small businesses

By Bill Brunelle

The world grows more connected every day, but it’s important those connections don’t drown out the individual voices of small businesses. Big box companies can easily dominate the conversation, but for communities, the return on investment from big companies often doesn’t warrant the attention they receive.

In the big-box world, small businesses have to play to their strengths: They offer communities an excellent return on investment — as much as three times more than big-box stores, per dollar of sales — and they step up when needed. Customers should know how small businesses engage with their communities. Spreading the word can be as easy as telling a story.

Tell Your Main Street Story

Simply put, your business’s Main Street Story has a unique biography, from establishment to present-day. Perhaps you’re a third-generation business owner, or maybe you just launched an innovative startup six months ago — whatever your story, it’s vital to tell it. Sharing the biography of your business will give your community something to recall the next time they walk down Main Street or search for a product you offer.

Pay It Forward

A connection to the local community is what often separates small businesses from big-box companies. Small business owners know what their communities need and how their businesses can help. As a result, support from small businesses is often more readily available to community organizations than support from big-box companies.

Chances are, your business already gives back to your community. That important work should continue because paying it forward can help small business owners meet new members of the community and build new relationships. Connecting with the community does not only good but also makes business more personal for prospective customers.

Leverage Local Searches

While big-box retailers need sprawling real estate for their supercenters, small businesses tend to gather in convenient, walkable town centers. Their downtown, Main Street locations make them appealing to residents and visitors alike. But to make sure those interested consumers find your business, you have to pop up in their searches. To get there, be sure to list your business on Google Maps, Apple Maps and mobile apps like Waze, Yelp and TripAdvisor.

Take the Conversation Offline

Nowadays, it seems more and more big-box retailers try to tempt customers with slick websites and free shipping. While the digital component to retail remains important, there are several reasons why even the savviest of consumers still want to shop in-store. According to a Retail Dive study, 62 percent of consumers want to have a tactile experience with the product before they purchase, and 49 percent of consumers want to take a product home with them immediately after purchase. As a result, small businesses have an opportunity to be the preferred place of purchase for customers.

Use your business’s website and social media profiles to encourage customers to come into your local store. Consider offering a coupon online that can be redeemed in-store or hosting an on-site demo event where consumers can test out products before they buy them. When customers do come into the store, your customer service and product expertise (which small businesses are known for) will keep them coming back.

Join a Buy-Local Group

Independent We Stand works to educate consumers about the importance and strong economic benefits of buying local. The Independent We Stand mobile app and search engine give consumers a place to find small businesses near them. With an Independent We Stand membership, small businesses can list themselves on the mobile app and search engine, plus receive additional support from the Independent We Stand team in promoting their business. That support includes customizable marketing materials, social media graphics and guest blog opportunities. Learn more about standing out in a big box world by joining Independent We Stand online.

Bill Brunelle is co-founder of Independent We Stand, a cause-marketing campaign sponsored by STIHL, which is dedicated to educating communities about the importance and strong economic benefits of supporting locally owned businesses. Independent We Stand inspires small business owners across the country to celebrate their locally owned status and help consumers understand the importance of supporting them. For more information, visit

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