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.