Reciprocal Advantages: Asking For Help From Your Community

Andrew Vait

Sep 6, 2017

For small business owners, our dreams can be as big as mountains are tall. Growth to rival the next might be part of your five-year-plan, and when you shop for partnerships and endorsements, it can be tempting to bypass local businesses in favor of larger companies and corporations.

But, in order to incrementally grow your business, you must focus on harnessing the support of those around you who are executing successful business plans and models.

When I walk through my neighborhood due west of downtown Seattle (it’s called West Seattle — we have pride), I am transported to a time when behemoth cities were in their precocious state. I feel as though I am in Minneapolis or Nashville in the 1940’s; the modern world hasn’t yet forced upon us its bustling, fast-paced clip. The store fronts have scarcely been updated and we’re just now seeing an uptick of hip, cultural businesses popping up in agreement with the massive influx of West Seattle-dwellers, being that West Seattle is one of the last affordable neighborhoods in Seattle (and barely, at that, with the median one-bedroom apartment hovering around $1,800/month).

West Seattle-ites LOVE living in West Seattle. It operates much like one of the larger islands in New York City; it’s a kinda difficult to get to and even harder to leave with all the amenities of downtown Seattle on display in our cozy, medium-sized neighborhood. Part of what makes living in West Seattle so special, aside from the views, are the businesses that fill each side-street and arterials (California Ave, who are we kidding).

We have businesses like the Husky Deli, family-owned and operated since the 1920’s. We have Thunder Road Guitars, which is a big deal if you are one of the multitudes of musicians harbored within West Seattle’s gates. We have new restaurants and old restaurants juxtaposed within one city block as if designed by Ryan Henry Ward as a take on Norman Rockwell. Every shop has an air of familiarity; of family, in fact.

As an entrepreneur, I see these businesses as more than just a unique shopping experience. I see an opportunity to grow my business through reciprocal marketing.

In February of this year, my band SISTERS performed an in-store concert at the legendary Easy Street Records, located in the very heart of West Seattle, on Valentine’s Day. The shows there are always free and all-ages, but it takes a fairly well-known artist to fill the store with people. We’re a relatively new band, so we decided not to take any chances.

We hit the streets of West Seattle with posters and fliers for the event at Easy Street, and we hit every. single. business. in. West. Seattle. It was an easy sell for whomever was working behind the counter of whatever business — “Hi, we’re in a local West Seattle band called SISTERS, and we’re performing at Easy Street Records on Valentine’s Day, and we wanted to personally invite you to the show.” It took all of about two afternoons to make connections with each business, make a store visit, and follow up close to the date of the event. A small investment of time resulted in a HUGE return.

On February 14th, 2016, West Seattleites lined the streets to catch our in-store performance at Easy Street Records. It was thrilling, to say the least, to see our guerrilla marketing campaign succeed with flying colors. A fringe benefit in exacting this relationship with Easy Street is that we sold enough records that day to be listed as their top seller for the week.

Other local businesses are more likely to pony up with cash and product endorsements if you are able to demonstrate that your neighborhood community already supports your business.

So. The next time you are walking through your neighborhood, stop in a business that feels inviting and say hello to the owner. You never know what good may come of it.

_Andrew Vait is a singer/songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and educator. He currently lives in Seattle, WA and performs and records with his pop band, SISTERS —

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