Keeping business within the communityBy Nick James
June 16, 2008
Nick James is a Whitley-based entrepreneur who has gone from car park attendant to million pound businessman.
He runs Nick-James.com, an online support club for UK entrepreneurs, offering practical training and advice to those looking to start their own online business.
This week Nick voices his support for the Evening Post’s and FSB’s campaign to promote local trade…
I fully back the ‘Keep Trade Local’ campaign. As a Reading businessman, I can see at first hand that local businesses are the lifeblood of the community.
Even running an internet based business like mine, I still rely on a chain of local suppliers to keep my business moving.
I work with small, independent printers, packagers, DVD duplicators and courier services every day. We’re all used to supporting our local pub, but it’s now more important than ever to extend that support to the independent businesses around you.
Keeping trade local is the only way to prevent communities, and local choice, from disappearing.
Much is made of the ‘bottom line’ in business, and rightly so. But business relationships are the most important thing of all.
There is no substitute for building relationships with your suppliers face to face, being able to pop into their premises and put in an order or look through their products.
Investing in business relationships pays dividends; and if you’re running really close to deadline you can always drop in and pick up the products yourself.
Keeping business closer to home makes environmental sense. The mantra ‘Think Global, Act Local’ is used by environmental campaigners to underline the ecological sense of goods travelling less distance and leaving less carbon footprint behind.
Using a local supplier makes sense logistically because there is less transportation and therefore less risk involved.
One of the simplest and most effective marketing ideas I’ve ever come across is the small business co-operative.
Team up with other non-competitive local businesses and agree a strategy of cross promotion.
For example, a local wedding car hire company teams up with a local flower provider and wedding photographer.
These businesses include the others’ promotional material in their marketing activity and share the cost.
That’s strength in numbers and a real network of complimentary services working together for their shared benefit.
If appropriate, feature adverts from local, non-competitive businesses in your shop window in return for advertising space in theirs.
If you can’t do a job, or put right a problem that your client may be having, recommend a local business to deliver the service.
`Personal recommendation is widely recognised as the most powerful weapon in the marketing artillery and a strong, personal recommendation from a trusted local supplier will go a long way.
Encourage other local businesses to repay the favour, of course, or think about offering a discount to customers who are recommended to promote goodwill.
Independent local businesses know their area, and their customers. No international conglomerate can ever compete with the bond of a strong relationship and personal interest in the client.
Make your clientele feel valued as loyal customers and reward them for their trade by introducing a loyalty card.
Or, even better, team up with other local businesses and offer a group loyalty card, adding even more value and recognition to your client trade.
Local businesses need to keep on doing what they do best – and that’s building real relationships with their customers, being aware of local issues and offering unbeatable quality and customer service.