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 business circles. And the reasons for that are fairly straightforward.

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

Throwing Hope Against the Wall, Hoping It Sticks

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

Initially, 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 quickly became apparent that when coupled with steep fees charged by these companies (as much as 50% of a purchased “deal”) those already discounted offers resulted in zero profit for participating businesses.

“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 a discount?  Nope. This too proved false because the non-local bargain hunters lured by our sharply discounted goods or services moved on quickly to their next cut-rate opportunity and rarely returned for 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. And they’re an excellent way to reward your most loyal patrons.

Your Most Valuable Customers Deserve Your Most Valuable Offers

PoasterBoard.com is a geo-fenced directory and marketplace that allows your small business to Poast a deal that you control – an offer exclusively for 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. Besides, mere proximity makes the barrier to repeat purchase lowest among locals.

But PoasterBoard deals are not simply different because of whom they target. First, individual businesses pay nothing for a permanent StoreFront Poast on PoasterBoard.com.  We are supported by a fixed monthly subscription fee paid by your local small business association. And just as importantly, PoasterBoard takes no commission from your Poasted offers. In other words, you keep 100% of every sale you make using PoasterBoard.com.

The Scroll Before the Stroll

As your community “deal repository,” PoasterBoard enables incremental impulse clicks whenever local customers check-in. (e.g. “I went to my PoasterBoard looking for a specific deal, and I found two other cool offers while I was there!”)

Deals on PoasterBoard.com manifest as single-use digital 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.

As someone who is even more committed to your location than your best customers are, maybe this is a 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.” Let’s explore what joining this battle as part of a group really means.

PoasterBoard’s goal is to help urban villages, suburban strips or small town Main Streets in their quest for 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.  Perhaps this idea was captured most memorably by the late Senator Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Alliances are born from an intersection of interests. When local businesses unite as Booster 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 be a heady rush toward the unknown. 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” to be dealt with.  Even the collaborative ideas and innovations that answer this question get chucked right back into your ME Pile: that won’t work for ME or that’s great for ME! In both cases, individuals who guard their ME Piles most assertively do not grasp the power of an authentic alliance and often fail to feed its engine.

Alas, it’s frequently the most successful local businesses who don’t understand the role that other shops, restaurants and service providers in their neighborhood play in creating the awareness and driving the traffic that sustains them.  An “influencer” business has the most to lose if an alliance falls short of bolstering its host community.

Alliances can enable growth for all, but for the individual they require more skin in the game than your annual dues and regular meeting attendance. Alliance as a concept demands that 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 in the front (thirty-six from the left). But the picture’s Wow! arises because of the group.

A Real Sharing Economy

What does “skin in the game” look like?  Well, it can mean promoting a live music night at that corner pub by handing out flyers in your hip vintage clothing store. But it can just as easily mean the corner pub hosts a quarterly fashion show for your hip vintage clothing 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.

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.

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 few “way to go!”s left among the comments. After all, it’s just another semi-heroic diary blurb by somebody “doing it all and having it all.”

I won’t muse on the impossible paradox of “doing it all” while “having it all.” Besides, that’s not the loudest bee in my bonnet. I worry most about the independent business owners who perpetuate this phenomenon while seeming to internalize its deadliest implication: I do, therefore I am.

Let’s say there are three large buckets of responsibility (or “to dos”) shared by nearly every small business: Product/Customer Service, Inventory/ Accounting and Marketing. 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.

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 in this forum. After all, PoasterBoard is also a small independent business. Work/life balance is central to how and why we launched this enterprise.

I can’t do everything well. But I can learn to embrace what I don’t know along with the help of someone who isn’t me when I 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?

5 Reasons You Should Care About Main Street

Culled from this great article by Institute for Local Self-Reliance, https://ilsr.org/why-care-about-independent-locally-owned-businesses/, these are a few compelling answers to why shopping local independent businesses is better for the health and welfare of your own community.

  1. LOCAL SMALL BUSINESSES ARE LINKED TO HIGHER INCOMES AND LESS INEQUALITY
  2. LOCAL ENTREPRENEURSHIP FUELS DISPROPORTIONATE JOB CREATION
  3. INDEPENDENT BUSINESSES GENERATE MORE TAX REVENUE AT LOWER COST TO THE PUBLIC
  4. LOCAL BUSINESSES FOSTER COMMUNITY COHESION AND WELL-BEING
  5. COMMUNITY-SCALED BUSINESSES REDUCE POLLUTION AND IMPROVE ENVIRONMENTAL SUSTAINABILITY
Continue reading “5 Reasons You Should Care About Main Street”