By John Stanley The words â€œrecessionâ€ and â€œchangeâ€ seem to be bound around the retail world quite freely at present. But, at the same time this is a period of opportunity for small retailers to grow their business, as long as they are good neighbours. I was recently in Seattle, the home of the pioneer Neighbour to Neighbour Marketing. Jim Diers who was one of the early â€œmoversâ€ and the initiator of a Neighbourhood Department in the Seattle Local Government. One of his entrepreneurial campaigns was to set up workshops under the umbrella of the Council to encourage consumers to be active; the aim being proactive locals will stimulate change in the local community. This must be good for local retailers. In the same month that I was in Seattle, I was also in the U.K. presenting a workshop for small community retailers in Surrey. This was held in the town of Godalming and the councilâ€™s approach reminded me of Jim Dierâ€™s concepts. I was presented with the towns official guide and this included a street plan of the town centre, this was entitled â€œGodalmingâ€™s Best Kept Secretâ€. It was a plan of the locally owned shops in the High Street. An excellent example of a neighbour to neighbour retail promotion. Marketing is a lot more effective if a group of retailers get together to promote themselves to the community, but alas, in too many communities retailers are too independent to recoup the benefits of community marketing. Consumers Will Pay More to buy Local Iâ€™m not suggesting consumers should, but in recent research in the U.K. within the garden industry, consumers mentioned they would pay up to 20% more for products that were produced locally. This is an indicator that todayâ€™s consumer is prepared to support local retailers, not only with their loyalty, but with their wallet/purse as well. Local retailers have a huge opportunity to develop the market, but this will not occur if they adopt the traditional â€œinterruptionâ€ marketing techniques of promoting their own business relying 100% on flyers and newspaper advertising. Todayâ€™s changing marketplace means that the marketing tool kit needs to include new weapons and techniques if you are to obtain the maximum benefit from your marketing budget. Marketing today in the â€œneighbour to neighbourâ€ sustainable marketing place needs a new approach. 7 Step Marketing Plan in Community Retailing 1. Buy local whenever you can, but promote the fact that you do. Inform the customer the product is locally sourced and if at all possible, make the supplier the hero. If this is perishable product, for example, promote the farmer or a grower as part of your marketing campaign, i.e. â€œGrown by xxxxx on his farm, x miles/kilometres from this store. This may mean sticking to your values even if it means initially losing some income. For example, I recently worked with a retailer who was promoting locally grown produce and added value products, but had expanded their range with gits â€œMade in Chinaâ€. The backlash by the consumer may be more damaging than the extra income generated by these products. 2. Network with other retailers, who are not in competition with you, to promote the shopping experience in your locality. Evidence in the U.S.A. indicates that the customer has grown tired of the shopping mall and is looking for community village shopping experiences. This promotional campaign can be organised in an informal way between a group of retailers or in a more structured way via a Chamber of Commerce or Business Network. The key is do not let the minority of retailers in your community hold you back. Not everyone believes in growing their business by attracting more consumers to your neighbourhood. Get the majority on board and youâ€™re on your way. 3. Develop a Community Loyalty Card, not a Business Loyalty Card. Haslemere, Surrey in the South East of England, in 2006 was awarded the â€œMarket Town National Awardâ€ for their loyalty scheme. 36 local retailers joined forces to develop a joint loyalty scheme for the town members including the local garden centre, butcher, florist and pet store. The objective was to build sales for local business and to keep the local money circulating within the community. Other local communities are doing similar programmes around the U.K., Australia, South Africa and the U.S.A. 4. Develop Joint Sustainable Carrier Bags. Eco-friendly carrier bags are now a big issue in communities. In Surrey in the U.K. a group of farmers markets go together to develop a joint bag that promoted all their businesses to the community. This could apply to any group of businesses that wished to network and promote their businesses and to share the development costs. 5. Support a local charity. In New Zealand recently a local hospital needed a piece of expensive operating equipment. A group of local retailers joined forces to help to buy the equipment and also encourage their consumers to donate their loose change from a sale to the same cause. The result was that the equipment was purchased within six months and the group of retailers became the local heroâ€™s. What does your local community want and how can your business become the hero and provide for the need? 6. Tell them youâ€™re Local and you Promote Local. Too often we assume the consumer knows we are local and support local businesses. In todayâ€™s competitive world big business often wants to be perceived as small business and as a result the consumer is confused, you need to explain. I recently came across a wonderful example of this at a bed and breakfast I stopped at in the U.K., the key was how they sold breakfast, and I quote from the brochure in my bed room. â€œOur cooked breakfasts use locally sourced products. Eggs from â€œThe Chicken Came Firstâ€ – these eggs are from organic free range hens living in the next door village. Bacon and sausages reared and butchered by Beamans in Bridgenorth, Mushrooms and Tomatoes from our own farm when we canâ€. I donâ€™t normally have a cooked breakfast, but who can resist. (The B&B is Moreton Hall Farm near Newport, Staffordshire). 7. Have a Community Newsletter. Combine with other local retailers and produce a newsletter together. Pet owners tend to have gardens and enjoy cooking using local foods. What a great opportunity for all three retailers from three different retail categories to join forces. In todayâ€™s changing marketplace, itâ€™s time to look at different ways to get the message across to the consumer.