Why Local Customers Should Be Your #1 Target

Are You Neglecting Your Best Customers?

The benefits to a community when residents support neighborhood indies (versus shelling out for national chains or Amazon) are many and proven. Then why do too many small businesses in moderately populous neighborhoods fall short of marketing to their own local customers effectively? 

Many of these indies continue to pine for new, non-local customers and spend their precious marketing dollars on what amounts to a shot in the dark. Maybe they believe that local customers are already won over and that the potential of this audience is long-since tapped. Here’s why that assumption is usually wrong.

The legendary Pareto Principle (or 80/20 Rule) is a fundamental strategy that successful companies, large and small, have employed for decades.  But many indie business operators are unaware of how it works.

There are many articles written on the phenomenon, but what it means to your independent small business is simple:  

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 leaving easy money on the table.

Local Is Luckier

This 80/20 Rule is important 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 low hanging fruit — because 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 non-local customers must, for whatever reason, remain a priority for your business, know that they will require disproportionate marketing spend. And it’s particularly wasteful if you haven’t plumbed the full potential of your local customer base.

A Different Way of Thinking

To sum up, new lead generation is just a Big Corporate sales cliche that seeped into our small business consciousness. But for indie destination businesses — which make up the majority of “main street” enterprise — it’s often a square peg for a round hole, or (to really layer on the metaphors) a red herring that most scrappy local entrepreneurs can ill afford to chase.

Stand Together or Fall Apart

STAND TOGETHER OR FALL APART

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

When local businesses unite as Associations or Chambers of Commerce, 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 is 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 arise to answer that question get chucked right back into your ME Pile:

     “Uh, this wouldn’t work very well for ME!”

     or

    “This would be great for ME!”

In either case, local business owners who hover over their ME piles too closely 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.

As a concept, alliance demands we look at the bigger picture of us – like one of those antique, panoramic photos of a giant graduating class. You may be the kid who scored all the touchdowns (middle row, seventy-third from the left). But what makes the photo stand out for most people is that sea of satisfied smiles, every face beaming just as brightly as yours.

A Real Sharing Economy

Alliance can drive growth for everyone, but for the individual it requires skin in the game.  What does that 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, even throwing 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 how and why PoasterBoard.com works.

Putting Social TO WORK

Our powerful Poaster tool (what we call our “built-in megaphone”) permits PoasterBoard “owners” (i.e. alliance leaders) to quickly design and disseminate “Sharables.” 

Driving a New Kind of “Foot Traffic”

From provocative Shop Local messages to promotional offers and event news, Sharables exist so that alliance members can broadcast them regularly to their own social networks. Every time you share one, you’re adding to a snowball effect and building awareness of what’s on offer.  When shoppers follow a link to your community PoasterBoard, for example, they can browse every local business on there, even if they were lured initially by yours

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. Perhaps the idea was captured most memorably by late Senator Paul Wellstone: “We all do better when we all do better.”

Relax, This Isn’t Socialism

Your business will always be your special, precious baby.  And that’s as it should be. 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.