Shop Local Campaigns for Small Towns ebook

Shop local and buy local campaigns can significantly impact your hometown economy, but the instructions available online assume you are a big city. That’s why I decided to create a step by step guide to starting a shop local campaign in a small town, as a downloadable e-book.

It includes solid research that shows whether buy local campaigns actually work. If you have to convince others to back your project, this could make your job easier.

Next it goes through six steps to building a truly effective campaign:

  1. Get some help
  2. Pick a theme
  3. Promote your most powerful benefits
  4. Create just the right promotional materials
  5. Kick off with events and media coverage
  6. Measure success

Each step is focused on the actions that work the best for small town volunteer efforts. The seventh step shows you 4 ways to multiply the effect of your campaign and get more out of your efforts.

As a bonus, I included a list of reasons to shop local that you can use in your town, and I linked you to two of the best lists available online.

“I would encourage all small town chambers of commerce or merchant associations to order this guide. It will point you in the right direction to making buy local work in your small town!”
Jack Schultz, Author of BoomtownUSA

Version 2.0 is ready! See it at Shop Local Campaigns for Small Towns

About Becky McCray

Becky started Small Biz Survival in 2006 to share rural business and community building stories and ideas with other small town business people. She and her husband own a retail liquor store in Alva, Oklahoma, and a small cattle ranch nearby. Becky is an international speaker on small business.

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  1. says

    Do you find that local merchants are working together to help each other out? For instance, if a toy store is located adjacent to a clothing store and both offer 2-for-1 sales, how come those sales never combine stores? What if I want to buy a toy and a hat but not want to pay more money than if the twofer could work in both places?

    I’d like to see that model. Do you have best practices of it in action?

  2. says

    Ari, that’s a good thought-provoker. I can’t ever recall seeing that done in the real world. But I’m going to be watching for it now, so I can report back.

    • says

      Heard a story from one of the old Timers in our town. There were 3 gentleman who owned a small biz back in the 50’s here in this town. One owned a dress shop, one owned a shoe store and one owned a ladies accessories shop. All 3 would go to New York together and buy items together and saved money. When they returned a customer would come into one of their shops and make a purchase, they would suggest “You know what you need is a pair of shoes to go with that dress, go down to ……, he has something that would match that perfectly.” And the same for someone who bought a purse they would suggest they visit ….store to find a pair of shoes to match and the shoe store would suggest a dress that would look great with the new shoes the customer purchased. They were a very successful threesome in the town for over 25 years. Get to know your neighbor and pass it on. The customer is happy and the businesses are too!!!!!

  3. says

    hi becky, you might be interested in a site i started called its basically a free site for independent retailers – it sounds like we’re thinking along the same lines …? how interesting i thought i was alone in my way of thinking – feels good to have come across your site – let me know what you think…? have a great tuesday thanks Rachel

  4. says

    Thank you, Rachel. We definitely talk about many of the same things. I appreciate the great resource you’re building for other independent retailers.

  5. says

    Hi Becky,

    I read through the e-book. Great stuff! It’s arrival was timely because our Promotions Committee has been discussing this very topic. I’ve been debating the usefulness of shop local for two reasons. First, in our small city we have a small retail base that really couldn’t support the community. As such, our residents have to travel about 20 minutes in any direction for items not carried by local business. Wonder if you have found any communities that have addresses this problem with a shop local campaign.

    Also, through a zip code study two years ago we realized that in almost all of our businesses only 20% of sales come locally. I can understand the need to pick-up the local trade, but how do you not offend the 80% of buyers that come from outside?

    I always look forward to your posts and tweets. Thanks for sharing.


  6. says

    Darrin, you’ve asked great questions. Even tiny Hardtner, Kansas, with only a few hundred people and a couple of retail businesses, has done well with their shop local campaign. They even have signs up as you leave the downtown, “did you really try to buy it in Hardtner?” So that’s one idea.

    To address your 80% of outside buyers, make your emphasis not on shopping local, but on supporting your community. Those people have chosen to support you by visiting, they are interested in supporting you while they are there. Each purchase they make with your community, makes it easier for you to provide a richer variety of choices from interesting, local shops.

    Thanks for the provocative questions!

  7. says

    what role does “old fashioned” Yellow Pages play? Have they priced themselves out of the market? Are businesses reducing YP advertising and shifting it to search engine ads and SEO?

  8. says

    American Independent Business Alliance ( has worked with many small towns/rural areas across the US to start a buy local campaign. They tend to provide one-on-one advice, so their assistance can be really helpful if you still have questions after reading the e-booklet described above. They have many examples how local merchants have collaborated for marketing or purchasing.

  9. says

    I’m looking to purchase your small booklet on starting a shop local campaign but I don’t see a link for it anywhere. How do I get this? Please help.