Sunday, 4 December 2016

How can we encourage and be active in #BuyLocal 2017?

Saturday 3rd December 2016 was Small Business Saturday. Maybe I have been a little less interactive on social media but I have heard less this year about this than in previous years. Of course anything to encourage local people to consider buying from those close to home is a great initiative and I give my full support. It is however just one day... this can't and won't change habits... and is soon forgotten for another year. It might provide a bit of extra business for a single day, but in reality... nothing changes.

If the outcomes are going to improve for our struggling local businesses then we are going to have to take this a whole lot more seriously... and it needs to be part of a much greater initiative of rebuilding our communities (which include those local entrepreneurs too). Here is a recent blog post from +linda anderson of +The Kitchen Croxley talking about the challenges of poor quality and much lower prices of the supermarkets, and another... The Dark Side, clearly laying out issues for small independent businesses, many of which are foisted upon us by government and policy makers. The big question is... "how can we find alternative ways to encourage people to utilise our services other than just low prices?"

Why should we buy from local businesses?


With the total convenience of Supermarkets and the erosion of the convenience stores and local parades that once serviced the communities it is hard to see how there could be a resurgence of the bygone days. Indeed with the size of populations it's ludicrous to conceive that these local stores could handle as much as 10% of the demand that we have nowadays.

But there are many things that lend themselves to local supply. Dairy, local meat and eggs, fruit, vegetables, bread, cakes... arts / crafts and services that rely on local people serving other local people. Convenience stores for those that don't have cars; where bus journeys are not possible, a forgotten item, or where something has just run out. And let's not forget... these shops are a chance to meet and talk with other people who live around us... the hub of our communities.

How can these local businesses help themselves (and us) ?

There are some fantastic initiatives out there already for small businesses. Networking events, business development groups and a whole raft of training and education. Actually for things to get better... we the business owners must get better too. Our proposition and value add to the community has to be so overwhelming and powerful that it is a 'no brainer' decision.

For local businesses there are two things that can be checked out right away.

  1. An audit of what marketing you currently do and where you might need to up your game 
  2. Making sure that all the free local services and opportunities to promote your business are being taken advantage of. 

Most local businesses need help with the above, but it's often a challenge to get impartial advice with no conflict of interest... At a local Link4Growth event you might get ideas and guidance but it will come with a guarantee of 'freedom from the pressure of expectation from others'. Quite simply you'll get impartial guidance from people and the opportunity 'to find your own way...'

How can you help? How can you be part of the discussion?

In 2017 we are going to start an initiative to innovate in the area of #BuyLocal. So there are two dates where we have already put aside 90 minutes on each occasion to begin the process. These events are to invite local business owners to begin positively innovating and finding alternative ways to handle the challenges we are all experiencing so they can be worked around... 'find their own way that works for them'... this is a different approach... and the dates are...

Date 1 : Monday 16th January, Basing House, Rickmansworth. 18:30-20:00
Date 2 : Thursday 26th January, Fresh Shop, Market Street, Watford. 18:30-20:00

Please follow the links above... if it is a first time visit to Link4Business use the promotion code '1stVisit'.

Some initiatives have already gotten underway...


SW Herts Community Communications Hub
We've already got the SW Herts Community Communications Hub in place. This is where we can all join in and share the 97% of good news that's out there in the community. It doesn't cost anything and we can all make use of it. Within this is a FREE business Noticeboard... anyone running a business can create their own Brand Page, register it... and then post notices about their brand. Come to Croxley on Wednesday 7th December 5:30-7:00pm if you would like to know more about this...

It's all about the [Your Business services] video series
A fledgling idea but a series of videos about anyone's local business to share with people different aspects about what makes using their local business unique and how you add real value to the local community. Spreading the message far and wide about our local businesses and the message of #BuyLocal.

The Town Business Creative initiative
We are all very passionate about our own local businesses... but we are one small fish in an ocean... and there are many much bigger fish out there who can swallow us up easily. Alone it is tough, but by working together... by raising our game and by being innovative, agile, flexible and adaptable we can do this... and at the same time we might surprise ourselves and change a world.

Conclusion

I wrote a blog post on my own blog a couple of days back about the fact that Business Networking might have run its course... I do believe businesses ought to Network together and beyond... but perhaps what we need now is an evolving approach that creates an environment for businesses to innovate, come up with ideas, collaborate and 'find their own way' which works for them to achieve their goals... now that I personally believe would be worth attending!