Find 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.
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?
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