Local dollars are a community’s lifeblood. If they drain away, the community’s vitality is at stake. To thrive, you have to keep the money in the community.
It’s a sad day when your favorite neighborhood fades into something unrecognizable. Or when a quaint town no longer maintains its once pristine parks and streets. When a once-bustling city block is overwhelmed by vacant storefronts.
This is happening in cities across the country right now: big and small, urban and rural.
“Buy local” has become a rallying cry to help communities thrive. Yet not every community reaches this goal. If money is leaving your community despite your best efforts to encourage your residents to buy local, your community may suffer from one or more of three common ailments. You might be most surprised by the last one!
Top 3 Reasons Money Might Be Leaving Your Community:
- People shop elsewhere: they can’t find the right thing at the right price
- People plan elsewhere: they can’t find the right venue for large-scale events
- People gather elsewhere: they can’t find the right venue for small-scale events
1. People Can’t Find the Right Thing at the Right Price
Ask anyone, and they’ll probably tell you the first reason they didn’t buy an item locally is they couldn’t find what they wanted, for the right price, for the least amount of effort. Some might call it The Amazon Effect. It’s just so easy to look online, place an order, and have it delivered.
The Amazon Effect is probably the most blamed reason for local money leaving the community. For example, the busy mom who wants to buy a unique toy for her kid. She searches in person at a couple of well-known stores, but can’t find it. So she goes online, not realizing that the independent toy store across town sells exactly what she’s looking for.
- List local stores and businesses on a searchable website like Madison’s Dane Buy Local or Wisconsin Buys Local.
- Host events that celebrate locally-owned businesses, restaurants, and service providers
- Offer incentives that encourage community members to get into the habit of “Thinking Local First”
2. People Can’t Find the Right Venue for Large-Scale Events
Communities count on not only their own residents to spend money at their businesses, but they also count on visitors to fill the cash registers all across town. Events like concerts, sporting events, conferences, fairs, farmers’ markets, trade shows, and holidays can bring in hundreds of thousands of people and millions of dollars in a single day. Because these big events are so lucrative, cities fund their own marketing organizations or visitor bureaus to attract and assist event planners.
Event planners know that even an incredible event could be spoiled by being hosted at the wrong location. They thoroughly research communities before reaching a decision about where to host their event. They look for the city’s or community’s:
- experience with the type of event
- facilities or venues to host the event
- capacity for increased crowds
- accessibility and availability of lodging near the event location
- quality of public and green spaces
- entertainment and dining options
- availability and ease of transportation to and within the city
- availability of satellite locations for adjacent events
- options for service vendors
- overall vibe or attractiveness to their target attendees
If your community or city does not check all the event planner’s list of must-haves, a different city will win their business.
Though these considerations often end up favoring larger cities, they do not rule out smaller cities. In fact, smaller cities are increasingly being chosen for large-scale events. Business travel journalist Allan Leibowitz commented that a “combination of small-city hospitality, modern facilities, a collaborative approach, and an effort to show off individuality is winning over event organizers.”
The CrossFit Games that have been held in Madison, Wisconsin is an example of how a smaller-sized city can successfully host a large-scale event. The organizers of the CrossFit Games not only need a large space for the competition, such as the Coliseum, but they also need spaces for the teams to train together, eat together, and have fun together. Madison offers all of these things. (Yeah, we are a little bit biased but can you blame us?)
The qualities of the event space itself also matter. The event space needs to be conveniently located for transportation and lodging. It needs to be of the right size, with multiple room size options, and include the necessary technology and support. And it needs to be offered at the right price for its value. Even if the city is the perfect fit for an event, if the event space itself is not right, then event organizers will be forced to search elsewhere.
Cities can prevent this from happening by helping a Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), such as a local visitor’s bureau, to create and maintain a database of rental facilities and an easily accessible booking system.
Spotz is an online platform that provides both an easy-to-use facility booking and rental management system, and the capability to create and manage a database of facilities and spaces within the community. This makes it super simple for a DMO to promote those spaces and facilities to event organizers who reach out to them with event needs or RFPs.
- Encourage hospitality businesses to better promote and market their spaces using an online facility scheduling platform
- Network with other event planners so more are aware of what your city has to offer
- Invest in your DMO or CVB to help secure more events
- Make it easy for event planners to learn about and recommend your city’s spaces
3. People Can’t Find the Right Venue for Small-Scale Events
When people are looking to hold a small-scale event, such as a bridal shower or a book club, they want a convenient, memorable, and affordable venue. If they can’t find something within their community, they’ll look in a nearby town or the closest large city.
It happens more often than you realize.
Picture a Little League coach who’s on the road with his team for a weekend tournament. He wants to reserve a venue big enough to host his whole team and their parents for dinner. He only remembers the names of some franchise restaurants at the next town over and doesn’t realize a local restaurant a mile away from the baseball diamond has the perfect space.
Or what about the dance team in town for a competition. They would love a dance studio to practice in one last time before going on stage. But they don’t know how to find or get in touch with the studio owner to rent the space for an hour or two. Meanwhile, the studio owner is wondering how else they can bring in some extra revenue when they’re not holding classes.
Or think about a leadership team from a local organization that needs a private boardroom for an unforeseen, offsite meeting. They don’t know where to find any last-minute available options, so they search in the next city over.
These events, taken individually, may not seem to bring in a lot of money for the community. But consider just how many youth organizations, parent groups, hobby groups, business networks, and local sports teams are out there looking for places to get together for their events.
Now add up all the baby showers, bridal showers, graduation parties, reunions, retirement parties, quinceañeras, weddings, and yes, Quidditch games happening every week.
Are they happening in your community? Why not? Where are they going instead? Is it because people can’t find the spaces they need in your neighborhood?
Worse yet, the loss of potential income doesn’t stop with the venue’s loss!
Once the event is moved out of your community, so is the need for all the related services: the caterers, florists, performers, event planners, rental companies, hairstylists, photographers, drivers, and more. Eventually, these service providers may consider moving to a different city that’s better known for hosting the events that bring them business.
- Make it easy for local businesses to market their venue availability
- Make it easy for residents and visitors to discover local businesses that have available spaces to rent
- Highlight more than just shopping opportunities in your Buy Local campaigns. Consider a “Rent Local” promotion, too!
Use a Modern Community Space Rental Platform
Encouraging your community’s businesses and organizations to use an online facility booking platform to offer and market their space is essential! It must be easy for residents and visitors alike to use. Don’t send them off to a defunct website that takes ages to navigate and tons of mouse clicks to find a rental form they need to print. There’s no reason any rental experience should be stuck in the 1990s.
Instead, encourage your community to adopt a platform like Spotz to make finding, renting, and advertising community venues easy and convenient.
Local businesses can communicate their locations and easily rent their spaces, and people in the community can quickly find the venues they need at the right price – all in one place. Platforms like Spotz work best when they’re promoted by local government and organizations within the community. The more businesses, organizations, and municipal locations that post their availability on Spotz, the more likely the public will know where to go to find the place they need.
Why Rent Local: It’s More Than Just the Money
Keeping dollars local helps communities big and small with more than just economic advantages. Sure, the added tax revenue helps pay for utilities and community services. And keeping businesses profitable provides more jobs.
But buying local is another way to invest and engage in our communities. Spending your dollars at your locally owned businesses is your seal of approval. It’s a thumbs-up rating, a five-star review. Voting with your dollars helps keep your community unique. Maybe even a little weird. (But weird in a good way, right Madison, Austin, and Eugene?)
So, keep your town weird. Keep it special. Give it life.
Spotz can help! We would love to talk with you about how Spotz could help your community leverage your available spaces and facilities so people can find the perfect venue for their needs.