small business

By Rieva Lesonsky

Americans love small businesses, right? Well, yes and no. According to the results of a survey by Ask Your Target Market, the majority of Americans generally support small business…to a certain degree.

First, the good news: A whopping 79 percent of Americans polled say they sometimes or often patronize local small businesses. Just 15 percent say they rarely or never patronize small businesses. However, only 7 percent patronize local small businesses almost every day.

Interestingly, online businesses are a bit less likely than brick-and-mortar stores to earn consumers’ support. Although 63 percent of respondents sometimes or often buy from small, independent websites, 33 percent say they rarely or never do.

Then, the not-so-good news. How dedicated are Americans to supporting small business? Just one-quarter say they go out of their way to support small businesses whenever possible. About six in 10 (57 percent) say they go “somewhat” out of their way. However, 19 percent don’t go out of their way to support small businesses at all.

What will Americans put up with to support a small business? Apparently, money talks: While about half of Americans are willing to pay “slightly” higher prices to support small business, only 10 percent are willing to support small business if it means paying substantially higher prices. And 39 percent say they expect prices at small businesses to be the same as those at large chains, or they’re not buying.

Why do consumers choose to support smaller businesses?

  • 56 percent say they do so to help the local economy;
  • 53 percent prefer the personalized service at small businesses;
  • 30 percent believe small businesses sell high-quality products;
  • 27 percent think small businesses offer lower prices; and
  • 14 percent say small businesses offer more choices.

How can you take advantage of the general fondness for small business, while also capturing those customers who aren’t willing to go out of their way for you?

  • Don’t expect to get business just because you’re small. You need to earn it with service, selection and quality. Because you’re smaller, you have to try harder.
  • At the same time, it doesn’t hurt to play up your independent status. Join or start a buy-local movement or be part of the Small Business Saturday campaign. Store signage that lets people know you’re independently owned can encourage some customers to buy.
  • Get involved with the community. If you want customers to buy from you out of a desire to help the community, you need to give back. Make yourself and your business known by contributing to charity, volunteering at local events or sponsoring local sports teams—the ideas are endless.