Did you know there are hundreds of searches each month on how to support or shop small or local businesses? That means there are people who want to do it, but don’t know how. Since we’re in the midst of Small Business Season, it’s time to clarify “shop local” and “shop small.”
This article will explain the difference between local and small and how you can help your community spend their money for the cause of their choice.
When it comes to supporting local or shopping small, some people mistakenly believe it is more difficult, more expensive or more limiting than simply going to a large chain. With these misconception out there already, let us show you how to make it as easy as possible for people to shop local or shop small or both.
What Is Shop Local?
The Shop Local movement endorses shopping with locally-owned businesses that are in your area, whether you purchase online or in-person. Now, to put an extra wrinkle in the fabric, shopping local also supports local franchisees because while they may be a part of a larger organization, franchises are owned by local people and thus are considered in the shop local movement.
With most franchises, the owners are buying into an organization but have some degree of independence to do things like independent marketing offers and sponsorships. This makes them more like a local business than a chain store. The details of these arrangments depend on the franchise but they’re still considered in the realm of local.
You can also expand the shop local campaigns in your area to include supporting local nonprofits, local artisans, and consignment stores, groups that are often forgotten in a traditional shop local campaign.
What Is Shop Small?
Shop small is often used interchangeably with shop local. But there is specific difference between the two. Shopping small is buying from businesses that employ fewer than 200 people. This can be an online business or a brick-and-mortar.
Encouraging someone to shop small does not necessarily mean shop local. That could mean supporting a small business hundreds of miles away from you online either directly from their site or through a mega retailer that sells their inventory like Amazon.
To review: shopping local is a marketing campaign used to persuade consumers to support businesses within their area. To split hairs, that doesn’t need to be a small business. On the other hand, when you support shopping small that means buying from a business that employs a smaller headcount but doesn’t have to be in your geographic area. That’s why these programs are often combined in support of small, local business.
This may seem like a ridiculous argument about semantics–and it may be–except that 57% of US consumers say their main reason for shopping small is to keep money local. Since that’s the case, let’s address some ways you can help your audience find small and local businesses to support.
25 Ways to Help Your Community Find Small and Local Businesses This Holiday Season
When I first saw the Google search for how to find local businesses this holiday, I likened it to the words printed on paper coffee cups about the contents being hot. It seemed so obvious to me. But it’s not. Many shoppers want to participate in Small Business Season and they have earmarked their spending accordingly. They want to make sure they are doing it correctly and spending their money exactly where it will have the most benefit.
It may seem obvious but helping them find businesses that suit their spending mission is something that many people need help with. Here are a few ways you can provide that guidance:
- Publish a gift-giving guide that highlights local businesses.
- Publicize local craft and farmers markets and artisan shows. There are many of these events this time of year.
- Host a local market.
- Share social media posts from local businesses.
- Highlight local nonprofits.
- Create a podcast or videos series featuring local business owners.
- Create a map of local businesses in different categories.
- Host a scavenger hunt.
- Run an Elf on the Shelf contest.
- Go live each day at a different local business.
- Host a holiday party and invite local businesses to give an elevator pitch.
- Host a virtual makers party where you invite local businesses without storefronts to take part.
- Encourage your members to join Small Business Season to receive the marketing collateral. (Hey, you don’t want to be left out of the fun either so pick some up for your chamber too.)
- Invite people to comment on their favorite small/local business on your Facebook page or group and select a random winner each day/week from those who commented.
- Publicize your local currency program and your list of participating merchants.
- Highlight your member directory, adding a badge to small and local businesses or even a category for easier sort.
- Create a shop local/small bingo card.
- Write a press release featuring some of your small businesses.
- Host a town stroll event.
- Create and distribute specialty lists for specific or niche needs. You could create a list of local farmers for farm-to-table food options or service companies that can help your community members get ready for the holidays.
- Post a list of local businesses with online shopping and/or gift card options.
- Publicize local holiday events on your chamber calendar.
- Show people how to use Etsy’s local finder on their app to support makers in your area.
- Offer ads on your website or newsletter to entice small businesses to gain more visibility.
- Make badges or window clings. This helps customers easily identify the types of businesses (small or local) that they want to spend their money with.
In addition to helping people find small and local businesses to support, make sure you provide ways outside of spending that can help. Ideas include sharing business posts, checking in, writing reviews, providing referrals, and others. Just because a consumer’s holiday budget is used, doesn’t mean they can’t help to continue the call to action of supporting small and local businesses. There are, after all, a lot of ways outside of purchases to help businesses.
In the end, does it make a difference if you use the word small or local? Only slightly. What matters is that you help get the word out if people in your area are wondering how they can support small and local businesses.