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A local business just lost making a $500 sale to me today. And all the follow on business that might have generated.

The Problem with Local Business Right Now

I needed a replacement for a broken appliance right away. And because I am an enthusiastic supporter of local business – it is what makes our country connected and run better – I spent almost 2 hours looking for an option to buy something local. Nothing… nada… no options…no functioning websites for a few… no online purchasing or even pricing in some cases.

Many wanted me to call on Monday to have a conversation – me not even knowing if they have the products I just spent time identifying by researching for 45 minutes online. No way am I going to take time out of my busy day to give them a call so they can try to sell me on something else. And many of them aren’t even open right now – how do I know they’re going to answer?

On top of that, the ones that did have the appliance I wanted listed on their site, plus a price, specified very directly that I had to come into the store to get it – no shipping, no remote purchase. Seriously.

This strikes me as not only annoying from a personal perspective, but tragic as well. Our shopping is not going back to what it was for a loooonnnnng time. And in many cases, it never will. We are now used to buying online and getting things delivered – that was happening before, but now the experience has broadened across the population plus the pandemic isn’t over and won’t be entirely for possibly a year (until we have a vaccine readily available to the entire population). Local business must pivot to not just survive, but to thrive.

The Manufacturer – Dealer Distribution Channel Strategy Must Change

Yes, change is hard. We have a thoroughly entrenched business model, especially with appliances: manufacturer => authorized dealers in specific geographic areas => customer. That model maintains prices and protects dealers. That model is likely done now. And whoever changes the fastest is going to win the most business. That’s the truth.

I suggest the following:

  1. Dealers: pressure your manufacturers. Enable local online sales with local curbside pickup or even delivery via a relationship with Instacart. Large appliance local dealers are doing this — you can too.
  2. Manufacturers: work with your dealers to get this streamlined before Amazon eats your entire brand for lunch. This isn’t just about leaving your dealers behind and moving to Amazon. You’ll lose your entire high-end, service, and quality orientation if you let go of local help.

Get Free Help from Marketers Who Care about Local Business

Ask for help from marketers to switch your technology. Many of us are helping people for free – giving options, helping you learn how to do this yourself, or offering basic first steps at super low prices. We’re not doing this because we’re not busy – most marketers are pretty busy right now.

We’re willing to help because it matters to us as individuals, as citizens, as part of the community. We care about local business and we have the tools to help.

Get moving. You don’t have to fold up your tent. People still have the same problems they had before and still need your help. You just need to offer and deliver it in a way that easy for your customers now.

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