How to Turn Your Hometown Into a USP

There is a common misconception that most CEOs are aware of: being located in London, or other capital cities around the globe is the only way to be profitable.

As commercial rent and living costs in London continue to soar, many businesses have found being situated outside the capital has positively impacted their bottom line and allows the additional resource to be invested back into the company. Here James Rees, Founder of Neath-based jewellery and homeware boutique, Baroc, presents some examples where CEOs have managed to transform their business’ uniqueness based on their locality.

This paradigm shift has empowered entrepreneurs across the country to embrace their hometown origins. We spoke to William Forshaw, CEO of York-based leather goods company Maxell-Scott, and Nila Holden, Founder of eponymous bakery Nila Holden Ltd in Luton, to discuss the benefits of starting your business in your hometown and advice for small-town businesses on how to grow.

The benefits of smaller towns and cities

Utilising culture as a USP

When asked about the benefits of starting your business in your own hometown, Forshaw highlighted your city’s culture as a USP for businesses. “York is an incredibly cultured city with an impressive level of history which in turn creates a great level of international tourism,” said Forshaw. In this sense, the benefit can come from the tourism present in the region. In Neath, for Baroc, we can often be a town people visit en route elsewhere such as the scenic waterfalls. In the same way that Forshaw has based products on the area’s heritage, we’ve thrived from highlighting this in some of our offerings. For example, businesses based near the beach could capitalise on nautical products or themes. Naturally, customers understand that small towns have stories to tell, and the culture from these regions should flow through your products.

Transport to larger cities

Holden found that Luton’s close proximity to the capital allowed her all the same perks of being located in a larger city. Holden said, “it has great transport links, so I could easily get into London for shows or to meet buyers.”

However, being located in Luton meant Holden could have all the benefits without the high prices. “When I was ready to move my business into commercial premises, I found reasonably priced accommodation.”

Holden also highlights that, with great transport links, it does not matter where your business is based at all, “I also worked hard to ensure I had efficient and capable routes to market and delivery partners to ensure I could get my products to customers across the country. In the end, it didn’t matter where I was based because I was able to get my products safely and quickly to customers no matter where they were in the county.”

Your town needn’t have direct links to London, however having access to a larger city can be beneficial for developing supply chains and making face-to-face meetings that much easier.

However, not all towns in the UK have direct links to larger cities. This need not be a problem. E-commerce startups that are looking to scale-up should prepare to look past daily trips to the Post Office with parcels, and instead research into couriers with returns policies in place. Not only will this streamline your day-to-day business activity, but a solid way of returning products could also increase purchasing confidence.

Digital ambassadors

When your business is located in a town with little footfall, it is imperative to ensure you have a strong digital presence as well as your offline positioning so that it showcases your business in the best light. Forshaw shared that “expanding the business through e-commerce was the only option for us to grow. We now have seven international websites and although York will always be our base, expanding online has opened an incredible amount of doors as well as sales.”

Holden shared that she invested heavily in PR. By doing so, gaining coverage and press features helped reach a wider audience. “I also put social media to good use to attract customers from outside my local area,” Holden said, expressing the importance of “making sure that I had a presence on all the main channels.”

Expanding your digital presence can pay dividends when growing out of your more humble beginnings. We ourselves continue to invest in our own digital platform, however, it’s important not to ignore your physical store and the local area. Your first local customers through the door are also often your first users online. Ultimately, people love supporting local businesses, and when you begin to develop your online offering they become your digital ambassadors helping you to grow both digitally and physically.

Your physical presence on the high street and online presence should mirror your brand image. Allow your website and social channels to be an extension of your bricks and mortar. For example, food entrepreneurs should ensure that their latest menus are online. Make sure you are showcasing your latest products and offerings on your site and social channels. Whilst doing so, ensure that you are encouraging potential customers to visit your physical shop or restaurant through exclusive in-store offers or experiential events.

The one piece of advice for small-town businesses to grow

We asked these two CEOs what one piece of advice they would give to aspiring entrepreneurs. Forshaw stressed the importance of getting online to grow your business.  “Selling your products or services online is a level playing field – any business has the ability to achieve it if they put an extensive technical procedure in place.”

Nila encouraged all business owners to “think big – don’t become reliant on just your local customers who may not value what you do and there may not be enough demand in your local market to sustain your business.

“Go out there and get customers from outside your town, do the work to be visible – using social media, SEO, and the power of the internet to bring your products to a wider audience.”

What Nila highlights here is critical: be visible. People love supporting small local businesses because they understand exactly where their hard-earned cash is going. If you can ensure you are present when they go out shopping, as well as on their mobile, when they’re at home browsing you will be top of mind when they consider their next purchase.

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