Using Buy-Local Movements As Part Of Your Green Marketing Strategy

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Buy  LocalFind out how buy-local movements can give independent owners a unified voice in government and media, educate consumers about the value of independent businesses and how to make a buy-local strategy work for your company.

by Sofia Ribeiro, Founder and co-owner of Kiwano Marketing

The man is a social species. We like our neighborhood market, that coffee shop around the corner and the nice saleswoman at the funky clothing store. With the expansion of big surfaces such as Wal-Mart and Sears, communities are turning into the buy-local movement for their shopping habits. How can you use this movement as part of your marketing strategy?

Our gregarious instincts render life easier for marketers – and businesses – that bank on creating, maintaining, and stimulating social relationships. According to Jeff Milchen, co-founder of The Boulder Independent Business Alliance, most successful buy-local campaigns grow out of independent business networks that share three main elements. First, they educate consumers about the value of independent businesses in the community. Second, they jointly promote shopping at those businesses through advertising, coupon books, shop-local weeks, and other efforts. And third, they give independent owners a unified voice in government and media.

Building The Case For Buy-Local Movements

When promoting a buy-local campaign, you should focus on at least two of the three attributes of this movement:

1. Improves the economy in your local community.
The buy-local movement creates and saves jobs locally, but it also provides another benefit to your community: it emphasizes the positive impact spending can have when dollars circulate within a smaller radius. “This philosophy extends to what that money can mean for business start-ups and expansion, too,” says Paul Saginaw from Business Alliance for Local Living Economies. “And how business growth – and all of the benefits it brings – can come from nurturing entrepreneurs and small businesses instead of luring the mega-corporations and hoping for a big deal with a windfall of jobs.”

2. Adds value to your partners, suppliers and clients.
Another benefit of the buy-local movement is the potential for creating personal relationships. Customers value that special attention you get when walk into the hair salon around the block, where the stylist knows your name, your favourite activities and what you did last weekend. As a consumer, you’re most likely to favour business with people you’re familiar with and who know you. Studies show that consumers will pay a premium for local products and services, rewarding businesses that connect with them with dollars and word of mouth, while punishing those that don’t.

3. Creates less carbon emissions.
Buying from your local service providers not only improves the local economy and boosts your connections, it also gives you the opportunity to reduce some of your shopping’s carbon emissions. Local products tend to use neighboring resources, reducing travel time and resultant emissions considerably (this is especially relevant for the past decade, since most consumer products are manufactured in East Asia).

When using the buy-local movement in your marketing strategy, be aware of how you spin it. “It’s easy to show that the local businesses benefit from buy-local movements. It’s very hard to show the costs,” says Russell Roberts, an economist at George Mason University and host of the EconTalk podcast. The costs can include higher prices and a narrower selection for consumers. “The claim is it keeps the money in the community,” he says. “The money in the community isn’t the goal of economic life. The goal of economic life is to have the right access to the things we care about.”

The secret is to critically look to your target audience and supply chain: does it make sense for your business to go down the buy-local avenue? Can both you and your community profit from this practice?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this issue. Use the comments box below or send me an email to sofia@kiwano.ca.

© 2010, Sofia_Ribeiro. All rights reserved. Do not republish.

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Author: Sofia_Ribeiro (13 Articles)

Sofia Ribeiro is the founder and co-owner of Kiwano Marketing, a green marketing services provider dedicated to support small, sustainable businesses. An experienced marketing professional and a green enthusiast, Sofia has an extensive marketing background across both small businesses and large enterprises throughout Europe and North America. Her expertise lays in guerrilla marketing and Internet marketing techniques, paired with a solid experience in copywriting and industry research. Sofia also manages a green marketing blog at http://www.kiwano.ca/blog.

  • http://itsaulgood.com/blog Saul Good

    Local First and Buy Local campaigns are a great way to support the local economy and build a strong resilient community. Understanding the impacts on the environment are challenging though as it depends on how you define local and the types of businesses you allow to participate in the campaign. For example, if you allow any business that’s locally owned (51% is owned by someone who lives in the community) but they import their products from far away, there’s still considerable environmental impact. If a retailer isn’t locally owned but sells gift baskets filled with locally made products you’ve got a case for reducing carbon.

    We’re working to develop a Buy Local campaign in Vancouver through LoCo BC (http://locobc.com/) part of BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies). It’s exciting to be part of the working Board helping to get these initiatives rolling again in Vancouver. If anyone’s interested in getting involved please do be in touch.

  • http://www.kiwano.ca Sofia Ribeiro

    Hi Saul,

    Thanks for your comment.
    You made a great point: it’s not enough to be locally owned; companies need to focus on actually walking the local talk.
    I’m working on another article on sustainability and the local movement. I would love to get your feedback on it.

    Warm regards,
    Sofia

    • http://itsaulgood.com/blog Saul Good

      Hi Sofia,

      Happy to talk about your other article, give me a call anytime. Local and bioregionalism are big parts of sustainability but it’s never a simple black or white. I personally think that locally owned companies should be included in Buy Local campaigns as it’s a great way to encourage a vibrant local economy. There are further benefits and multipliers for the local economy if the products themselves being purchased were procured locally but one shouldn’t exclude things that are good that build awareness for behaviour we’re trying to encourage.

      As Amalia points out, can a company buy local at their head office if they sell products/services internationally? I say yes, local purchasing for business (B2B/business to business) is great for the local economy and builds a strong network of suppliers with short supply chains for great service and reduced impact on the environment. You should be careful with how you market your local purchasing strategy as it might alienate you with your global clientele.

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  • http://www.amalialink.com Amalia Maloney

    Hi Sofia,
    Thank you for your article on Buy-Local Movements. I really enjoyed how you laid out three of the attributes and I was just curious as to what thoughts and advice you have in regards to businesses that began to do work internationally? Since our world is essentially becoming “smaller” due to our technology today, how would you suggest a small company encourage buy-local in their headquarters area and in areas abroad where they sell their products? An example I know of would be an electronic parts company in my area (Denver/Boulder) that does all of its sales on-line and has the majority of their market in Europe. Is it possible for them to encourage buy-local without loosing their clients as well? Thank you for your insight and feedback.

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  • http://www.kiwano.ca Sofia Ribeiro

    Hi Amalia,

    Thanks for your comment.
    It’s not always easy to go local, especially for internet-based businesses. Having said this, there are a few ways you can do it without loosing clients. For instance, that company can partner with local providers during the manufacturing process, so the components that are to be sold in Europe are actually produced on that continent. The company can also build a joint-venture with local providers on other areas of the business, such as marketing or PR (in this way, the company is not only helping the local economy, it is also leveraging the provider’s knowledge of the local market). The company can also take part in community events, perhaps fundraising for a local NFP.

    I would love to exchange more ideas with you. You can reach me at sofia(at)kiwano.ca.

  • http://www.naturebuilding.org Svetoslav Stoykov

    Hi Sofia,

    I was thinking of writing an article about Local Production vs. Foreign Import. I liked a lot, some of your ideas and I want to implement them in my post. May I use your article as a reference point?

  • http://www.kiwano.ca Sofia Ribeiro

    Hi Svetoslav,

    Thanks for asking! Go ahead – it’s all about sharing ;)
    Just link it back to either this article or directly to my blog at http://www.kiwano.ca/blog.

    Best,
    Sofia

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  • Pat

    It’s odd that a 2010 article would not mention the American Independent Business Alliance — for almost a decade they’ve been the go-to source for businesses and communities in the US and Canada seeking to do buy local campaigns and the broader Indie Business Alliances described: http://amiba.net

    • http://www.kiwano.ca Sofia Ribeiro

      Hi Pat,

      Thanks for sharing AMIBA’s website – great source of information.

      Regards,
      Sofia