Thursday, June 16, 2005

Local is as Local does

Tags: business, local, smallbiz

Being considered local, by local residents and businesses, is a good thing. You are part of the in crowd who are doing battle against the out-of-towners. The evil out-of-towners are perceived as siphoning money out of the community. Doesn’t everyone want their money to stay local and help the local economy? Since the vast majority of money spent is spent locally, being considered local is a good thing for any business. Of course, Walmart demonstrates that being cheap is more important than being local when it comes to consumers, but being local carries considerably more weight with business customers.

In any case, as I pointed out in my previous post, the “local” label is not black-and-white, there are shades of gray. However, perception is reality, and perception tends to be much more black-and-white than reality. If you ask people to label businesses as local or out-of-towners, there is no hesitation to convey labels. But these labels are often influenced either by personal knowledge of the people who own the business, or by a personal interaction with the business. In other words, if you know the local owner of McDonalds, you consider that McDonalds local; if you don’t, you typically consider it an out-of-towner.

This leads me to my point. The more interaction a business has with the local population, the more people begin to think of the business as local. For this reason, putting a human face on a business and getting involved in the local community and local business organizations is a great way to earn the title “local businessman” and that title is then conferred to your various ventures as well.

In fact, even company owned stores can earn the local label by putting a local human face on the employees and immersing themselves in local projects. Sponsor a little league team that bears your name. Put a human face on your business with a picture and story about the local manager. Highlight the community service of your employees. Join local business groups. Speak at local business functions. Make it a priority to buy from local vendors and make it clear to them that you are buying locally because you want to develop relationships within them. In short the more you put a human face on your business and the more you interact with the community, the more you will be considered local, and being local is good for your business, no matter who you are.

Now, I'm off to our local bar...