How can a local business compete with a national giant with deep pockets, huge marketing budgets, and massive ‘loss-leader’ discounts?

Over the next few weeks, Counter Culture will be sharing some simple tips that could affect big changes for your holiday season and beyond. Our first article is about embracing your business for what it is, and not worrying about what it isn’t.

Walmart, Best Buy, and Target might come to the Thanksgiving party armed with big discounts, but they’ll never be able to compete with your secret weapon: you’re local!

You are a part of your local community’s lives more than a giant chain could ever dream of being. Maybe your kids go to school with theirs, perhaps you shop at the same markets they do, and you probably frequent the same movie theaters and bars. To succeed during the holiday season, you must drive that point home. With 55% of consumers saying they plan to shop on days like Black Friday and Small Business Saturday, and upwards of $5.5 billion being spent in local stores on Small Business Saturday alone, there is tremendous opportunity for you to grow your business. We’ve compiled three easy tips to help you remind your customers why they should buy local.

Local Decorations

While corporate retailers put up generic holiday decorations, you have the opportunity to showcase your community knowledge and really make your store stand out. Does your town have local relics or folklore figures everyone would recognize? How about catchphrases or sayings? Or famous faces? Then use them in your decorations. Are your local high school or collegiate sports teams a big deal? Use images of the mascot dressed in festive gear to show your holiday and local sports spirit to customers. You’re going to find yourself up against deep-discounting mega-corporations, so if you try to compete for consumers’ wallets, you’ll fail. If instead you compete for their attention — and their affections — you’ll find it much easier to get people through your door. Ultra-local, bespoke decorations remind your community that you’re one of them.

Themed Sales

Anyone can put on a “Holiday Blowout Sale!” but again, as a local business, you have a unique opportunity to tailor a message that’s specific to your town or community. In a sea of Facebook ads, emails, and signage that bore consumers with the same old, bland sales verbiage, you have an opportunity to stand out amidst the noise. One way to do this is to use local phrases and language choices in your copy. For example, a baker in New Orleans could use the line, ‘Who Dat Say Dem Don’t Like Free Cakes? 2-4-1 Cakes at Benny’s Louisiana Bakery’. Another way to localize your sale could be to offer prizes that are redeemable at other local stores, emphasizing that shopping with you is supporting a thriving local community of businesses.

The Unique Gift Basket

The truth of the matter is, it’s tough for local businesses to compete with the low-margin, high-volume approach of chain stores and ecommerce giants like Amazon. But the good news is this: you don’t need to. You can compete best — and this message is even more true during the holiday season — by offering a unique, personal, value-added consumer experience that blows your competition out of the water. In a season where thoughtfulness, family, and shared memories are the name of the game, consumers are looking to find gifts and experiences that are distinctive and memorable.

This is why gift baskets are such a powerful weapon for retailers and restaurateurs. Packaging your products together allows you to add value to the original items by thoughtfully pulling together complementary items to create something unique. You can offer a basket where the total is greater than the sum of all the parts. Maybe this is about collaboration across your local community stores – I’d love to be able to buy and give a gift basket that showcased local items from across my favorite local stores.

The power of suggestion can be a very effective tool to get your customers to purchase items grouped together, rather than relying on them to pick out the same items individually. Dubbing these gift packages or baskets with locally themed names will not only be simple to do, but also give your customers great, easy, pre-packaged gift ideas for their loved ones and neighbors that larger corporate chains cannot offer.

In short, embracing your identity as a local business with a strong sense of community can go a long way to helping you compete this holiday season. After all, we live in a world where many businesses do 20%-40% (if not more) of their annual revenue in the two months leading up to the New Year. It’s never been more important to take a few small steps to separate yourself from the sea of sameness that is holiday advertising. So bring yourself and your customers some holiday cheer this year – and think local.

Daniel Hodge

About the Author

Daniel Hodge speaks with and helps small business owners daily as a Point of Sale Specialist at ShopKeep. He is passionate about grassroots marketing and is excited to share the insights he has accumulated from these conversations.