Monday was Patriots’ Day here in Massachusetts, commemorating the 1775 battles of Lexington and Concord that began the Revolutionary War. Since I live in Lexington I can tell you first hand that it’s a big day here.
Annual highlights include a sunrise reenactment of the battle and a big parade in the afternoon, both of which are a big hit with kids and adults alike. Watching the parade this year I couldn’t help but think about the involvement, or lack thereof, of local businesses in their communities.
Here in Lexington we are fortunate to have a number of retailers and other businesses that are engaged and invested in community. We also have those that aren’t. That’s their choice. It isn’t surprising, though, that the retailers that stay involved with the community are the ones that don’t just stay in business, they flourish.
It takes a lot of work and effort to be an engaged local retailer/business, and sometimes it doesn’t always appear to pay off. The effort doesn’t always show up in any given day’s bank deposit, but it does in a store’s long-term success.
I know, because I’ve seen it here in Lexington. For more than twenty years I’ve watched the same stores be a key part of my town’s success. There’s Michelson's Shoes, the shoe store that’s been in business since 1919. The one photograph is their antique car in yesterday’s parade. And there’s Crafty Yankee, a local gift store that opened in 1980. Kathy Fields purchased the store in 1994 and has been a successfully engaged owner ever since.
These engaged local retailers, among several others, have survived the recession. They continue to survive the Internet. They continue to survive national competition.
Here are three ways to be an engaged local business:
1. Be involved. Be a member of your downtown, merchant, and/or chamber group. Retailers, restaurants, and other local businesses must work together to be a destination for shoppers. This isn’t just for owners. Managers of multi-location businesses are the local face of that business, and need to be involved as well.
2. Provide an engaging customer experience. That’s the one big thing local stores and businesses have over Amazon and other online companies. As I teach in my Sixth Star online training programs, customers that emotionally connect with a local store will buy more, are more loyal, and will advocate the business to others.
Customers won’t emotionally connect with a company just because it’s local. They emotionally connect because employees deliver an engaging and personal service experience that is superior to what the customer receives other places. When your staff proactively engages customers and exceeds their expectations, they become your unfair advantage.
3. Stay engaged. Running a business/store is harder than it has ever been. As my client/friend Laura Young says, retail is not for sissies. The competition is fierce. The demands on an owner and manager’s time are higher than ever. We didn’t have social media and so many distractions thirty years ago.
What you can’t afford is for all of these new demands keep you from doing what has worked for local retailers and other businesses for hundreds of years: Never be too busy to leverage your point of differentiation - your people and your commitment to your community.
Luckily for us, those Patriots showed up on that April morning in 1775 to stand their ground against the vastly larger and more powerful British army.
As a local business, you can continue to win the battle in your community. Stand your ground. Stay engaged. Stay invested. People want and need you, their local business, to win.
So let me ask, do you invest your time and resources into being a key contributor to your community? Being local is an advantage only when you leverage opportunities to connect with your community.
About Doug Fleener
Doug Fleener, a proven business and customer service experience expert, helps companies achieve performance that exceeds customer and employee expectations resulting in more sales, profits, and customers.
Learn more about our services at Sixth Star Consulting, or call Doug at 844-861-7803 to discuss how he can help you achieve higher levels of performance and results. Learn about Doug's keynotes and workshops at DougFleener.com. Sample a Sixth Star University online training program at SixthStarU.com.