known charities – just like your business does.
9. LOCAL PRODUCTS
If you can get your hands on local products which fit with your range do so and display them as local products. There is no better way to connect with your local community. If you cannot find any consider looking at local markets. Put a sign up in cafes and other public places inviting product submissions.
10. GETTING OUT
Shop locally yourself. Talk to local business owners. Make sure you know what’s happening in the community.
11. CREATING EVENTS
Make your mark in the community by creating and hosting an annual event. Have fun. Try the annual paper plane contest. The annual burger bake off. The annual local music festival. The local games – potato sack rate, egg and spoon race and so on. Have fun! Work in partnership with other local businesses.