What I learnt from supporting 15 small businesses in 2020.

For Christmas 2020 I set myself a challenge. I like to call it ‘Operation Big Up Small Businesses’. But ‘The Non-Amazon Gift-Giving Challenge’ and ‘A Very Etsy Christmas’ were close runners-up.

Side note – have I unintentionally given Etsy their next Christmas Campaign tagline?

Anyway. Back to the challenge.

The goal: to buy as many (if not all) my gifts from small and/or local businesses.

The reason: in a year where we have seen too many small businesses go under, I wanted to do my bit and support those still fighting.

Traditionally, my Christmas cash has gone into the pockets of the big brands. They make it seem so easy. Quick search online, chuck it into the cart, throw in a cheeky discount code and away we go.

This year my gift searching process took a fair bit longer. That’s because I didn’t go through the one-stop shop that is Amazon.

Instead, I bought my presents from:

  • 7 Etsy sellers.
  • 3 eBay sellers.
  • 2 local gift shop owners.
  • 1 local pop-up shop supporting local artisans.
  • 1 local candle maker.
  • 1 family member who makes beautiful Scrabble art.

Being completely transparent here – I ended up buying a few items from Nintendo, Boots and Tesco. Nobody’s perfect…at least I’m not.

But you know what I learnt from this challenge? (Aside from the fact you can find some amazing and unique presents when you shop small.)

I learnt that big doesn’t always mean best. In fact, when it came to customer service, the little businesses outshone the big brands. By miles.

Let me give you one example (it’s not the only example I have).

Back in October, I tried buying a pair of Nike trainers. Plenty of time ahead of the Christmas rush, you say. WRONG.

The day the trainers were due to arrive, I got an email saying my order had been cancelled ‘as per my request’. Uh…nope! I definitely still wanted the trainers.

Several calls and countless emails later, I was still none the wiser as to why they had cancelled my order.

Nike messed up big time and have likely lost my business for good. But I have a hunch they don’t really care.

Fast forward to mid-December and I ordered a gift from an Etsy seller. Unfortunately, the item arrived damaged (thanks to the courier). Yet, ONE quick email was all it took for the issue to be fixed.

The business owner was polite, quick to respond and sent out a fresh item no questions asked. He made me feel like I was his one and only customer. He cared, 100%.

The shopping experience was one of the nicest I’ve ever had. Safe to say I’ll be recommending this small business to family and friends.

I’m not a fan of making New Year’s resolutions. But I think I can make an exception for 2021. And it will be to continue ‘Operation Big Up Small Businesses’.

NB I originally wrote this post for my LinkedIn page on 6th Jan 2021.

The best in Christmas TV adverts – part 4

In yesterday’s post I mentioned I was avoiding the Black Friday online sales. One of the reasons for doing so is to save my own pocket. A Which? report exposes the many scams tricking unsuspecting shoppers on the hunt for a Christmas gift bargain.

But another reason is to support small businesses. It’s been a tough year for all. But especially for independent stores, local cafes, artisans and solopreneurs. They’ve had to hustle even harder in the face of two UK lockdowns. Many of them can’t compete with the big corporations peddling their Black Friday deals.

As a small business owner and a consumer trying her hardest to shop ethically, it’s something close to my heart. That’s why today’s ad review is on Notonthehighstreet.com.

What’s their core message?

The magic of small things

There’s a lot of things this ad does right.

  • They present the products. From baubles to blankets, it’s clear what sort of goodies you can find at Notonthehighstreet.com.
  • They tell short, sweet stories of different families and their Christmas traditions.
  • They use consistent language that reflects exactly what their brand is all about.

But there’s one thing in particular that stands out to me. And it’s the fact they don’t try to people-please everyone. They know who their target client is – the ethically conscious consumer wanting to do their part. And they connect to them in their language alone.

Often companies think success means being liked by everyone. They think they’ll gain more customers this way. This is not true. You’ll actually turn them off. Why? Because you’re not addressing any one person.

The best kind of copy reads as though the writer is talking to the customer in person, one-to-one. It’s personal and friendly and relevant to their situation.

Clients want to know you’re dedicated to helping them solve their unique challenges. Notonthehighstreet help their customers help small businesses. It’s as simple as that. But oh, so effective.

NB: if you’re attempting to connect with everyone – from retired accountants looking to buy a holiday home on the Costa del Sol, to young single mums searching for a crash course in business administration – you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Identify your target market. Understand what they need. Show how you solve their problem.

My score: 8/10.

Image credit: Shutterstock

NB I originally wrote this post for my LinkedIn page on 26th Nov 2020.