Recently I have noticed a heightened interest in Buy Local programs. Certainly during economic recessions, low-hanging fruit merits a close look. As a professional service in a small market area, I appreciate being considered when there are projects to bid on. But creating a “buy local” campaign has other aspects that need some thought.
The virtues of buying local are many: local dollars have a direct and immediate effect on the health of the local economy, benefiting everyone in it. The multiplier effects of money spent locally are well-known. Local businesses are far more likely to support community charitable and improvement efforts. What’s not to love?
What often gets overlooked is that no one OWES anyone else their business. The main downside I have noticed about such campaigns is that they tend to sound whiney. “You should hire me because I’m your neighbor.” Well, not really. I make purchasing decisions based primarily on my own self-interest. If it turns out I can get my needs met locally, great. But it’s not the main criterion. And I know that when a client is considering me for a job, the fact that I’m close by is nice, but not the main determinant.
What matters the most is how a business’s value is perceived. Put another way, we have to earn the business we get, regardless of where it comes from. No one should think they should get business based on their address. A thoughtful Buy Local program doesn’t ask for that – instead, it asks for a level playing field: “Give me a shot before you assume that you have to go out of town to get what you want. And here’s why you’ll be glad you did.”
The online world has made national and global competition a daily reality for everyone. We have to be able to compete on merit with Achmed in Morocco, Da Liu in Atlanta and Bridget in New Caledonia, and make a compelling business case no matter where we’re marketing. So I will happily pitch a company in Omaha, but I can also expect to bid against a firm from there for a project here. Expecting to get preferential treatment from your buddy at your kid’s soccer game is not realistic. Making sure he knows that you offer great value respects both his prerogatives and your professionalism.
So it’s really about CHOOSE Local and making your case to the local market with the same effort you would make to any prospect. Nobody owes us anything but a fair shot.