5 Best Practices for Local Small Business

Today is Small Business Saturday – a day dedicated to supporting small businesses in local communities.

Much of the publicity surrounding this marketing effort to create awareness for small businesses is on the word small. Yet, isn’t being local more relevant?

Location is often what differentiates small businesses that are part of the fabric of their respective communities.

You may even have small businesses in your community that conduct 100% of their commerce online – with customers around the word. Yet, the owner lives in your community, and most likely contributes to supporting it.

You should naturally support any business that adds value to your local community, whether they be a locally-owned small business, or a store within the network of a national chain that happens to act local.

The reality is that small businesses have to compete against larger companies that are learning how to be more local.

Nevertheless, when all other things such as price are equal (and sometimes even when they are not) – local small businesses have potential advantages that can give them an edge.

Here are 5 time-honored best practices for operating a successful small business – along with examples of notable national companies that are successfully emulating these strategies.

#1 – Offer Availability

A local small business that has what you need just a short walk or drive away offers tremendous value in the form of availability. They are there when you need them. You should not expect the price to necessarily be as low as you can get online – but presumably, it should be reasonable.

Radio Shack is a national chain that always seems to have that special connector or battery for your electronic device. When you combine that with a trained staff, they feel like a small business.

#2 – Be Responsive

How many times have you purchased an item and its not right? A local small business is uniquely positioned to be responsive to your needs and make things right. There is clearly a cost to this, though one that builds customer loyalty.

Zappos happens to be a very large business that does this well. If I were a local retailer I would spend some time on the phone with their service representatives to learn what they do well – and freely borrow.

#3 – Care About Your Customers

Everybody likes doing business with someone that knows your name and remembers your needs – especially the little things that matter most.

Starbucks is an organization with thousands of stores. Yet, if you patronize one in particular, it’s very likely they will remember the special touches that earn your ongoing loyalty.

#4 – Know Your Business

Small business owners are passionate about their industry. They attend trade shows and expos and stay on the cutting edge of the latest trends. Their knowledge is comparable to that of senior executives of large corporations – if not better.

So, if your local small business does not carry what you think you need, talk to the manager or owner. Over the years my customers and clients have encouraged me to bring on new products and services that have proved to be a hit with many others.

#5 – Support the Community

When there are events to sponsor, or fundraisers for the local schools or non-profits, small businesses are the first to step up – and seldom say no when asked for support by other community leaders.

Supporting the community may be the most vital differentiating factor for small businesses. If funds are tight, being a contributing member of Rotary or the local Chamber of Commerce is equally effective.

Local stores of national restaurant and grocery chains also make significant contributions to support the local community. Large or small, all of these businesses deserve the patronage and thanks of the local community.

These are interesting times for small businesses. The resources available today allow them to compete against even the most successful national brands.

There is no doubt that one of the most predominant trends in business is toward local – and that should give every small business confidence in the future.

What do you think? Is this a good time to be a small business owner?

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 Until next week  –  Jeff

Photo Credit: NotionsCapital