Do Local Businesses Deserve Your Money?

I sat at the counter at my local restaurant the other day and waited for over 7 minutes without anyone bothering to acknowledge that I was there. 2013-04-23 12.30.55

And then I walked out. And so did my money. For good. In fact, I drove to McDonalds, got some scrambled eggs and an iced coffee, and was in and out of the system within the same 7 minutes. (You can save your comments with disdain for McDonalds. If you’re a parent, you go there, unless you don’t. Either way. It’s not the point.)

Now, before you try to defend this other place, no, it wasn’t busy. Yes, at least two employees had seen me, and frankly, I don’t much care. If I had been even greeted, I would have been able to tolerate the wait. But not even a hello.

By comparison, the Ale House and the Barking Dog (both local places) have trained their entire staff to greet anyone they see walking in, and wish everyone walking out a great day. You feel warmly greeted there.

“LOCAL” DOES NOT EQUAL “GOOD.”

Local equals local. For instance, there are many coffee shops around. One of the local coffee shops invariably has a huge line, and locals know to go there only if you have some extra time. The coffee is good, but not amazing. Are they extra kind there? No. Do they greet people? No.

The local Dunkin Donuts is faster. They’re not much more kind (I mean, they’re not unkind, but they just do what they do with little beyond the script). Is that good? Depends on what you want.

“GOOD” IS SUBJECTIVE

I went into a running store to pick up a windbreaker kind of thingy because evidently wearing a spring jacket means I will sweat like a prisoner. The guy who runs the shop remembered selling me my shoes (almost a year ago). That feeling, of being remembered, equals good to me. But maybe not to everyone. Heck, I once took a part time job at a local bookstore simply because the manager remembered my name after meeting me once ever (great person, by the way).

ULTIMATELY, “LOCAL” BECOMES ONE OF SEVERAL CHOICES

I’m writing in the Barnes & Noble, which means they get my $4.10 for the iced coffee I bought to “rent” my table. The places that sell ice coffee near my house don’t get that money because they don’t have enough room to sit, aren’t the right environment, lack wifi, etc. All just choices. But let’s talk about that with regards to YOUR business.

If you intend to be a local business, what will push people to choose you instead of the competition?

  • If you sell physical products, you don’t have to carry everything, but you have to be able to recommend everything, and be able to get it in fast.
  • Any service you can add above and beyond the product becomes a reason to consider local.
  • Knowledge trumps big box stores sometimes. I bought my windbreaker at the running store because I knew that the people in there knew about the product. Will someone at Target? Far less likely.
  • Warm welcomes make everything better. I’d much rather give money to people who make me feel welcome and invited. I know this sounds “duh,” but pay attention next time you’re out and about. It’s a rarity to be welcomed and treated well.
  • If you have a great story, sometimes that’s enough to sway one’s money towards you. There’s a farm where I like to get my vegetables and there’s usually a bit more “story” going on there in descriptions and signage and more, compared to my local grocery store.
  • Being responsive and able to reply and able to offer customer service is one place where you can shine.

But it’s all a choice.

If you can add value, you can trump price or availability as a local business. It’s up to you to decide if that matters. The rest? Well, we can talk about that another time.

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