An Advocate for Small Business, I Was Wrong About “Shop Small”

 In Business, Marketing

As a passionate advocate for rural microenterprises and small businesses, I’ve been supporting the “shop small” movement for years. I’ve been a neighborhood champion of the Small Business Saturday campaign for at least seven years and have used the hashtag #shopsmall across various platforms. However, I’ve recently come to a realization: the shop small movement, without context, is detrimental to the very businesses it aims to support.

The “shop small” and Small Business Saturday campaigns are largely promoted and managed by two major corporations: American Express and FedEx. In recent years, the messaging within the marketing materials for Small Business Saturday has shifted dramatically. The primary focus on supporting small businesses has been overshadowed by advertising for these two giants. Totes once designed to promote community and shopping locally now bear their logos, diluting the message and underscoring the need for a new approach.

It’s time for small businesses to step up and demonstrate their true value. Relying on guilt or obligation to encourage people to shop locally is no longer enough. Instead, small businesses need to identify, magnify, and communicate the reasons they are the better choice. Rather than simply telling customers to shop small, they must assume the position of being the better option.

To achieve this, small businesses should focus on the following areas:

1. Differentiation: Stand out from competitors, both big and small. Offer unique products, personalized services, or experiences that cannot be replicated by larger, more generic stores.

2. Community engagement: Forge strong connections with the local community. Get involved in community events, sponsor local sports teams, or partner with schools and nonprofit organizations. Show that you’re more than just a business—you’re an integral part of the community fabric.

3. Customer service: Emphasize the personal touch that small businesses can offer. Train staff to provide exceptional, personalized service that customers will remember and return for.

4. Storytelling: Share the story behind your business—why you started it, what you stand for, and what makes you unique. People love stories, and connecting with your story can create a sense of loyalty and emotional investment in your business.

5. Adaptability: Small businesses have the advantage of being agile and responsive to market changes. Monitor trends and customer needs, and adapt your products, services, or business model accordingly.

The “shop small” movement should not be about guilt or obligation, but about empowering small businesses to showcase their strengths and offer a superior customer experience. As we move forward, let us focus on transforming the narrative, encouraging small businesses to step up, differentiate themselves, and truly become the better option. Only then can we create a more sustainable, vibrant local economy that benefits both businesses and customers alike. Need help with a better strategy to empower yourself and win over customers? Initial consultations are free at Kapeesh Marketing.

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Texas historic downtown on a spring day. by MidJourney