We know that supporting local trade is essential to building and maintaining a healthy, sustainable and thriving community. Supporting local businesses can help increase jobs, improve public services, reduce environmental impact, create healthy competition and drive innovation. So, how do you encourage others in the community to think and shop locally? Here are five ways to get you started.
1. Encourage customer recommendations
Personal or word-of-mouth referrals remain one of the most powerful ways of promoting your business. A 2013 Nielsen study revealed that 84 per cent of people trust consumer recommendations.1
So if you receive positive feedback from a customer, encourage them to share their experience with others, whether it’s face to face, via social media or as a post on consumer-review sites and forums such as TripAdvisor, Product Review Australia, TrueLocal and Whirlpool.
2. Seek endorsements from influential people
When it comes to garnering community support, some people will have more social clout than others. Consider contacting a person with considerable sway to get their influential backing. He/she could be the editor of the local newspaper, the president of your trade association, a business investor or even a local celebrity.
Remember, be strategic about the way you approach them. For example, if approaching local media, ensure you pitch a relevant (and time-specific) story about how your business, product or service supports the community. Similarly, if you’re talking to a business investor, convey why supporting your business is good for the local economy.
3. Provide excellent personal service
While small businesses may not always be able to compete with big businesses on pricing, they have the advantage when it comes to service.
The AMEX Global Customer Service Barometer revealed two-thirds of customers were willing to spend more with a company they believe provides excellent customer service. The research found 55 per cent of consumers who intended to make a purchase decided not to based upon poor service experience.2
So, focus on building relationships by taking care of regular customers. Depending on your type of business, you may want to promote loyalty with your local customers with local community discounts, special offers or even group-buying offers via social networking sites like LivingSocial and Deal Lovers.
Your customers are the lifeblood of your business. If you support them, chances are they’ll support you as well.
4. Participate and support local events
From community festivals to farmers’ markets or a fundraising drive at a primary school, events bring new customers to you. They’re a great opportunity to increase your profile in the community, especially if you consider it a brand-awareness exercise, rather than a profit-generating activity.
Consider contacting the event organiser and lending your support by donating free products and services in exchange for promoting your business in their communications.
5. Lead by example
Take a close look at your business. Are you using local suppliers? How do you transport your goods – do you use a local courier service? Do you buy your office supplies from a small independent business rather than a big retailer? If you’re a restaurant, do you source your produce from local farms and growers?
The decision to Shop Small starts with you. The best way to encourage your community to shop local is for you to directly support other businesses in the area.
We love small businesses because they’re unique. They have the advantage of difference, originality and independence. Embracing these strengths will ensure you remain a much-appreciated member of your community.
This November, American Express – along with Principal Partners EnergyAustralia, MYOB, NAB and Virgin Australia – are committed to bringing customers to the doors of small businesses. Visit shopsmallaustralia.com and join the Shop Small movement.
1 Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages, Nielson, 2013,
2 AMEX 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, Echo, 2012,
This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
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