We love local, but here’s the catch: serving only local almost always ensures failure. It's incredibly important to support local, but serving local is a completely different animal.
Not sure what I mean? Let's take a look at Off-Axis, a local only clothing company in Regina SK, that had a big presence in the skateboarding and snowboarding communities in and around the city. They experienced quick growth, had a solid brand, opened two stores, and were fairly well known in the community. They even spoke to high school classes focused on entrepreneurship about how to create a recognizable brand and a successful business model.
But that was it.
Don't get me wrong, these guys did a great job while they were open and I believe they did more things right than wrong, but they didn't recognize what it would take to continue their success.
One day we asked why they didn't sell online. One sales person told us bluntly that they believed in only serving local. They decided not to invest in online sales or even an online storefront (besides some very limited social media). They did have a website, but never really invested in it either. As the market changed and more clothing companies began selling online for far less, the store started to lose traction. Sure, there were loyal customers (myself included) who would go there just to chat with the staff and get some sick threads, but that wasn’t (and rarely ever is) enough.
I don't know the entire story behind Off-Axis closing their doors, maybe they had other plans for their lives too, but I still believe this is a pretty good example of one of the things many small businesses get stuck on.
So how do you avoid this outcome?
Be prepared to take note of buying trends, and how you can offer either an unmatched experience, or a product or service not easily accessed online.
1. Play local, but recognize the limitations of the market. There are only so many people in your immediate area that you can appeal to, let alone sell to. Take the time to lay out who these people are, estimate the number of them, and assume that at best half will be customers at some point. If this is too small to sustain your business, it's time to broaden your offerings or your reach.
2. Don't get so stuck on principles that you fail to recognize opportunity. The great thing about serving local AND non-local is that most of those funds you bring into your business stay local (as long as you also believe in buying local). So instead of trading local cash (basically keeping the wealth at the same level), you're bringing more wealth into your community. What's not to like about that?
There are clearly more limitations for some local businesses and some will thrive on serving local (take restaurants or coffee shops for example). Depending on your local population, you might be able to be supported entirely by locals! However, one thing I want you to remember is, there's still opportunity in marketing to non-locals like those who may be visiting the area or that frequent it from rural communities.
Are you exclusively serving local but want to reach a larger audience? Contact me today and mention this post for 5% off the regular consulting rate!
Let me know what you think about serving local.
About the Author
Emily Gust | B.B.A.
I'm the brains behind Bluetines, a dream of mine since I was 11 years old. I'm passionate about efficiency, effectiveness, but most of all loving what you do!