You shouldn’t think about what your customers will do for you, but what you will do for them. Sure, people in big cities know that they should buy local, and they’re starting to see that they can vote with their money to keep good businesses alive. Check out this Yelp poll that revealed how many people believe it’s important to buy from local businesses this holiday season. Yet, the temptations of the mall are still strong. Holiday hours, vast selection and convenient parking vs. your small business: what are you doing to make the local shopping movement a reality? Here are some tips for you to use this holiday season and beyond:

Support Good Causes
A regionally-based, charitable cause is one of the best marketing strategies out there that lets you compete against the big name retailers. Working with a local cause is getting your name out there by giving you access to a faithful, loyal market that will come rushing in to buy more from you. Plus, the time and energy of reaching out to that audience is handled by the social network itself. For example, let’s say your local elementary school is trying to raise money, offer to give X percent of sales on Fridays for a month. The school markets for you by mailing out newsletters, emailing the PTA and even a press release in the local paper regarding your charitable activity. Everyone in town visits your store.

Work Your Personality
What sets you apart from the rest – and draws in more people – is a friendly and lively attitude. Your goal is to know your customers on a personal level – as they do you. Sure, you already establish eye contact and greet all who enter… right? Take it to another level. Show hospitality, give away free samples, and really show interest in what your customers have to say. If this isn’t your thing, let one of your enthusiastic employees handle it for you. Above all, be real.

Get People to Invest in Their Ideas
Everybody loves to talk about their great ideas, and when you hear about them, they feel like they have a sense of entitlement. This is known as crowdsourcing, and it’s a great way to strategize. You build from the relationship you have with your customers who live, work and play in your area. The neighborhood, business district and environment become the collective imagination of everyone’s dreams and vision. What would they put into it if they were a creator? When their ideas are implemented in your business, they’re going to be the first ones there to see it in action, waiting to see how it turns out.

Build a Better Hang Out Spot
Let’s face it, a big advantage of malls is that they’re designed to be great places to chill out, with massage chairs, appealing architecture, mellow music and non-stop events, especially during the holiday rush. Small business can woo consumers by throwing their own events, either once or on a monthly basis. To get the most bang for your buck, time your event to overlap a farmer’s market, an art show or some other regularly scheduled occasion, so you can work off of their marketability, permits and business.

Bonus Tip
For free holiday cheer and a great traffic booster, I suggest you personally invite carolers from local churches or schools to walk around your block. You can serve hot chocolate to the children, eggnog to the adults, and cider to the rest so the event has a touch of class that makes it memorable for all.