“Conscious spending with the community can contribute to neighborhood sustainability.” — Christine Araquel, The Park’s Finest
I encountered this quote from a restauranteur on the American Express Small Business Saturday website, and just these few words called a vivid image to my mind: local business owners and customers gazing together toward the horizon, hoping to pierce the clouds of COVID-19 and see them clearing away, revealing communities that are still standing, and still capable of sustaining our hometowns, our cities, and our dreams.
In Q4 of 2019, I used my column to encourage local business owners to start having meaningful conversations with customers about how “conscious spending” at independently-owned enterprises impacts local quality of life. Buying local affects everything from mental and physical health, to emergency services access, diversity, democracy, and climate change.
In 2020, it’s time to turn up the local SEO industry’s dial on conscious spending. Today, I’m urging every business owner and marketer to consider dedicating space to a concerted educational campaign on the topic on their websites, social profiles, local business listings, reviews, and real-world interfaces. Your work, and mine, depends on sustaining independently-owned local businesses through and far beyond Small Business Saturday. With the right strategy, we can make an impactful effort together.
American Express created Small Business Saturday in 2010 in response to the Great Recession. This annual event invites communities to shop at small, local businesses on the Saturday following Thanksgiving. Small Business Saturday’s date this year is November 28th.
Make use of AmEx’s tutorials on topics like contactless payments, answering COVID FAQs, and implementing digital shopping.
These are all standard good practices to ready your company for this major shopping day, but amid the severe challenges of 2020, it’s time to go beyond common techniques.
Share-worthy Buy Local statistics
If conscious local shopping is the goal, education is the key to helping customers make informed choices.
There’s never been a better year for local vendors to re-envision themselves as heroic community educators. Beyond the typical preparations you make to get ready for Small Business Saturday, now is the time to start sharing with customers why conscious shopping with you matters. Consider:
In 2012, small businesses made up 99.7% of US employer firms. SMBs with 500 or fewer employees are the backbone of the US economy.
Small businesses not only create the local and state tax base essential to civic life, they also contribute 250% more than big brands to community causes. Shopping locally directly impacts services and programs you care about like first responders, food and housing security, children’s resources, and animal welfare.
Make a copy of Moz’s free Why Buy Local stats sheet to help you tell a compelling small business story to the communities in which you serve and market.
For local business owners: Where to educate in the run-up to Small Business Saturday 2020
Share the stories (with supporting statistics) of your choice to boost awareness of the benefits of shopping at independently-owned, local businesses in the following places:
Determine which resources matter most to the communities you serve, and explain how shopping local funds those essentials. Create a section on the homepage of your website summarizing these benefits, and link it to a landing page that expands on how conscious local shopping is sustaining the community.
For example, in my community, taxes are absolutely critical to keeping official fire departments operational, and volunteer fire departments depend on local giving. In the American West, where we’ve been in a constant state of disaster due to fire for months, SMBs can use their websites to draw the throughline between shopping local and funding essential emergency services. In other parts of the country, it could be flood relief, or food banks, or the survival of local newspapers.
Build a strong internal link structure pointing to your shop local landing page, and sprinkle your product and service pages with stats proving the point that choosing your business instead of a big box or online monopoly makes life better where shoppers live.
Bring creativity to bear in publicizing your most compelling reasons to shop local on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and other social media platforms. You don’t have to guilt-trip customers into spending at independents, but you can engage them with statistics that show how shopping with you benefits the community, as well as inviting customers to tell their own stories.
Use social media to ask which services, resources, places, and causes matter most to your customers, and help locals connect the dots between where they spend and how their purchases fund whatever is valued most at a local level.
Local business listings
Concise statistics can be incorporated into the description fields of your local business listings, Google Posts, videos, photos, GMB messaging, and Google Q&A. Use these spaces to give local shoppers extra reasons to do business with you.
And, of course, be sure the basic contact information and hours of operation on your major local business listings are up-to-date before Small Business Saturday, so that first-time shoppers who like your messaging can find you without any misdirection or disappointment.
Incorporate brief statistics into review request campaigns, encouraging respondents to voice their educated opinions on why they choose to shop locally with you.
For example, a review request might state that sales at your business contribute X amount of funding to first responders, and that you’d appreciate the reviewer writing about how supporting these services matters to them and to the community. A review corpus spangled with persuasive statements from fully-aware customers can help other shoppers choose you over corporate competitors.
Additionally, local business owners are sometimes at a loss for how to vary their “thank you” owner responses to positive reviews. Diminish repetition by including data in your replies. For example, a hypothetical owner response could read:
“So glad you enjoyed your soft tacos, Mary! Your great review is extra appreciated right now, as dining with us is also ensuring a 3% donation to our local food bank from every order. You’re making a difference by helping us make sure everyone in the community has food on the table this winter. Thank you so much for caring about our town. We hope to see you again soon!”
The new Moz Local plans will alert you to every new review that comes in on our partner networks. Use these alerts to craft timely, informative thank-you notes in your owner responses.
Storefronts, window displays, in-store signage, menus, brochures, mailers, packaging, receipts, business cards, and many other real-world assets can convey educational statistics that will help locals choose you to support the local economy.
Google has interesting theories about the messy middle of the customer’s journey during COVID-19. Your online assets may be of most influence during the evaluation and exploration phases of the buyer’s path, but don’t overlook the messages you’re sending to customers whose attention you’ve already captured. Using tangible assets — like window displays seen by passersby — to showcase how local patronage directly sustains the community could bring you repeat business from convinced customers.
For agencies: Be more than a local SEO — be a local business advocate