Why Local Customers Should Be Your #1 Target

So much has been written about why customers should shop locally. The benefits to a community when its residents support neighborhood indies (versus shelling out for national chains or Amazon) are numerous and validated by real science.

But why then do so many local businesses fail to market persistently to their own local customers? Indeed, many indies continue to pine for those elusive “new customers,” spending their precious marketing dollars on what amounts to a shot in the dark.  Perhaps they believe that local customers are already won over and that all of their potential is long-since tapped. Here’s why that assumption is usually wrong.

The legendary Pareto Principle (or 80/20 Rule) drives a fundamental, proven strategy that successful companies, large and small, have employed for generations. But most small business entrepreneurs do not come from a marketing background and may not be aware of how it works.

It’s actually quite simple:

What this means to your business is that the top 20 percent of your shoppers (your Best Repeat Customers) should represent 80% of your overall revenue. And if they don’t, you’re not marketing to them effectively.

This is important to note wherever “Shop Local” is a priority, because your neighbors make up the bulk of your Best Repeat Customers. Simple proximity makes this true for most independent shops, restaurants and service providers. Indeed, locals are your proverbial low hanging fruit.  In other words, it’s easier – and less expensive – to convince a current customer to buy from you more frequently or in greater volume than it is to convince a non-customer to buy anything from you at all.

Even if new, non-local customers must remain a priority, know that they require disproportionate marketing spend. And it’s a particularly wasteful effort if you have yet to fully plumb the potential of your own local customer base.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: PoasterBoard.com is designed to weaponize Shop Local for neighborhood small business districts and their independent members. Be more than a motto with your own local PoasterBoard -and rebuild community through commerce. It’s bone simple to implement; it’s unlike anything else out there; and it’s way cheaper to use that what is out there. But most importantly, PoasterBoard.com drives Locals to Local.

The Deal Is Dead. Long Live the Deal.

Well before our “Deal-Maker”-in-Chief rendered the idea ridiculous, Deal had become something of a four-letter word in small, independent business circles. And the reasons for that are straightforward.

As traditional local marketing vehicles – like the yellow pages and neighborhood newspapers – either disappeared or lost their relevance, digital platforms like Groupon, Yelp, ValPak and the like rushed in to fill the void.

Throwing Hope Against the Wall, Watching It Break

For the most part, their recommended strategies were similar and remedial: promote steep discounts to win new customers! And the methods used by some of these “marketing” platforms to gain traction in neighborhoods like yours were notorious at the time (if not downright extortive).

At first though, local independent businesses – threatened on all fronts by big box, national chains and something new called “Amazon” – swallowed the bait and often their pride to try something (anything) that might help them compete effectively.

But it was quickly apparent that, when coupled with the steep fees charged by these companies, those already discounted offers result in zero profit for participating businesses:

Yelp Sponsored Ads – $300 PER month minimum 

Groupon – 15% charge against every already discounted deal

FB Ads – Mininum $5 PER ad PER day

Google Adwords Average $1 PER click 

ValPak – Minimum campaign $300 PER month 

“Don’t Worry. It’ll Come Out In the Wash.”

Still, this was about expanding our customer bases, right?  Driving trial among excited new patrons who would return again and again, with or without our tantalizing offer? Nope. Turns out those non-local bargain hunters lured in by discounted goods or services moved on quickly to other cut-rate opportunities. Few if any of these commuters returned to indulge our full-priced offerings.

As a result, and to this day, “The Deal” as a concept elicits scorn in many local entrepreneurs.  Our collective inclination, it seems, was to throw the baby out with the bathwater. But cleverly crafted deals, used the right way, are still the most effective tactic for enticing the right sort of customers, delivering that elusive up-sell, and rewarding your most loyal patrons.

Anticipate Loyalty. Reward Proximity.

PoasterBoard.com is a geo-fenced directory and marketplace that allows your small business to easily Poast deals that you control – offers exclusively targeted to your most valuable customers. We’re talking about the locals who have a vested interest in your success – because thriving shops, restaurants and service providers make neighborhoods more liveable. Further, mere proximity means the barrier to repeat purchase is lowest among locals.

At PoasterBoard, we call these offers Good Neighbor deals. But marketing on PoasterBoard also saves you money.  So much money. (No more gouging!) That’s because as an individual business you pay nothing for your permanent StoreFront on PoasterBoard.com.  Instead, we’re supported by a fixed [low] monthly subscription fee that’s paid by your local small business alliance.

In other words, you keep 100% of every sale you make using PoasterBoard.com.

And here’s something else you may care about: PoasterBoard never shares your data and never takes commission from your Poasted offers.

The Scroll Before the Stroll

As your Good Neighbor “deal repository,” PoasterBoard enables incremental impulse clicks whenever local customers check it out. (e.g. “I went to my PoasterBoard looking for a specific deal, and I found two other cool offers while I was there!”) Plus, you can address new business priorities at any time by updating your StoreFront offer – easily and, again, at zero cost.

Good Neighbor deals manifest as single-use smart phone coupons for easy, trackable redemption of any offer.  It’s literally like putting a local-to-local marketplace in everyone’s pocket.

A Great Deal Hits You Where You Live

At the end of the day, local customers are not only your most reliable revenue, they’re the most effective influencers of other locals (and of non-locals).  With PoasterBoard.com, you’re providing something special for friends and neighbors and their friends and neighbors.

For someone like you -who is even more committed to your location than your best customers are – maybe PoasterBoard is the deal you can live with.

Come Together Right Now

As local business communities are increasingly challenged to compete with online commerce and national chains, it’s time to talk about “alliance –” to explore what joining this battle as part of a group really means.

Alliances are born from an intersection of interests. When local businesses unite as Associations or Chambers of Commerce, for example, the core idea is to “float all boats with a rising tide.” As your experience with any such alliance begins, it may seem like a heady rush toward the unknown. You come alive with a vague fervor for getting the stuff done that needs doing. It feels like capitalism getting closer to godliness.

Selfishness Is Natural. So Is Constipation.

But after you’re all in and the honeymoon fades, there’s inevitably some “what’s in it for ME?” stinking up the place.  And whatever collaborative ideas or innovations that arise to answer that question get chucked right back into your ME Pile:

     “Uh, that won’t work for ME


     “That is great for ME!”

In either case, owners who guard their ME Piles most bitchily (it’s a word!) don’t grasp the power of an authentic alliance and usually fail to feed its engine.

Indeed, it’s frequently the more successful independents who disregard other local shops, restaurants and service providers to their peril. For any commercial corridor, critical mass is a key driver of the awareness and traffic that sustains it.  And an influencer business stands to lose the most should its host community falter.

Alliance can drive growth for everyone, but for the individual it requires skin in the game. As a concept, it demands we look at the bigger picture of us – like one of those antique, panoramic photos of a giant graduating class. You may be that kid who scored all the touchdowns (middle row, seventy-sixth from the left). But the only notable thing about that picture is the size of the class  – with every other graduate smiling just as broadly as you are.

A Real Sharing Economy

What does “skin in the game” look like?  Well, it can mean handing out flyers in your hip vintage clothing store to promote Live Music Thursdays at the corner pub. And maybe the corner pub hosts a quarterly fashion show for your shop and throws in a drink special.

In fact, striving for growth collectively isn’t about Group Think as much as it’s about Group Act.  The idea is central to our PoasterBoard philosophy, and it’s why we developed our integrated PB Amplify tool.

Putting Social TO WORK

PB Amplify populates a repository of “Sharables” —  content prepared by your association leader or by PoasterBoard. From provocative Shop Local memes to local promotions and event news, it’s all there so you can broadcast it regularly (and religiously) to your own social networks, thereby benefiting everyone on your local PoasterBoard.

Getting these Sharables out there is crucial — even when they’re not directly about your business.  That’s because customers who follow a link to your community PoasterBoard, for whatever reason, have an opportunity to browse every business on there.

The Uncommon Common Good

PoasterBoard’s overall goal is to help urban neighborhoods, suburban villages and small town Main Streets as they pursue sustained success at the local level. Alliance is all about cumulative impact, and it is the filter for every choice we make as a company.  Indeed, the idea was captured most memorably by late Senator Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Relax, This Isn’t Communism

Your business will always be your special, precious baby. And that’s okay. But alliances are helping small business communities succeed across the country. If myopic attention to your own priorities isn’t meeting all of your goals, it’s time to re-imagine yourself as part of an ecosystem. Not all of the growing will happen to you, of course, but as part of any healthy alliance, that’s sort of the point.

Hustle Porn Is a Cultural Menace

On social media lately, I’ve noticed more and more friends taking to the internet to post a litany of their “accomplishments” during a single day. The practice – known as “Hustle Porn”- is supposed to leave our minds boggled over the sheer breadth of chores one person fits into his or her 24 hours.

But don’t mistake these lists as pleas for sympathy! We aren’t allowed to question the wisdom of losing so much sleep or eating so irregularly or neglecting one’s personal life in service of vague ambition.

No, we indulge these gratuitous activity logs with a “way to go!” left among the comments. After all, it’s just another enviable diary blurb by somebody “doing it all and having it all.”

Don’t Fall for the Hype

I won’t muse on the impossible paradox of “doing it all” while “having it all.” That’s not the loudest bee in my bonnet. No, I worry most about the independent business owners who perpetuate this phenomenon while seeming to internalize its deadliest implication: I do, therefore I am.

Do What You Do Best. Find Help for the Rest.

Let’s say, for example, that there are three large buckets of responsibility (or “to dos”) shared by nearly every small business: 1) Product & Customer Service, 2) Inventory & Accounting and 3) Marketing & Promotions.

You are not an expert in all three.

NO, you’re not. And amid the maelstrom of different demands you address each week, doing it all means you’re doing some of it poorly. There’s the obvious (and sad) hazard to your home life, of course, but there are also real dangers to your business.

Maybe that Grass Seemed Greener ‘Cause It’s Full of Shit

It’s important to breathe – and stop measuring yourself against all the other dicks in the shower. (Women, please permit the metaphor). Just maybe you’re not a mogul or a titan of industry specifically because your world needs you to be something else.

Small businesses remain the back bone of our middle class because they deliver sustainable support for families. Local independent ventures represent attainable opportunities to learn and grow and live as part of a healthy community.

Is it in society’s best interest for everyone who opens a shop on Main Street to assume it will be featured in Forbes if they just put in the work?

The “I can do it all” quagmire is a theme we’ll revisit again. After all, PoasterBoard is also a small independent business. Work/life balance is central to how and why we launched this enterprise.

Maybe none of us can do everything well. But we can learn to embrace what we don’t know — along with the help of someone who isn’t us when we need it.

All Local is Politics

If the expression, “all politics is local,” demonstrates that we care about certain policies because they affect us directly, then what could be more political than our local Main Street? It is the center of our local economy. It’s more than likely the largest employer in the neighborhood. And if it is succeeding, it bolsters both safety and community.

So yesterday I got political. In other words, I voted with my wallet. I stopped in at a local office supply store to pick up seven 9 x 12 envelopes. Just a quick in and out, and a few dollars spent. Sure I could have ordered online and saved time. Though I probably would have ended up with a box of 100. And maybe the price per envelope would have been less. But like I said, I only needed seven.

A small purchase, to be sure. But a vote for my neighborhood nonetheless. A vote that says I want the money I spend to benefit my neighborhood. And when I spend locally, it does. To the tune of 25% more of every dollar. Think about that, for every $100 you spend online, at a chain or a big box, you’re sending $25 dollars out of your community.

Imagine the impact if 25% more of our collective shopping dollars stayed where we live?

Neighborhoods with thriving small business sectors encourage nearby residents to walk or bike more and drive less. In fact, when comparing communities where all else is similar, neighborhoods with a higher concentration of small businesses routinely boast better public health outcomes.

Not only that, local ownership of small business actually increases a community’s ability to solve problems, say researchers. [1]

Even levels of inequality in your community are affected by the success or failure of local small businesses. A study using two decades of data from a number of countries found that areas with more small and mid-size businesses suffered far lower levels of income inequality.[2] Yet so many of us continue to ignore our local shops, restaurants and service providers to our peril. It’s a “vote against our self interest” when we spend most of our money further enriching the corporate giants.

In such politically charged times, and with big money controlling politics in Washington — but benefiting only corporate America — isn’t it time to get political with our money and vote local with our wallets?