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Use it or lose it: Why supporting small businesses has never been more important

Hands up, who’s turned to a family-run supermarket or specialist grocer for vital supplies after struggling to score a home delivery slot in an acceptable time frame from one of the majors?

After surviving more than two years of lockdowns, isolation and supply chain disruption, most of us have a good story to tell about a small- or medium-sized local business that saved our bacon, on at least one occasion. 

From the restaurants and cafes that kept us fed and watered by pivoting from table service to take away, to the neighbourhood delis and fruiterers that raced to roll out online ordering and home delivery, and the pharmacists that went the extra mile – literally – to ensure vulnerable patients received the medications they needed, we saw scores of local businesses harnessing the power of technology to enable them to serve the communities to which they belong.

The backbone of our economy

None of this should have come as any surprise. Small business has long been known as the backbone of the Australian economy; responsible for employing more than 4.7 million people and generating around a third of our country’s GDP, according to the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman’s December 2020 report. 

Locally owned and operated enterprises are the lifeblood of regional and rural Australia, in particular. They serve communities and markets that, very often, are too small or too niche for big businesses to bother with. 

Typically, they’re flexible, innovative and responsive; providing the products and the services their local communities need and want. Very often those products and services are delivered with a big dose of friendly, professional customer service, the kind that can be hard to find at the other end of town, where every buyer is a number, rather than a name.

Win-win buying

Persisting with our pandemic habits – buying from little local players with customised product ranges and personalised customer experience – will be key to the survival of the small business sector, as the Australian economy continues to recover from the virus.

But what’s good for them is also good for us, as customers – consumers and businesses alike. 

Purchasing as much as possible from the smaller shops ensures we retain access to greater choice, and with that choice comes a degree of security. It means we’re less likely to be left high and dry if supply chain issues or other unexpected disruptions knock a major supplier out of action; something we’ve seen happens in various guises and on multiple occasions since the onset of the pandemic. 

Shout it from the online rooftops

The digital channels that helped so many small businesses find innovative ways to overcome obstacles during Covid are also a great means for satisfied customers to share the word about just how terrific those businesses are to deal with. 

Social media recommendations are fast becoming the new word of mouth and a fulsome Instagram post, or a great Google review, is gold for a local enterprise that’s looking to grow mind and market share in a crowded market.

That’s because, unlike their larger counterparts which have teams of specialists on staff, small businesses very often have no one working in a dedicated marketing role. Spruiking the business can be just one of the many hats worn by the owner, or a part-time gig for a staff member who’s tasked with raising brand awareness on the most slender of budgets.

And giving your favourite SME an online thumbs up doesn’t just help to bring new customers to their door; it will also give the morale of the owner and their hardworking team a much-needed boost. Everyone likes to be appreciated and, after a tumultuous, uncertain couple of years, having their stand-out customer experience acknowledged and praised can be a real shot in the arm.

Putting your money where your mouth is

Whether you’re buying products and services for yourself or for your organisation, supporting the small enterprises that help make Australia great has never been more important.

As our economy continues to recover from Covid, spending your dollars locally will ensure our country’s small business sector can keep on offering choice and stand-out customer service well into the future.

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Jason VandeBoom

Jason VandeBoom

Jason VandeBoom is the Founder and CEO of ActiveCampaign, the global leader in customer experience automation. A lifelong entrepreneur, Jason has been named to Crain’s Chicago Business 40 Under 40 list and was a 2019 Midwest finalist for EY’s Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Jason also serves on the board of the Chicago-based Future Founders Foundation.

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