Nobody likes needy people, so...

...think before you sign up for ‘Buy Local’

Buy local or shop local campaigns abound. The NSW state government even has a special page on their site to tell you how to do it. (If that is not a sign that that you should be concerned, then I don’t know what is.)

Last week I wrote that customer service won’t sugar-coat a poor, inappropriate or unwanted offer.

By the same reasoning, a ‘buy local’ campaign cannot save a decrepit retail precinct by a misguided appeal to the community to ‘shop local’.

Every struggling town and every decrepit retail strip has such a campaign, or has tried one or wants one. These campaigns are often instigated by a number of stakeholders who rarely recognise their flawed motives which make for poor execution.

How does one reconcile ‘begging’ customers to ‘do the right thing’ with sound marketing? Is there even an example where begging has been a successful way of growing a business? (It may help you survive, but hardly prosper.)

The mind boggles at the condition of the local high street generally and the trader’s stores specifically. The lack of investment in infrastructure and (more often than not) crappy service and over-priced merchandise is obvious to all but the campaigners.

Often a local council sees fit to waste taxpayers’ money in a misguided attempt to save the economy and to protect their rate base. If the Reserve Bank (or even a Government) can’t save an economy, why do the local councillors think they have special powers? It probably happens because it makes them FEEL better and gives them something to TALK about come election time; but neither talk nor feelings will change anything.

Whatever the motivation and however deep the pockets, it is almost always a bad idea to launch such a ‘buy local’ campaign - at least the way these programs normally get launched.

Consider this campaign in Gladstone. All the ingredients are there: Awareness. Advertising. Customer Service. Etc. In addition, they may even throw in the shopping bags and a funky street map. (I am looking YOU St Kilda Village.) What do you think are the chances of making it being a success?

IMAGE: www.gladstoneobserver.com


I am guessing slim to none, because the most important ingredient is missing: What are the local traders doing to make it worth THE CUSTOMER’S while?

Of course raising awareness of the offer is important. I even promote an APP that will do that for you. (And good onya for trying Gladstone.)

But that alone is not sufficient. In fact, the more successful the campaign to attract people to a poor offer, the quicker the demise.

People don’t buy elsewhere because it is more expensive to buy locally. Whilst no one wants to be ripped off, you don’t have to be the cheapest. Only ONE product in every single category will classify as the cheapest. Few of the things in the world that you or I buy will be classified the cheapest.

I don’t buy because it is local, I buy local because you have what I want.

Making things worthwhile for me – the local shopper – is about making me feel special. I am the customer; it IS all about me, so make it about me.

  • Love me… (Yip, serve me as if you actually love me; because whilst there will always some commercial prostitution, most customers want the real thing.) Love is the killer app, as Tim writes in his book.
  • Make yourself interesting and different – which makes me feel special for interacting with you…
  • Make your shop a nice place to spend some time – which makes feel special…
  • Make me feel part of the community – because that is special…
  • I think you get the idea… It is not (only) about service and it is not about ‘guilting’ me into buying from you. Don’t beg for my patronage. No-one likes needy people.

‘Buy Local’ campaigns can be done and should be done, but the fundamentals have to be there first. And these fundamentals are really just a collective commitment and concerted effort to practise great retail. Now, about that APP….


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