Flooring The Consumer on Simple Marketing Now

Please visit Flooring The Consumer's new home on SimpleMarketingNow.com where you can subscribe to receive updates to blog articles in real time!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Getting Ahead By Being Local

Local Wildlife - stained glass window, Dornoch Cathedral #1
originally uploaded by foxypar4.

Local represents a competitive advantage, a means for getting ahead, right?

After all, local businesses capture an aura, a perspective, an approach, that has nothing to do with that of national businesses. Rather than be beige-ly uniform, local businesses express character and uniqeness. They are memorable, and focused entirely on their customers, right?

Combine that with our desire to focus locally, to eliminate waste from distribution chains by sourcing our foods, clothing items and services from organizations down the road from us and people we know, with whom we converse regularly, and who listen to us.

So why is it that local business often don't 'get' it?

Some examples.

In 3 Ways For Local Businesses To Benefit From Being Local, Retail Hits and Misses' Judy Hopelain describes her experiences running pre-prom errands with her daughter. Local doesn't always win out, despite a strong biais. Judy recommends:

1. Making sure that your business services are available when customers need them. In other words, are your hours of operation relevant to your customer base?

2. Know what's going on in town and tailor what your offer to be relevant. If it's prom season, do you offer a prom package?

3. Help customers extend the usefulness of their purchases. This ties into the new age of frugality.

Jeanne Byington from The Importance of Earnest Service makes a similar comparison in Service at 1,000+ Supermarkets vs. a Pair of Bread Boutiques. Imagine how dreadful her local service exprience is!

At the same time, large organizations are catching onto the appeal of local. Take Frito-Lay pitches its Lay's potato chips as locally made from the 5/12/09 USA Today. I'm impressed with the concept: it celebrates individuals, the "80 'local' farmers from 27 states who grow the potatotes used to make its chips." All of sudden, chips have more character. They form the basis of a conversation about location and potatoes and people. I like that a lot!

In the 5/13/09 New York Times article titled When 'Local' Makes It Big, the same chips are criticized for "embracing a broad interpretation of what eating locally means." Ok. But, still, a different kind of conversation is taking place involving products and the companies responsible for the products. Hunt's now highlights the provenance of the tomatoes used for canned tomatoes. The Sacramento County Farm Bureau has started a "Grow and Buy Local" initiative.

Being local definitely has merit.

My local paper - The Argus - wrote "R&M celebrates 28 years as an old-school hardware store" in the 5/7/09 issue. I was intrigued given the subject of this post. The owners attribute their local success to "old-fashioned customer service." More specifically,

+ "Customers know they can get anything from screen and window repair to high-tech computer color matching."
+ "They are now serving the second generation of hardware buyers in the Pompton area. Many of their customers come in to show their children the pictureof te Little League team that R&M sponsored over 20 years ago."
+ They help customers work to 'tackle smaller projects' themselves and save money.
+ They have an extensive inventory and willingly special order anything not available in store.
+ They are open seven days a week.

Being local can definitely get you ahead. But, it means embracing all that local means: being closely connected to your customers, interacting with them, and staying relevant to them in the value and convenience you offer them.

Are you ready to flaunt how local you are?

Technorati Tags: Del.icio.us Tags:


Ted Hurlbut said...

"Closely connected to your customers." That's the key! being an integral part of the community, not merely on the basis of your physical presence, but on the strength of the relationships you build. Relationships on a first name basis, meaningful and durable.

Jeanne Byington said...

Caught between huge and small and very much local, my heart sinks for Chrysler and GM dealers who have been cut off and whose hair is literally knit into the fabric of their communities.

How many Little League and bowling teams along with charity events and chambers of commerce have most supported? In a morning interview on WOR-Radio last week, I heard a representative of the NY State Automobile Dealers Association claim that the manufacturers pay for nothing—not even the cost of transporting cars, some $700+ each—to a dealer from a plant. So this is the thanks car dealers get. Life’s not fair, but this goes against the grain.

CB Whittemore said...

Jeanne, you capture the horrendous heartache and unfairness associated with the mess we are in. On the positive side, such unfair practices will come out into the open never to become accepted modes of behavior ever again. And, assuming the relationships are truly strong, those dealers will be able to reestablish their businesses. Thanks for adding your perspective.

CB Whittemore said...

Ted, you are absolutely right about the relationships. I was discussing a local ice cream shop with a friend. The new owners aren't happy with the business and want to sell it. Sadly, they've done very little to raise awareness about the business or get involved and develop strong ties to the community. They aren't closely connected to their customers. No wonder they want out!

Thanks for adding to the conversation.

Bruce D. Sanders, Ph.D. said...

C.B., your posting and the comments by Ted and Jeanne reflect what I think are two related, but separate, competitive advantages of being seen as a local retailer. First, the retailer is perceived as knowing the local customers well. You're dealing with a friend and/or they know your particular preferences. To build this advantage, the retailer can expect staff to learn customers' names, can sponsor local activities, and can join local organizations. The other advantage is being perceived as a member of the team. More of the revenues are kept in the community rather than being sent off to Bentonville, Arkansas. The store has a history in the community. They fly the same flags as the customer.
Why do I include that last one? Well, an article due for publication in the October 2009 Journal of Consumer Research analyzes the ways in which Chinese consumers rationalize buying and using Western items by giving those items a local focus. These folks are spending psychological energy to keep it local to their community, which happens to cover 3.7 million square miles and include 1.3 billion people!

CB Whittemore said...

Bruce, what a fascinating example! Thank you for sharing it and broadening the meaning of keeping it local. Wow.

Post a Comment

Reminder: Please, no self-promotional or SPAM comments. Don't bother if you're simply trying to build inauthentic link juice. Finally, don't be anonymous: it's too hard to have a conversation. Thanks, CB

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...