It happened again. I was attending a networking breakfast hosted by one of the key associations that Batch belongs to. It was time for the giveaway.
There would be a drawing of business and nine winners would be picked to each receive a $50 Amazon gift card. There it was, $450 dollars up for grabs. I mean, with Amazon’s ubiquity, those gift cards are basically as good as cash.
Look - I get it. Folks love free stuff and you’re sure not to offend with an Amazon card like you might with a Buffalo Wild Wings (there are vegans out there), Chick-fil-A (politics), or KFC (don’t even get me started on their colonization of hot chicken). But as a small business owner sitting in a room watching this happen (and it wasn’t the first time) a whole lot of good could have been done with that $450.
This association doesn’t have a special relationship with Amazon, so they paid rack rate for those gift cards out of their modest budget, even when several members (again, in the room) could have provided more value, if the association had just dreamed a little bigger and thought to ask.
I could harp on how Amazon hollows out communities, even when it enters a new city and promises jobs and change. Or how their quest for low prices and cheap delivery is subsidized by tax payers while they victimize small businesses. But this isn’t a call to action against Amazon. It’s a call for influencers to think local.
Batch is a member of another industry organization. At monthly lunches, there are giveaway drawings as well. If you bring a friend, your name is entered into the monthly drawing where they give away a series of $5 gift cards to Starbucks. Or at least that’s what they used to do.
When I saw this happen (both that good money was being spent and that a locally-focused organization wasn’t thinking locally enough), I offered to improve their monthly giveaway. I offered up double the amount of gift cards from Batch. Now instead of flinging half a sawbuck at folks from a coffee giant, The Tennessee Business Travel Association now gives away as many $10 gift cards to a local store (that supports 200+ local makers and entrepreneurs) as possible. It’s a win for everyone.
Corporate America doesn’t need to think bigger. It needs to think more locally.
Small Business Saturday is less than a month away. American Express (I can think of no better mascot for Corporate America) does a great job of promoting this day during our collective national seasonal shopping binge, so I’m sure you’ll see ads and banners and popup ads and bus wraps and billboards and social media interruptions all geared toward getting you out for 1/365th of the year after you’ve doorbustered and Black Friday-ed as much as you can before you - that’s right - cyber Monday at - you guessed it - Amazon. (Yes, you can shop other places online but stats show about half of all money spent online goes to those guys.)
I’d love for American Express and others to treat every Saturday as Small Business Saturday. When you shop locally (vs. at a national chain), $68 (of $100 spent) stays in your own community (vs. $43 spent at a chain) to hopefully be further spent at more small businesses like coffee shops and hair salons and on kids sports leagues and at dentist offices. In other words, an entire community’s infrastructure is strengthened. In fact some studies even say that money spent locally is actually compounded and that $1 spent locally actually adds $3.50 in total spending power.
Shopping locally is also better for the planet. But most of all, you’re creating the kind of community you want to live in. Communities get stronger. Choice improves. Diversity increases. Legacies change. All because you wanted to shop local.
So here’s the call to action: While I’d love for everyone to shop locally year-round (and for American Express to spend a bit more of the $6.92 bilion it made in profit in 2018 toward promoting this idea), I’ll keep it simple:
Stop buying Amazon, Starbucks, Visa, and Target gift cards for your giveaways. Put that money back in your pocket and into the local community.
I know you think it’s complicated. That small coffee shops and boutiques and eateries don’t do gift cards. That it’s difficult to go inside and talk to a human rather than to visit the Wall-O-Gift-Cards at Walgreens, pick out something, grunt at the cashier, and leave. But you’re wrong.
Nearly every small, local business can easily produce gift cards and would be delighted to do so. Moreover, while you’re inside, talking to a real person, you may actually enjoy it. You may make a friend! You may - wait for it - have an actual human experience (back to that whole community building thing).
Because when you opt for a gift card from a local business, you’re not just subsidizing someone’s grocery shopping. You’re helping someone else (the gift card winner/recipient) have an experience. They can take their family to the farmers market for an afternoon. They can spend those coffee dollars on catching up with a friend. They can take a date to a different part of town to get dinner. They’re trying on clothes that are made by a neighbor or drinking a beer with local ingredients, deepening their impact with just one visit.
Nashville companies and associations: do better and think locally. We have well over three dozen local coffee concepts and going on more than 200 local restaurants. Local boutiques, bakeries and breweries abound. For your next giveaway, no matter how often that happens, please, please, please skip the gift cards from companies we all know and choose something local.
To prove how badly I want this to happen, and how much your attendees will enjoy a fresh giveaway, I’m making Batch gift cards up for grabs at half price. The first 10 people to send me an email asking for gift cards for an upcoming giveaway can get $50 Batch gift cards for just $25. Send me an email and we’ll work it out. Let’s think locally together.