“Tariffs.” It’s kind of a dirty word to some small business owners, and we’ve discussed the negatives that paying more for foreign products and commodities can bring. Higher-priced raw materials, such as aluminum and steel, can push up the cost of domestically-produced goods; on its face, that’s not a welcome change. Add in the fact that complicated trade relations are causing some countries to stop buying American altogether, and U.S. businesses are right to worry.
There’s another side to the coin of limited global trade, however, and it’s actually a good one. The short-term pain that companies are feeling from the trade wars can’t be denied, but nothing breeds innovation like a good crisis. When we can’t sell as much to those outside of our country, there’s no choice left but to look within.
Playing up the trait of being a domestic company can be a genius move. While those who are heavy on exports won’t likely recover all their losses with new customers right here in the U.S., it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. The slowdown can actually a big opportunity for those who choose to meet the challenge head-on.
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How to Use the Slowdown to Grow your Business
While these are all tactics that domestic companies should be doing already, it’s a perfect time to start trying out new ones or doubling down on some you’re not already fully pursuing. Being a local business has a wide range of benefits that foreign companies will never have; take a look at this list and do what you can to create growth during this slow period of trade.
Take Advantage of Shipping Times
Have you ever ordered something from overseas? Whether it’s a custom-built laptop or some cheap do-hickey from Amazon, items that have to get through customs first aren’t an appealing option for people who want their products quickly. By marketing to your customer that “Made in the USA” also means a much faster delivery time, you are offering a valuable benefit that many are willing to pay a premium to experience.
Getting the product tomorrow can be a deal-maker for someone who needed that new laptop yesterday. You can also make a little extra by offering “white glove” delivery or special gift packaging options that can’t happen when products go directly from a global manufacturer to your customer.
Explore Community Partnerships
One other way that buying local has advantages is when the people of your neighborhood are involved. A New York City marketing company donating a portion of their profits to an NYC charity is just one example of how buying close to home can create positive change that customers can actually see the good from. Those small but positive ripples in your local communities are most meaningful when they come from within. Slowdown in global trade is the right time to remind your customers that a dollar spent in the local community helps that local community many times more than the value of that dollar. Choose to make giving partnerships personal to those in your geographical neighborhood.
Emphasize Customer Service
Customers still crave the kind of customer service you could get in person from a local store, even if they aren’t fans of leaving their home. Online businesses have an opportunity to create close relationships with their customers by delivering excellent resolutions to their problems and reminding them that you really are close. Domestic companies, with local call centers or chat reps, have an opportunity to speak to customers like they are in the same town. Become familiar with the markets you sell to, from the weather to the popular sports teams, and give a personalized, home-grown feel to every customer interaction.
Highlight the Long Game
Domestic brands have another opportunity, beyond the sale, delivery, and any customer conflict resolution. That opportunity is in future loyalty, something that can sometimes be easier to create when you’re a U.S. brand. Global uncertainty, highlighted most recently with the ever-changing trade deals, will, inevitably, push people to buy at home. Take advantage of this by communicating to customers that you anticipate being around for a long time, and that you want to deliver on your promises with a brand relationship that outlasts whatever future markets bring.
A Note on Intellectual Property Protections
It may seem that everyone is upset about the trade wars and how global markets have changed so suddenly under new tariffs and trade agreements. Some are supportive of the measures, however, and – in addition to maximizing ways to market “Made in the USA” – relish the perks of manufacturing at home.
Specifically, a less globalized market may result in better protections for trade secrets and the ability to practice quality control methods that may be difficult when products are built overseas. For those who have chosen to make their products here at home, it will be interesting to see if a slowdown in the global trade results in any changes to how copyrights and patents stay protected. But even for the reseller, or company who doesn’t create anything unique, the marketing tactics used above can help recover some of the losses of those have been hard-hit by tariffs.
Markets fluctuate. Trade agreements change. Whether you support the Trump tariffs, or not, no one can be certain how this will all play out. Help ease the unease that can come from a slowing global market by filling in the gaps and being the brand your clients and customers can count on in uncertain times. Assure them that your product or service is something to be valued and that being closer to home is a benefit that they need in their lives.
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This article was originally written on April 18, 2019 and updated on February 1, 2021.
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