stanley discussionEarlier this month John Stanley presented a talk organised by the Denmark Chamber of Commerce. 80 plus Denmark business owners and community members were drawn in by the intriguing headline ‘Home Town, Clone Town or Ghost Town’.

I went along to because I was keen to hear how the enabling technology of the internet was going to be framed in a talk on the future of retailing in my own home town. Small local business owners are a big part of the market that Open Copy targets.
Good Marketing Rule # 1:

Stay in touch with your target market by listening and joining in with the conversations that matter them.

So that’s what I set out to do.
Meanwhile, John Stanley was clearly focused on Good Marketing Rule # 2:

Address and solve target market pain or fear.

Degradation into a ghost town has been a clear and present danger for any regional town since the industrial revolution, and since the communications revolution, and the advent of e-commerce, a real threat for city and country retailers alike.
“Clone Town” is a scary story with more modern overtones than it’s ‘Ghost Town’ counterpart, but is subject to the same brutish forces of multinational, big corporate, or franchise take over.

So what is the Stanley solution to our small town/small business collective fear?

“Build Denmark, in order to build your business”

  1. Work together to promote ‘Shop Local’ messages to target markets.
  2. Work together to promote local ‘Point of Difference’.
  3. Maximise local networking opportunity.
  4. Focus online efforts – locally not globally.

Stanley explained how online business is more of a disruptive force to local retailers than the potential arrival of say Woolworth’s. Furthermore, larger businesses have more reason to be afraid of e-commerce than smaller businesses.

This is because small, and in particular new, enterprise is more adaptable to change than the more established and larger market sharers.

“Business established pre 2008 will find changes more difficult than younger companies” said Stanley, citing Amazon Fresh, due to come to Australia in the next couple of years, as the biggest potential threat to supermarkets.

Most consumers are supportive of the theory of shopping local. The challenge is getting time-strapped people to change their consumption patterns. When a big shake up looms, however, there is everything to play for.

The overall tone of the talk was extremely positive particularly in terms of what can be achieved leveraging online opportunity.  The challenge there of course is adapting appropriately to the technological shift.

“Research predicts that every business in this room will see more changes in the next 5 years than they have experienced since they began”.

Stanley told us citing a report from the USA about the changes taking place in marketing, technology and consumer trends.

Let’s look at what else he said relating to the solutions as summarised above.

1. Work together to promote ‘Shop Local’ messages to target markets.

Stanley showed us this Facebook local

“You can’t buy happiness but you can buy local and that’s the same thing”

Instantly showing the ease with which Social Media can be used to promote a ‘buy local message’ that can in turn benefit the whole community of a town like Denmark.

“Farmers markets are very sexy” Stanley told us and should be high on the wish list of a thriving home town.

Resources can be pooled to promote the buy local message and to promote the desirability of our town.

An in-depth look at the tourism sector separated between primary and secondary tourism services.  Denmark has many comparable advantages in terms of natural and cultural desirability, but how is that threatened by basic service shortfall? Three pertinent scenarios were presented:

  • The vocal tourist who pays a high price for accommodation only to experience rudeness at reception.
  • The frustrated tourist who can’t get petrol at the weekend
  • The car with a boot of shopping from Woolies, Perth, embarking on a trip to Margaret River.

The cross over between the interests of primary and secondary tourist services is definitely a compelling reason to take a community approach to market place resilience.

As individual operators we need to engage consumers. We need to make them feel they are benefitting from the Human Brand that the ‘Buy local’ vision promises, particular in situations where the price is higher set.

Engagement is defined as the ‘Day Maker’ effect, where a service provider makes the consumer feel like a human with functional and emotional needs, rather than as a statistic needing ‘processing.’ This can be done by offering free advice, in the shop or online; on your own website, or social media platforms.

Stanley suggests the customer ‘engagement’ should happen “before, during and after the transaction”. This is to say the approach should be maintained during the marketing process, at the point of sale and as a customer satisfaction follow up.

2. Work together to promote local ‘Point of Difference’.

Finding and promoting our local point of difference is the way in which we achieve desirability for visiting and resident customers alike.

Stanley asked “What is unique to Denmark?” And then went onto list:

• Environment
• Culture/arts
• Village atmosphere
Everyone in the room gave an audible nod.

The list above could very easily be attributed to many a regional town I’m sure. However, I believe there is something unique about the degree of pride that practically every resident of Denmark takes in the co-existence of these 3 rather basic elements in their town.

3. Maximise local networking opportunity.

The key questions posed here were:

1. Do key stake holders have the same vision?
2. Are business, community, shire & other stake holders all working together?

Stanley cited the necessity for local leaders and heroes to emerge. This is a frequently recurring theme in discussions about the future of society generally. Clearly this concern signals a shift away from clearly defined centres of power. The feeling seems to be that power is being centralised but in a way that was less visible and tangible than before.  This seems to delight and frighten people by turns. Are we being liberated by new technology? Or tighter bound?

Either way, alliances, affiliations and associations of traders have always been  a behind the scenes feature of every market place. Unified visions and people teaming up in common cause, online or off, has become no less desirable now that people walk around with the world in their pockets.
4.     Focus online efforts – locally rather than globally.  

World in pocket or no, Stanley reassures us that,

“97% of www traffic is local residence looking for local business.”

A simple but pertinent message.

It is easy to get swept away in the notion of world wide connectivity. And there are real and desirable benefits to time/space collapse, as painful as it sounds. But there are also real and desirable benefits to investing in local services and products.

If those benefits can be delivered to local audiences in a way in which is trustworthy and engaging, and on media platforms that are more accessible to small and medium businesses (i.e. online) then… opportunity certainly is knocking. Let’s hope it’s one of Stanley’s  ‘day makers’ and not just another ‘salesperson’ at the door.