Retailing is changing and community based retailing with the right vision is a growth area. Being local in business means being part of, and engaged with, the community. But, the challenge is does your local consumers know you are local and what is your strategy to develop local community engagement. I am often told by local retailers “Everyone knows I am local”. This comment was said to me by a retailer last week, luckily he followed that up with “well those that come in my door know. The rest have no idea.” We often assume too much as business people. According to research in the UK by the Today’s Group, 80% of local businesses say they are involved in local initiatives. And 15% of consumers say they are prepared to pay more for product purchased at a local store, if the business is professional in their offer to the consumer and engaged in the community. Community involvement is one of the most effective marketing tools a local retail business can develop to fight outside competition. The key to success is to be proactive in getting involved with the community. You will need to make a decision on how much of the marketing budget (time and money) will be allocated to Community Marketing. Most businesses will get involved in one of six ways: Volunteer space in store for local community promotion Provide talks to the local chamber of commerce group Give talks to community groups Adopt a local project as their own Allow the sales team members to get involved in a predetermined project for a set number of hours as part of their job Gift in product that is not selling to local events as a marketing tool Over recent weeks, my wife and I have been involved in setting up our local community garden and it has been interesting to see local involvement in action at close quarters and how retailers have been prepared to get involved. Partnership not Sponsorship One of the first lessons to be learned is that progressive businesses want be partners in the local community and not sponsors. We ensured we developed partnerships to enable local businesses to feel they are partners on a journey. The partnership was divided up into bronze, silver, gold and platinum partners in the project. We then contacted businesses who we felt would benefit the most from a partner arrangement. We highlighted the benefits and approached each business personally. It was interesting how different retailers reacted and I am sure there is a lesson for all retailers based on our experience. We approached one retailer in our town who read through all our literature and then came back to us and explained he would like to get involved, but retailing was tough and he did not feel he could help our cause. That was the end of the conversation. As a result we then approached another retailer who was in the same retail sector. They again looked at our proposal and requested a meeting. There spokesperson asked if they could use the community garden as a training area for their own team and would we provide BBQ nights for their team throughout the year. They asked if they could have a plot in the garden as an area where they could train their team and also engage with the consumer. This was apart from the partnership conversation we had with them. This retailer could see the benefits of a true partnership at a local level to grow sales and engage his team with local consumers. Partnerships are about engaging with the local community, sponsorships are about donating to the community. As a retailer you will get a better return on your investment by becoming a partner, plus, you will have lot more fun.