From Small Biz Survival

Shop Indie Local summary:

This campaign’s advantage: 

  • Usable year round, adaptable to local events and needs, not just a single day
  • “Indie” message is resonating well right now, better than plain “local” campaigns

Share the right message:

  • People already think they want to shop local, just need a timely reminder
  • Tell stories of merchants, focus on independent businesses

By Becky McCray

We’ve long been advocates of shop local campaigns. Our communities prosper when we do more business with each other. But tired old “you should shop local!” messages are worn out. We need new fresh messages that recognize where we are today.

The best fresh message I’ve heard is Shop Indie Local, put together by a coalition of local-focused organizations including American Independent Business Alliance and sixty partners throughout North America.

“Shop local” is tired

After years of working to convince people that local businesses matter, we won that battle. Survey after survey shows that people want to shop local, intend to shop local, and feel good when they shop local. That doesn’t mean they do it consistently. They do at least aspire to it.

Buy local or bye-bye local!

Old messages that admonish shoppers are worn out.

In fact, we’ve gotten to the point of backlash. People are tired of being admonished especially when local businesses fail them. I think this is especially true in small towns, where there are more than a few small business owners who act just a little too entitled.

What not to say

That means you can banish any of the following tired messages from your shop local campaigns:

  • Shop Local! Buy Local! Think Local First! Stay Local! Eat Local!
  • You owe local businesses!
  • If you don’t shop local, you’ll hurt the community
  • Local businesses return more money to the community
  • We need your sales tax dollars!
  • Shop local or local businesses will fail
  • 10 reasons to buy local (no matter what the reasons are) 

Remember, we don’t have to convince people. They’re as convinced as they’ll ever be.

What works now: prompts

We won the battle on convincing people that they like local. What we need are prompts or reasons to act right now. You could also call this a “call to action.”

The Fogg Behavior Model. Behavior equals Motivation times Ability times PromptsI took the term “prompts” from the Fogg Behavior Model.  To get any Behavior, a person needs enough Motivation to act, enough Ability to act and they need a Prompt to get them to act. People are Motivated to shop local, at least they tell us they are in surveys. People are able to shop local, or if they aren’t, we can’t change that with this campaign. What we can do is Prompt them to act on their beliefs right now.

Fresh ‘shop local’ messages to try

Some of these ideas have been around a while, but they still feel fresh because they act as a Prompt, reminding people that they want to shop local and that they can shop local and that now is a great time to do that.

  • Did you know you can buy this (specific thing) at (specific store)?

This is a targeted prompt. If you want to buy this thing, you can buy it here.

Photos from a local store featuring unexpected items

I bet you didn’t know you could buy hardware at the grocery store! This kind of message prompts people to act on their aspiration to shop in local stores.

Especially in small towns, we don’t realize all the things all the stores carry or all the services we can get locally. I didn’t realize how much my own local stores have diversified, and probably your local customers don’t realize it either.

Waynoka, Oklahoma, did a “Where is it” Wednesday series showing off surprising offerings in local stores. You can do this all year round.

  • Profiles and stories of local independents

Profiles of local businesses featured in newspaper clippings

Local businesses have compelling stories, ones that can help prompt people to shop there.

This is a more general prompt. It tells people, “You like this person, and now is a great time to shop with them.”

Luling, Texas, did this with a series of Homegrown business profiles. This is another project that you can do any time of year.

  • Pick one product: toilet paper

A diverse group of people with a pile of toilet paper packages

If people buy their toilet paper locally, it’s a prompt to buy more locally while they’re in the store.

This is another specific prompt, using a single product to prompt people to act on their desire to shop at local stores. You’re helping them act on their values when you say, “You need to buy this regularly, you can buy it locally, and you’re going to end up buying more things at the same time.”

Toilet paper is a great choice because everyone needs it, lots of different places carry it, and the jokes just keep on rolling… (sorry) Honestly, a sense of humor doesn’t hurt.

Deb Brown shares how Greater Franklin County, Iowa, did this in this podcast episode. (Toilet paper starts around 10 minutes in.) Again, you can do a project like this any time of year.

Tap national campaigns: Shop Indie Local

It makes sense to take advantage of effective themes created by big campaigns, rather than have to create your own from scratch. My favorite national campaign is Shop Indie Local.

Why isn’t Shop Small Saturday my favorite? 

It’s only one day, and it’s a day when a lot of people leave to shop in the big city.

I do like all the attention that this brings in national media, and everyone loves free stuff like tote bags and doormats.

It also comes with restrictions on the kinds of businesses that are supposed to be allowed to participate. As a local organizer, this could put you in an awkward position if your local vape shop, liquor store, custom knife maker or sporting goods store wants to join. I’d rather leave the decision of who can participate up to you, not lawyers who’ve never been to your community.

American Express charges a higher fee to local merchants on customer transactions than some other card issuers. The difference isn’t huge, but some people focus on it.

Given all the pros and cons, you may consider joining in on Saturday but not making it the only campaign in your community.

Why is Shop Indie Local my favorite? 

I informally asked some friends who are regular everyday people, like your customers, what they thought of Shop Indie Local. They loved it. They felt like the addition of “indie” made it fresher and more relevant to them.

You can use the Shop Indie Local message year-round, not just one single day. You can adapt it to your local needs and use it at any local event. You’re not expected to comply with restrictions on what kind of businesses can participate or what kind of message is approved. This is much more flexible for you.

How do you use Shop Indie Local? 

Stick with the fresh messages we just talked about like “did you know” and indie profiles, but add Shop Indie Local to them.

Add the hashtag #ShopIndieLocal to your social media posts anytime. Like, comment and share other posts with the #ShopIndieLocal tag, even those outside your community.

Use the Shop Indie Local logo in your local campaigns.

Shop Indie Local logo

Take advantage of ready-to-use graphics like this rather than start from scratch.

How will you refresh your shop local message this year?

Feel free to share in the comments, tag us on social media, or send us an email. We love to hear and share your great ideas.

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