One of the things the heavy snow did at the start of the year was to draw everyone’s attention to their local community. Neighbours who hadn’t previously communicated started clearing pathways together, retailers and businesses tried to share resources when staff struggled to get in and there was a rare moment when everyone was helping and supporting one another.
As the snow and ice thawed the recession then bit hard. Interestingly and looking back over the last 6 months, that community spirit hasn’t waned. In fact it seems to be intensifying. Whilst the press have, until late, been full of doom and gloom, I’ve seen and heard of:
- business networking and support groups increasing in member numbers
- retailers and businesses clubbing together to create offers and profile their combined skills and services
- people increasingly canvassing the opinions and recommendations of their contacts when faced with purchasing something
- employers and employees creatively exploring ways to protect jobs, be it through 4 day weeks, secondments and the like
- some businesses even offering financial investment in others when the bank funding proved too elusive
In my local town, Godalming, the Chamber of Commerce created a highly successful food festival which attracted thousands of extra visitors to the town on a sunny July day (and some much needed revenue to local businesses). I’ve also read of a Bridal Shop in Grimsby who pulled together specialist retailers to create a highly successful bridal fair.
So what’s my point here? Well, first of all long may the ‘we’re all in this together’ attitude last. But secondly what’s stopping each and every one of us as business owners pooling our strength to reach new markets, find more customers and publicise ourselves more? What’s stopping us helping each other and helping ourselves in the process.
So to prevent this new-found community spirit from waning, and to encourage businesses to muck in and help each other, here are 5 ‘food for thought’ ideas:
- In your chosen market, which other businesses offer complimentary products and services to yours? Why not offer to meet up for a coffee or a chat and explore if there are any ways you can create joint offers or promotions to the market?
- What topics are really relevant to your customers or clients at the moment? Could you instigate an event around one of these and include other businesses too, to create a bigger draw? Customers are more likely to come to an event where there’s several experts rather than one.
- If you’re asked for a service or product that you don’t offer, can you recommend another business instead? Recommendations are really popular at the moment, as people are more nervous to part with their cash. If you can recommend a fellow business (and make sure they know you did), they’re more likely to reciprocate in time.
- Where are you sourcing your supplies from? Can you purchase more from local sources or from your clients to keep other businesses going?
- If you are involved in interest groups through your social life, where are they purchasing their supplies/services from? Can they adopt a more local focus to help support businesses closer to home?
There seem to be mixed reports as to whether the recession is coming to an end or not. Certainly, there seems to be a bit more business confidence around, but it could be the lull before another storm. The more action we can take to help fellow businesses and keep as many of them going as we can, the better. We’ll then be stronger and more resilient to whatever the economy throws at us.
About the author: Michelle Daniels, Managing Director – Extended Thinking. An experienced and effective business development and marketing strategist, Michelle has built a successful career increasing top line growth for service businesses and organisations. She helps her clients turn their marketing, business development and thought leadership plans into reality with her ‘hands on’ support and practical advice. A prolific writer, Michelle also combines creative flair with business nous to produce highly effective results. She has written (and ghost-written) for many professional and business publications and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and professional services marketing group.
Extended Thinking is a hands-on marketing and business development consultancy. Bringing together great minds and great ‘doers’, we help our clients devise and implement plans that achieve real business growth. Our clients come from a wide variety of backgrounds and sectors, but invariably are those who are too busy or lack the resources to action their marketing and business development plans. We roll our sleeves up and muck in to free them up to do what they really want to do and are good at doing.