Lazy Marketing: Your Small Business is Better Than This

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy local, and that’s kind of the same” -Unknown

I’m sure you’ve all seen the sign outside a small retailer:

When you buy from a small business, you are not helping a CEO buy a third holiday home.

You are helping a little girl get dance lessons, a little boy get his team jersey, Mums & Dads put food on the table.

Thanks for shopping local.

Read my articles, attend a training session of mine, or come to my coworking space and you’ll see that I’m a big fan of small business in the UK. In fact, supporting and empowering small businesses in the face of competition from larger corporations is central to what I professionally believe in and what I do every day.

Therefore, you’d think that because of this, and because most of my clients are freelancers and small businesses, I’d agree with this sentiment whole-heartedly. Well, you’re wrong. Every time I see this sign, I could cry. And here’s why:

1. Can we deal with the needless gender stereotyping first? Good, thank you.

2. I’m pretty sure the 500,000 employees of Tesco, many of whom rely on the wage the supermarket provides, would have an issue with this statement.

3. What happens if we all follow this post and only buy from small shops? Small shops that now get bigger as a result and will then need to employ more staff, move to bigger premises, etc. When do we stop buying from them, because we’ll have to, as the CEO of this once-small shop is now doing very well for him/herself? E.g. Tesco’s started out as a market stall in East London.

4. This implication that by supporting big business you are supporting greed, and by supporting small business you are supporting all that is good and pure, is not only wrong, it’s also dishonest and dangerous.

5. It drives home a message of entitlement. For example, “Buy from us because we’re small, not because we’re necessarily any good.”

Let’s not confuse “buying local” with “buying from a small business.” In many communities, big retailers invest in local interest or sports groups, pay local tax, and employ local people. In short, when you buy from a big store, you are also helping “Mums & Dads put food on the table”.

What Message Should a Small Business Put Out?

If you run/own a small business, have a go at these questions:

  • Why should someone walk through your doors, visit your website, or pick up the phone to you?
  • What’s the one key differentiation between you and your bigger competitors?

The answer to these questions should be central to the message put out there to attract new customers; not some meaningless and frankly dangerous message,

What About You?

As ever, this is just my opinion. So what does the message above say to you?

If you’re a small retailer, what did you come up with as a key differentiation? How do you compete with the bigger stores?

I’d genuinely love to hear your stories. Contact me here or tweet me @edagoodman.

Thanks for reading.



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