Small Town Rules: How Big Brands and Small Businesses Can Prosper in a Connected Economy

Report on their presentation at Book Expo America 2012 by Shel Horowitz, Editor, Down to Business.

Barry is a city person, while Becky is from small-town America.

    Seven rules
  • Plan for zero—question the assumption that current trends (especially positive ones) will continue. Too often, we treat our customers as never being exhausted. This didn’t didn’t work for soil, and it doesn’t work for business). If you can name the next great trend, you’ve already missed it. You’ve got to be able to survive five years of ups and downs.
  • Spend brain power before dollars
    Too much money actually makes you stupid. You think and act more carefully when you have finite resources.
  • Multiply your lines of income (but start one thing at a time)
  • Work anywhere (telephone-enabled), anywhen (Internet)—and remember that employees and customers can also be anywhere, anywhen. Hopunion can ship hops anywhere; this makes craft beers viable. You can outsource to 2nd and 3rd tier communities in the US, and save 20%,
  • Learn customer-driven communication. Reputation matters! And it’s forever. We believe more what customers say than what corporations say. Used to be small business tried to look big. Now big business tries to look small.
  • Be Proud of Being Small
    Local pride: local food movement is huge trend. In 2011 and 2012, five of top 20 food trends were local. Now your customers respect you for being small. Be authentic. Be the real size you are. People believe smaller companies give better customer service and make a bigger difference in the local economy.Gore (of Gore-Tex fame): No factory is more than 150 people; they split it if it exceeds. They have 8000 associates in 150-person groups. This is the Dunbar number that you can maintain a real connection with and still know them. Springfield Remanufacturing (open-book pioneers, Jack Stack) has 1200 people and “hives” them off in small workgroups.
  • Be local. This is the moment to stay connected (and talk about) to your local culture.
    Tulsa (Oklahoma) Chamber of Commerce improved the flow of information about what was available locally B2B
    Taking small-town culture on line: Becky

  • Be friendly. We wave in small towns. If someone writes to you, write back.
  • Eat together. Take a webcam and a sack lunch, and you meet your best customer online for lunch. Tomorrow you do the next customer. If you do this even once a month, you’ll build much stronger connections with your customers.
  • Be honest. People will find out. And reputation is forever. Yet so many companies shade the truth.
  • Watch out for each other. If we know there’s a problem or something to watch out for, we tell each other. And we send people to the other store if we don’t have what they need. You can do this online. A large company can pass on information about jobs that are available, etc.
  • Value your neighbors.
  • Get involved, be part of the community. Contribute your time, your space.
  • Play together online
  • Set up random meetings. Go downtown, virtually.
  • Celebrate together

If you do all that, you’ve built yourself a really strong online small town.

Shel Horowitz writes the internationally syndicated monthly column Green And Profitable. His latest book is the award-winning Environmental category bestseller Guerrilla Marketing Goes Green.