What Can You Do Online to Support Your Local Offline Businesses?

Those of us who work primarily online can sometimes develop a kind of tunnel vision. When we think “retail,” we’re actually thinking about e-commerce. When we think “publicity,” we’re automatically thinking about guest blogging, link building, and SEO. And when we think “advertising”… well, we don’t like to think about that do we?

But, as human beings, we’re forced to live in the real world now and then, aren’t we? And that means being part of the local community. Our neighborhood, the closest small town, or the nearest city’s downtown region can have a big impact on our lives, even though we tend to stay in front of a screen more than most.

For that reason, I want to take a few moments to highlight an issue that you dedicated online professionals may know about in the back of your minds, but may not always consider so close to home:

The struggle of the local independent business owner

There are factors the local store or restaurant owner has to consider that the average online business owner doesn’t face.

For example, one factor is the lease and upkeep of a physical location that (hopefully) endures a lot of wear and tear from people coming and going all day every day. While online entrepreneurs need to constantly stay on top of technical issues and keep their interface fresh and inviting, it’s not quite the same experience as having to pull out the mop and clean up a puddle where the upstairs neighbor’s pipes have busted.

Also, a local business owner with a physical location often has a very limited target audience they can reach out to for customers. This means the lead base is small to begin with and competition is fiercer. Online, with few exceptions, we can do business with just about anyone in the world who we can attract with our content or social engagement campaigns. We’re looking at a potential audience of billions, not tens of thousands at the most.

Finally, consider what it takes to grab the attention of those relatively few people who are close enough to a physical store or restaurant to patronize it: they’re using the DVR, Netflix, and satellite radio. They’re not reading the local newspaper anymore. And while they’re walking down the street, they’re as likely to be looking at their phones as they are to be looking where they’re going. So offline businesses are, more often than not, forced to work online for their marketing and branding efforts despite needing to give their physical business the bulk of their time and attention.

The bottom line is simply this: in today’s increasingly digital world, some – if not all – offline businesses are finding themselves at a disadvantage. (For helpful articles and resources to aid you in the growth of your business, visit us at BusinessesForSale.com.)

Why should we care?

Not to sound heartless, but that’s just the way the world is moving, right? I mean, eventually everything will be online and that’s it. And what I can’t buy online (like a fresh tomato, for instance,) is available at Wal-Mart. Let’s just get used to it.

Well, no, not really.

You see, if everything really did move online and into the big box stores, and there were no more local stores or restaurants available, your local economy would essentially shut down. Widespread unemployment and all the subsequent disasters that go along with it would become the norm in your little slice of paradise.

So let’s not even go there.

The fact is, we want and need our local economy strong and healthy because – among many other great reasons – it helps support those of us who are expanding the community’s reach beyond the several mile radius the local shoe store can reach.

So what can we do to help?

The first and simplest answer is this: buy small. Make it a point to spend your money at local, independent stores and restaurants when you can. Take the time to browse through your local downtown Main Street shops so you know what’s available, and spend the extra couple of dollars to buy it there instead of down the road at Target.

Another excellent option is to use your powerful social media and digital marketing skills to make sure others in the community are aware of what your local businesses have to offer, too. Nearly every community has a “shop small” online forum of some sort where conscientious citizens and local business owners are working to make this situation more commonly known. Get involved!

Finally, make a point to talk up (online and offline) Small Business Saturday, which occurs this year on November 28th – the Saturday immediately after Black Friday and before Cyber Monday. Of course, on Black Friday, we’re going to take advantage of the ridiculous sales going on at the huge stores, and on Cyber Monday we’re going to attack Amazon. But that Saturday, your goal should be to meet your entire community, out there in the real world, at those local stores and restaurants that help support you in so many ways.

For some great Small Business Saturday ideas and stories, follow the #smallbizsat hashtag on Twitter and Facebook.

Justin P Lambert

Justin P Lambert is a blogger and writer specializing in topics like marketing, social media, inbound marketing, content marketing, and small business growth strategies.