Thursday, August 18, 2011

Local businesses need to start thinking of their customers as potential suppliers

When people ask me about JustLocal and what I’m doing, I have a couple of examples I share to highlight the issues I’ve found and if people start to think about them I’d like to change the situation a little.

I ask people do you refer others to businesses you’ve used and the answer is more often yes.

I then ask these questions.

Do you shop at the local businesses?

The answer is always yes.

Do they know you at the local businesses?

The answer is often yes.

Has a local business asked what you do?

The answer is always no.

Has a local business given you any business?

The answer is always no.

Why do I ask these questions. The reasons is simple. This is the same experience I’ve had. I regularly refer people to businesses I’ve used. I use the businesses regularly and say hello to the business owners. They never ask what I do and it has been 15 years since a local business that I purchase products and services from has given me any business.

Local businesses I have no doubt add valuable services and facilities to the community. But if the only purpose of a local business is to profit from the locals and then spend their profits elsewhere, what they are really doing long term is damaging the local community and not making it stronger. As people realise local businesses by their actions are only there to profit off the local community, the loyalty of locals will, if it hasn’t already, disappear, and people will see the best action for themselves is to look after themselves. Why not, everyone else appears to be.

To me this is a sad outcome. As a business I look at my customers as my potential suppliers. If I can pass on work or referrals to my customers and I believe it is appropriate and ethical to do so, then I’m happy to help those who help me.

To all local businesses I ask you to start asking your customers what they do and if they can provide a product or service you need then take a chance. Get a local to provide the product or service and if that local is one of your customers even better. You’ll not only help strengthen the local community but you’ll also build loyalty.

Kelvin Eldridge

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