Local Neighborhood Marketing

December 26, 2009 Columns, Working Your Creative Enterprise

by Atim Annette Oton

Some marketing genius once said, “All business is local.” My business, Calabar Imports, comes close to bearing out this dictum: a good 80% of our business is local. We take our local business seriously and work to grow our bottom line. Since we opened two years ago, our numbers (we do collect data) show that we have grown 50% per year based on our local Prospect Heights neighborhood, which is generally considered unusual but not surprising.

How did we reach this milestone? Simple. Neighborhood marketing and focus. Calabar Imports is a business around the corner. We are convenient — we stay open late for shopping, are open seven days a week, and are affordable. Choosing us, versus going into Manhattan or out of the neighborhood, is the option for our repeat neighborhood customers. We provide unique products, choices and variety as well as personalized customer service. A “mom-and-pop” shop, we revel in our distinctive location and delight in being a part of the neighborhood.

In Prospect Heights, we are considered a brand — our recent survey indicates that neighbors see us as “imaginative, creative and hip.” Yes, surprising — hip. We take risks, explore creative ideas, blend the new with the tried-and true, and keep trying harder. How did we get here? We understood and followed seven core neighborhood marketing strategies:

All Business is Local. We are clear on this. We shop locally, we are seen in the neighborhood – it is our second home…and our customers see us daily everywhere…and we see them too.

Its heart is inside the four walls of your own business. Our four walls are distinctive, we update the decor, we make it a place that evolves and grows, a place our customers feel is their second home.

Community Involvement is essential. Need I say more? This is the most effective of the seven strategies.

Trust your people. Some businesses forget to listen to their staff or partners. My partner and I talk daily — keep track of daily sales and pay attention to our customers’ needs and wants. Trust means listening, paying attention and giving your staff confidence to tell you what is going on in your business.

A good idea can come from anywhere. I am a borrower of good ideas – from the local grocery store to a suggestion from a customer, I listen, study and implement the idea to fit my business. If it works and increases my business, I will utilize it.

Work from the bottom to the top. This works because the people at the bottom contribute their ideas to the business. In our business, though we do not have people at the bottom, we try and understand what will work at that level. It’s like wearing another set of eyes at all times.

A powerful level of service forms a tangible bond with a customer. The Christmas shopping period is a time to give powerful service – and Calabar Imports showed its true colors – we supplied free gift bags and packaged gifts purchased for all our customers in these distinctive bags. This simple act saved most of our customers the time and additional expense of wrapping gifts and shopping elsewhere. It gave us mileage with them, as many of them have returned this year as regular shoppers. It is a bond we respect, and for every shopping period we explore new ways to service our customers.

At the end of the day, neighborhood marketing just means uniquely and outrageously satisfying the wants and needs of your customers. For us, it distinguishes Calabar Imports from our competitors, and it is a way of operating a forward-thinking business and a brand company.



Comments (1)


  1. Patricia says:

    Good and to the point. Even though some of this s/b obvious, one cannot be reminded enough.

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