Local Motion Part 3

Get on board the “Buy Local” movement and tap into enthusiastic support for your independent store!
by : 

Maggie Feeney

January 9, 2014

(Part 3 of a 3-part series)

[Go back to Part 1] | [Go back to Part 2]

You’ve established a dynamic Buy Local group. Now it’s time to get the word out about the benefits of buying local—and buying from your member businesses in particular. A kick-off event is a great way to generate free press and build excitement in the community.

Is there an annual event in your town that could serve as your Buy Local launching pad? An event with a built-in local appeal means less effort on your part to get people there. So the event isn’t held right there in your shopping district; it’s still likely they sell booth space. Even if you already have booths for your individual stores, together you could have another booth promoting your business alliance that, in turn, cross-promotes to your individual booths and stores. If all of you are wearing the same color bright T-shirts with your Buy Local logo, you will be easily identifiable throughout the event.

If your member businesses are all clustered in the same area of town, consider working with your local government to launch a “block party” style festival event in which you close selected streets to vehicle traffic for the day so shoppers can make a day of it. You might even be able to get a city grant to hire entertainment for the event and build it into an annual event of your own.

If neither of those options is feasible, another route is a Buy Local kick-off weekend sales event, art-walk style. Advertise it in your local paper and create a Facebook event, listing the participating Buy Local businesses right there with a link to an online map of store locations (which you also have available to hand out in your store). Whatever your kick-off event is, make it big and promote it widely through all of your marketing channels for maximum exposure. And don’t forget to enlist your store fans. They love everything you do and want you to be successful!

Visible and viable

As with any marketing you do, the keys to success are sustainability and memorability. The same is true with your Buy Local efforts. You need the “locals” to be as excited about discovering your businesses as out-of-town tourists. This is not a one-and-done deal. Your group should be planning out high-profile events throughout the year. They don’t have to have as much splash as your kick-off event, but should remind people to shop local first. So, spend time developing your group name, logo, and tagline. These are what will signal to the public who you are and what you do.

If funding for brand development is low, consider enlisting your customers for help. Have a contest to develop a name, logo, and tagline—you are bound to get some great ideas and artwork. Customers will feel a sense of ownership in the “cause” and you’ll gather valuable information about what your customers care about in the process. If your group prefers working with pros, you could try crowd-funding through a Kickstart campaign. Those who donate will still feel ownership, you get a polished product with marketing-ready graphics, and you’ll get to hand-select the ad agency you wish to work with. Make it a local marketing firm, and you can bring them into the Buy Local fold, too. Buy Local is not just about buying products locally, after all; services also are part of the local experience.

By default, local businesses are all invested in their local community through the taxes you pay, the employees you hire, and the services you pay for (bookkeeper, handyman, leasing agent). Investing your time and energy into each other’s welfare through a Buy Local business alliance will help you build a sustainable future and hold your shoppers’ interest for the long haul. Whether your focus is educating your community that when they buy local, more of their money stays local or your focus is promoting unique, good-for-you products that can’t be found at the Walmart on the edge of town, customers have plenty of great reasons to shop your store and support the indie businesses that make their community more vibrant and a heck of a lot more interesting.

Maggie Feeney is Editor in Chief of Retailing Insight.