Concepts like “shop local” are based on the idea that local consumers and businesses should loyally support their community. Leaving consumers out of the equation, what can businesses do to help each other? And how can technology help them do that?
Several tech platforms have strived to enable local and vertically related businesses (i.e. health and wellness) work together as a kind of tech Rotary Club. Why shouldn’t the cooking store people refer customers to the gourmet grocery? Or the hardware store people refer customers to the plant nursery? Or a spa in one town share an idea with a spa in another town?
At least, they can share tips about things like landlords, taxes, advertising and supplies. The popularization of social media in recent years would seem to make such collaborative efforts more relevant than ever.
Alignable, ShopCity, Manta, LoyalBe, LoyalTap, Powerlinx and Townsquared are examples of companies that have tried to make it easier for businesses to help each other. These kinds of efforts remain in building mode, but over the years, their platforms have variously enabled businesses to:
- Recommend businesses to each other
- Share customer lists
- Develop joint promotions, including shared local advertising and local shopping days
- Create local shopping zones with shared loyalty points, coupons and other promotions;
- Create a viral marketing experience with local recommendations and reviews
- Share insights about working with local landlords, business organizations and governmental bodies.
None of it has been easy and there haven’t been clear breakthroughs yet. What’s clear is that most local businesses are not very connected to each other.
Alignable, in particular, sees a major opportunity for SMBs here. Since its launch in 2014, Alignable has been connecting businesses socially; getting them to share business customer lists. It is now in 7000+ communities, and growing rapidly and virally.
As one testimonial on its site illustrates, SMBs can reach significant goals with the service. “We organized a town event on Alignable, and each business promoted the event on their social media channels,” noted the testimonial. “It was a phenomenal morning--our sales were amazing. Over the course of the day, I logged 18 new customers who were not in our system, so that is doing very well.”
Alignable’s newest innovation is an “SMB Trust Index,” based on Net Promoter Score (NPS) for businesses to rate their experiences in working with each other. Under the NPS framework, high rankers are considered champions for a business (and low rankers are considered detractors).
These kinds of services highlight what businesses can do to help each other using social media and other tech tools. Such collaborative efforts are likely to have an increasing role in many SMBs marketing plans.