Support Your Local ________ Store: 5 ways you can help a small business succeed (without spending any money)

We get a lot of questions from our customers such as “How’s business?” and “Have e-books hurt you?” and then they say something like, “I really love your store and I hope you don’t ever close.”

We don’t want to close either, and while it’s always nice to get that kind of encouragement from our loyal customers, hoping alone isn’t going to keep anyone in business.

During the month of July every year, we take part in the Find Waldo in Yakima game that promotes shopping local. My earlier post about that included some of the many reasons why you should want to support local businesses. In this post, let’s look at some simple things you can do, without spending any money, to help support your favorite local businesses.

  1. Word-of-Mouth
    This one is the most simple, and most effective, things you can do: Tell your friends and family… even total strangers… about your favorite places. Tell them every time you go there, and tell them what you bought, what you didn’t buy, and how enjoyable it was. Tell them the bad stuff, too… if there is any… because you shouldn’t lie to your friends, but tell them. Chances are you know people who have not even heard about that great little place where you love to shop.
  2. Like, Comment and Share on Social Media
    The whole point of social media, for businesses anyway, is that word-of-mouth thing we were just talking about. Posts, pictures and tweets from a business are meant to shared among your friends to help spread the word that a) the business exists and b) you should go there. Every time you Like, Comment, or Share something we’ve put online it goes out from the circle of friends we already have to your friends, along with your implied seal-of-approval, and that’s huge for a small business.
  3. Like Comment and Share Newsletter Articles
    Similar to Social Media, the content in a newsletter is the perfect opportunity for you to share with your friends whatever might be of interest to them at your favorite store. Most e-mail newsletters these days will even make it easy for you, so with just a few clicks you can tell your friends about that really awesome sale they should know about.
  4. Like Comment and Share Blog Posts
    Again, the simple act of sharing content is helpful, but in the case of a blog post (like this one) people who follow the link are brought to the homepage of the business and so have an added opportunity to look around and learn about a business they might want to try.
    Additionally, a comment on a blog post (and newsletters) will often be linked to social media, but more importantly it can start a useful discussion among customers and the business that can lead to improvements for both.
  5. Online Reviews
    This can be rather controversial among some people, and you may have heard reports of paid reviewers, or sites like yelp.com that some businesses claim restrict positive reviews unless you pay for advertising.
    None the less, a solid positive review from a real customer can be worth a lot to a small business, and a collection of such reviews can be priceless.
    Other sites where you can leave online reviews:
    • Foursquare – Load the app on your smart phone and take it with you, or write reviews on the web.
    • Google+ – If you use Google’s search engine very often, you’ve probably seen these reviews pop up.
    • Angie’s List – Primarily for services (rather than retail), only paid members can leave reviews, which they claim increases the quality of the reviews they get.
    • Citysearch – A sort of Yellow pages style listing that allows users to leave reviews.

BONUS: Spend money
Of course the best way to support your favorite local businesses is to go there and spend money, but they are certain to appreciate everything you do on their behalf to help spread the word about their products and services.