Homegrown Local Fare

Independent small businesses here in town that sell goods or services are selling homegrown local fare. These butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers give Kalamazoo its unique character. They are important threads in our community fabric. They are our past, present, and future. They provide us with necessities, amenities, and settings for the rituals of our daily lives. They are our local community treasures.

But all too often they lack the resources, marketing tools, and operational scale of large chains or franchises to leverage their marketing and selling. They are too busy doing what they do best to be able to commit much time to thinking about things like branding, segmenting markets, or new ways to create customer experiences. And sometimes it isn’t easy to buy those services piecemeal and stitch them together.

While butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers are selling very different products, they are selling to customers who buy them in very similar ways. There are identifiable patterns of behaviors that lead to purchase decisions.

Over the years I’ve pondered how to make available to local businesses what I’ve learned about how people buy things. The Marketing Accountability Model that I developed during my marketing career is a robust and scaleable framework for relating buying behaviors to marketing influences in specific audience segments. The model is applied conceptually as an ideation tool, and statistically as a tool to evaluate marketing effectiveness.

Homegrown Local Fare Workshops

I developed a program that I call Homegrown Local Fare to help businesses understand how to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t work to brand and market their goods and services. I conduct workshops with several non-competing small businesses. Participants learn how to identify patterns of customer behaviors leading to purchase decisions in their businesses, how to influence those behaviors, and how to segment markets. Importantly, they learn how behaviors, influences, and segments are related.

This program has been implemented through SKP DESIGN, a local interior design firm with a substantial client base in retail and hospitality.

The workshop format includes two three-hour sessions for several local businesses that do not compete with one another.

The first three-hour workshop includes: an introduction to behavioral modeling; individual work to develop a preliminary model with each participant; a group session to share ideas and discuss applications.

Participants are given an interaction matrix to relate marketing influences to buying cycle responses, and then have a few weeks to develop their own applications, including marketing, selling, customer interactions, space planning, etc.

The first step in any application is mapping customer behaviors leading to purchase decisions (awareness, consideration, purchase). The second step is identifying how to influence those customer behaviors (components of marketing mix, communication environment, selling environment, etc.). The third step is segmenting markets (target audiences, demographics, affinity groups, purchase frequency, etc.). Then, if feasible, benchmarking specific customer behaviors (how many brought in the coupon, how long did they stay, how much did they spend, did they return, how often did they return, what did they buy, etc.?).

Then, the second three-hour workshop includes: a group session to discuss various participants’ models; individual/group work to consider next steps and implementation.

These two workshops are considered explorations. They are beginnings, not endings. They are not quick fixes or easy steps. But they should enlighten and point the way. They require sweat equity.

Several local businesses have participated. In the case of one business, MacKenzies Café Bakery, participation led to the development of a new branding and identity system developed by a student in the Graphic Design program at WMU who I referred to them.

Other Homegrown Local Fare

Among other homegrown local fare: modeling Festival of Trees visitor experiences, contributing to creating visitor experiences at the grand opening celebration of the new Girl Scouts Glowing Embers Council facilities, and telling stories about our Farmers Market have been especially rewarding for me.

These enterprises and organizations, and the people who support them with gifts, time, talents, and patronage, are the bedrock of our home grown local fare.