Morgan had a great post today that inspired my article today. As a small business owner I am always trying to get customers to shop locally. The people employed are your neighbors and the more business located in your town, the healthier the local economy. Today’s consumer is getting accustomed to getting the very best price and being able to shop or “pre-shop” from their home computer. Rather than complain, there are many things a business can do to help offset this trend and keep, even expand, their customer base, but that’s for another article. Here are 10 things you as a customer can do to help your local business based on my experience as a local business owner.
1. Get to know your local business owners and employers. Ask a name next time you’re in and develop a relationship. Introduce yourself. I see thousands of faces a month and like many people, have trouble remembering them all. I am much more likely to give extra discounts or even extra help to those that address me by name. It’s also nice to be reminded of their name. It’s embarassing when I forget a customer that comes in every week but I do.
2. If you saw a better price, ask and you may receive. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for a discount. All I can do is say no. If I can’t match another persons price I may at least try and lower it. Don’t make things up. As a business owner I like to know what products are selling for elsewhere. If a business owner gives you a hard time for asking then don’t shop there. At the same time, if a customer gives me a hard time about not matching Wal-mart they aren’t the kind of person I can afford to have as a customer either.
3. Pay in cash or with a check. Save the business owner 2.5 percent. It’s ironic that American Express is the sponsor of Shop Local being their rates are considerably higher tha all other credit cards and are generally not accepted at local businesses because of this.
4. Give your favorite local business a good rating on yelp and google plus. Undoubtedly new customers looks to the Internet for reviews. Even more often look to Google. One of the first thing that often comes up are yelp or google ratings. You are helping that business tremendously by giving them 5 stars. Others will see it and know that a well liked business is right there in their own back yard.
5. Guide your favorite small business about the ways of the net. It’s perfectly acceptable to mention new tools to your favorite business that may help them in marketing. I’m not saying you should make them a new website, but letting them know about Constant Contact or Awebber would be a nice gesture. The may even trade you merchandise for your services if they need more help. I am usually on top of things more than most people but just the other day someone showed me the mobile fax to email company he was using and told me how cheap and effective it was for him. I great tip from a customer.
6. Don’t get advice and information locally and then buy it elsewhere. I see it every day. Customers come in to get information from our experienced people and then go buy it at Wal-Mart for $3 less. For some reason they don’t understand the $3 dollars difference often is the cost of paying the more qualified staff. We’ve all done it. I almost did it the other day with a pair of running shoes. It’s part of our nature to try and save money. Sometimes you have to reward those that helped inform you of your wants. Even if it means paying a little more.
7. Let the company know what marketing effort brought you in. The hardest part of marketing is knowing which ad dollar is serving you well. Small businesses can’t throw money around the advertising channels the way larger businesses can. If you went in to a local store because of a certain ad, let them know which one. If they are a good business they will be very grateful for this type of info.
8. Give them link love, like love, and plus love. Similar to number 4, this helps them improve their online rank. Even if they don’t know that it helps. Use whatever online power you have and share a little of it with your favorite business. A simple link in a blog or a like on your facebook goes a long way. Little things add up.
9. Help them save resources. Again getting back to a little things add up. Bringing your own bags or using less product that the business has to purchase goes a long way towards saving that business money. We business owners realize all the costs of doing business but it’s always nice when a customer helps. For instance we provide plastic and boxes to carry out our plants. It is always nice to see a customer that already has a blanket or brings their own carrier. They think they are doing it for the environment but I am thankful because each box costs me 35 cents and each sheet of plastic 10 cents. Times a few thousand a year it adds up.
10. The obvious. Spend your money there when you can. Options are a good thing when shopping and having an option right down the road is always a good thing.