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May 27, 2009

Insight, Opinions, RAF, Social Media, WOM


It was tough getting back to the grind yesterday after a relaxing Memorial Day weekend, which began with a family visit in Connecticut (truly there’s no place like home, but only in small doses…). I grew up in a small town surrounded by state forest with three traffic lights and one recent fast food addition. So continuing on to the Berkshires for the latter part was seamless and enjoyable.

Unlike Rochester, these smaller, more self-sustaining Berkshire communities typically have one or two stores for each type of business—a general store, pharmacy, bookstore, ice cream parlor, and so forth. As I strolled through the quintessential small town of Lenox, Mass., my eyes caught an eclectic collection of sculptures made from scrap metal and recycled parts. The artist mentioned his outdoor gallery is primarily for viewing pleasure, but that he also sells pieces on occasion.

Further down the square, I saw that the local realtor had bought one of the artist’s chairs for the front doorstep…or had he? Had I stumbled upon effective cross-promotion and word-of-mouth at their finest? After all, business owners in small towns by nature have a greater advantage of fostering more personal, intimate relationships with their customers. A recent study found that our peers are considered as credible as industry experts, and when it comes to sources of information about a company, people trust what both employees and peers have to say.

The state of the economy certainly changes things up as well…are local businesses stepping outside of their traditional domain—seeking to attract “foreign” investment—and therefore relying on new word-of-mouth channels? To that extent, how are the increasing prevalence of online networks and e-commerce changing the marketing strategies of these small-town businesses? It will be interesting to see how “mom and pop” shops adapt to and leverage the evolving technologies, which can bring new customers from the global marketplace right to their doorstep.