We’re approaching that time of year when buyers and sellers give small businesses some love in the media. If your business is based locally in a community where you live, play, and work, but you provide your offerings online, you might have a perception problem. It’s time to show your audience how they can buy local from your online store.
Buy local online
The typical scenario of “shopping small” includes customers strolling down the main street and window shopping in actual windows. What about your online store? Where do you fit? You’re not a huge chain, but you’re not that cute little boutique built of bricks and mortar on Main Street.
With the anonymity that can come from online shopping, it’s important to remind your customers of the benefits of choosing your online small business.
Remind customers why it pays to #ShopSmall:
- Community support. According to an article in the Huffington Post, $45 out of every $100 spent at a small business stays local.
- They can benefit from a small business owners’ passion and customer-centricity.
- There’s room to forge real, personal connections.
- They can obtain specific advice and recommendations.
- Every sale matters. Customers make real differences for business owners.
Now is the time to remind your current and future customers that you provide the benefit of shopping small with the convenience of buying online. Here are three ways to convince your customers to buy local by shopping in your online store.
1. Get personal and start a blog.
If the thought of blogging is new to you, take a look at this short video from a post on Forbes.com about the benefits of blogging for a small business owner, why a blog is important, and answers to common objections.
How will starting a blog help you remind customers of your place in the community?
- Write spotlights or short feature posts about long-time customers. Their friends and family will rush to share the post with their networks.
- Report on local trends. What are customers in the area buying? Why? What needs are your products or services meeting in the community?
- Review new products and share their usefulness to your local customer base.
- Share customer reviews and thank them for their support of your business.
When customers are inspired to shop at a small business, they do so because they feel a connection with the owners and employees. Let your customers, and your community, get to know you.
2. Work with local partners to launch a promotion.
Do you often work with a local vendor who could also use more business and exposure? Share the cost and work of offering a promotion with a community business partner. Co-promoting with a partner that shares your mission, values and has products or services complementary to yours shows your customers that you’re a local expert.
Before you jump in, here’s a recap from the Harvard Business Review that outlines six steps to ensure your promotion has the best opportunity for success.
Define the objective. Why are you running the promotion? Is it for customer appreciation? Increased awareness? Clearly stating your intentions helps shape your offer and choice of partner.
Get to know your customers. Where do they live? Who are your heavy buyers? Who are your newest customers? There are many resources, some to the ZIP code level, that can help you better understand who’s buying. If you’re unsure of why they’re buying, send them a quick survey and find out!
Know your offerings. What do you sell the most of each month? Does it change? What products or services are most popular with your loyal customers? What problems are you solving for them? Asking questions like these is a crucial step in crafting your promotional offer.
Know your partner and your joint purchase context. Yes, you should know and trust your co-promotional partner, but your success also depends on how your offerings complement each other.
Is your partner a brick-and-mortar business? Will he/she offer your co-promotion in person while you offer it online? Together, do your offerings equal more value for your common customer?
Execute under a close eye. Now that you’ve launched your offer over email, Facebook, your website and through your partner’s resources, it’s important to monitor and evaluate how it’s doing. When you fulfill the promotion, ask your customers what led them to make the purchase.
Experiment and debrief. Try different offers. What works and what doesn’t? Evaluating your promotions is as important as planning them. If you’ve never debriefed before, it can be simple or in-depth. Here’s a video to help you get started:
3. Support a local organization or event.
Just because you don’t have a storefront doesn’t mean your local customers can’t get to know you. Show your community where your heart is.
- Sponsor (or co-sponsor) a local sports team.
- Partner with a local photographer for an offline/online activity at a popular event.
- Work with the local school or cause you’re passionate about to offer fundraising opportunities.
Just remember, carefully evaluate potential partners before moving forward with your promotion.
The meat of the advice is this: tell your story online and offline to remind your customers about your business. If you follow these three steps, you’ll be that much closer to showing your customers how to buy local by shopping online.
View the free checklist: 5 ways to get more local customers
Want to turbocharge your local marketing strategy? Check out our free checklist to get you started.
Also published on Medium.