Large retailers are becoming more common destinations for many of today’s shoppers, and an increasing number of people are turning to global e-commerce companies to make everyday purchases. Because of this, it’s more important now than ever to support small businesses.
These enterprises are the mainstays of many towns and cities. They are also the primary form of income for many individuals and families. Unlike with large corporations that only focus on the financial bottom line and see customers as commodities, local businesses seek to form personal relationships with everyone who comes through their doors.
There are many reasons why supporting small businesses is essential. Shopping local has a direct effect on your immediate surroundings. This is because the majority of money spent at local businesses goes back into supporting the community’s economy.
Local businesses also serve a dual role as employers and employees in the town, and many new jobs in recent years have been created by these types of businesses rather than by large companies. Additionally, local businesses are rooted in their towns, and they are a vital part of both the culture and economy of where you live. Putting money into these businesses means putting money into improving your community.
Since small businesses don’t have the many corporate tiers that many larger companies do, their primary focus is on providing excellent customer service and selling much higher quality products. Many of these businesses carry items that aren’t available anywhere else, and shopping at these places rather than at chain stores can be an enriching experience.
It’s possible to buy everything you need from a small business without ever setting foot into a large megastore or using gigantic and impersonal online retailers, and you don’t necessarily need to spend money to support one of these businesses. Every business appreciates any help you can provide, but positive word of mouth can also go a very long way. With the internet and social media allowing people to share experiences and thoughts with large audiences, there is a nearly unlimited amount of ways in which you can support local businesses.
The most obvious and direct way of supporting small businesses is by shopping at them. For every item, you need to purchase, consider getting it from a unique local business. Much larger corporations often overshadow these businesses, but you can buy everything you need from local stores if you take the time to research what’s available in your area.
Think about what you buy most often from stores, and then find businesses in your area from which you can purchase these products. Shopping in-person at local businesses can be a fun adventure; a simple stroll into town can introduce you to many businesses you may not have even known existed.
And remember, many local restaurants are also considered small businesses. The next time you’re thinking about eating out at someplace, consider going to a restaurant that’s unique to your locale.
Small businesses are in a unique position compared to larger companies when it comes to building relationships. It’s a great feeling to walk into a store whose employees and owner know you by name. Building relationships over time mean that you can receive more personalized attention from people who know you and your tastes and have a vested interested in your happiness.
These sorts of relationships are rare or entirely non-existent at large retailers. With a local business, however, it’s typically not long until you become part of their family. Many businesses thrive off the positive relationships they have with loyal and happy customers.
Social media has changed the playing field when it comes to spreading the word about any business. Before, many companies vanished into obscurity because no one ever knew they existed. Nowadays, however, even the most specialized niche businesses can have a vibrant online presence.
Use social media to discover new companies and to voice your support for them. If you have a good experience buying from these types of retailers, let people online know about it. More and more people are utilizing online word of mouth to assist with their purchasing-related decisions, and you can provide immense support for businesses by relating how they have helped you.
Local businesses can be a great source of sponsorships for events you may be organizing. Using local companies as sponsors can help you put on the event you want while shining a light onto the businesses you’re working with. This helps support local companies by bringing in positive attention from prospective customers.
It’s important to remember that you don’t need to be holding a large event for businesses to sponsor your endeavors; you can ask local companies to sponsor field trips for clubs, community cleanups, and many other projects your group may intend on doing. The next time you’re organizing an outing or event, consider asking local businesses for sponsorships.
Reviews can be a tremendous source of support for businesses. Sites like Yelp and Google Reviews allow you to voice positive experiences you’ve had to a broad audience. Most people use online reviews to help them make decisions about what to buy, where to eat, and where to visit. A shining review can be a deciding factor for potential customers, some of whom may also leave good reviews, thus resulting in even more growth and attention for companies.
If you also happen to be a business owner, partnering with another local business can result in very beneficial and lucrative relationships. There are almost a countless number of ways to partner with other businesses.
If you’re holding a luncheon, for example, consider having a local “Ma and Pop” restaurant cater the event. If you’re buying products for your company, consider purchasing them from small businesses rather than large retailers. If a group asks you to sponsor an event, consider asking another local business you have a relationship with to participate alongside your company.
These types of relationships can pay off very well over time. Just as you can utilize a fellow business for your own company’s needs, they can do the same with yours. You can develop a symbiotic relationship with many local businesses for the benefit of you as well as your community.
Positive word of mouth to friends and family can be a tremendous source of support for businesses. Many people tend to place a higher value on the opinions and experiences of people they know very well and have close relationships with. Because of this, letting your loved ones know about which stores they can use for their shopping needs can lead to plenty of new customers for those companies.
The people you tell can, in turn, continue spreading the word about these stores, thus creating a web of positive word of mouth. Though the internet has revolutionized networking, local businesses still greatly appreciate, and often rely on, you telling people you know about the positive shopping experiences you’ve had.
An excellent way that you can support small businesses is by participating in Small Business Saturday. This occasion is held the day after Black Friday every year. Many local stores offer exciting deals and specials on this day, and they use the occasion as a way to entice new customers.
Small Business Saturday is often a substantial source of revenue for local businesses. It also offers savings to customers who are buying gifts for the holidays. Instead of weathering long lines and crowds at large retailers on Black Friday, you can save your money for the next day and then use it to support the unique stores in your area.
Another important time you can support local businesses is during National Small Business Week. This week celebrates small businesses, emphasizing their role in the community and local economy. Many towns will put their local companies into the spotlight during this time. The week helps people who may be unfamiliar with local companies learn what they can offer while highlighting the impact they have in the area.
Consider doing your gift shopping at unique and local businesses. The holiday season, in particular, is a primary source of income for many small businesses. In 2018 alone, Americans spent over $850 billion during the holidays. Smaller stores can provide most, if not all, of the products you can buy at large retailers. They also give you options for more personalized and unique gift buying not available anywhere else.
The next time you’re at a small business, let the employees and owner know how much you appreciate what they offer. Many local businesses operate with only a handful of employees, and their efforts are often underappreciated by many of their clientele. Letting them know how much you appreciate their services and the impact they’ve had on your life can be an incredible morale boost, bringing validation to the risk of their undertaking.
Consider bringing them a little gift or card the next time you visit. Many companies place high importance on these types of gifts and will put them in a prominent place for other customers to see. Any gesture of support can go a very long way; even saying “thank you” when you’re exiting can make an employee’s day.
Small business owners are aware of how large corporations and e-commerce businesses are changing the way people are buying. To remain competitive, these businesses are emphasizing personal approaches and relationships that are missing from larger stores and companies. Local businesses are often the work of passion for their owners and employees, many of whom have a personal stake in both the quality of the product and the longevity of the business. When you shop at these types of stores, you’re helping realize a dream for those working there.
As technology changes, so do the ways you can support businesses in your community. With social media becoming such a prominent part of people’s decision-making processes, the exposure businesses receive online can bring in hundreds, if not thousands, of new customers. Positive reviews are also an essential part of maintaining and growing many businesses.
It’s not difficult to support small local enterprises. Many commonplace decisions about where to eat, where to get coffee, and where to buy clothes, to name just a few everyday things, can be solved by frequenting local businesses. The next time you consider making any purchase, think about how you can support a small business in the process.
Chris Fuller went to the University of South Florida and has worked in the financial sector for over 20 years. He has extensive experience in all aspects of personal and small business lending, from personal loans, equipment finance to cash flow based solutions for small mom and pop businesses, and large corporations.