Encouraging customers to buy from local businesses just to save jobs is misguided. We see popular memes and authors espousing the need to buy more from local industries – wine, tourism, textiles – because thousands of jobs are at stake. I’m sure the message has some effect, but it shouldn’t be the only message.
Despite the well-meaning intention, expecting consumers and business to shift their buying criteria for no tangible benefit is not sustainable. As an entrepreneur, this appeal should rank as one of your last ploys to entice a customer’s patronage.
The employment rate is a surely a key performance indicator for any nation’s economy because it reliably predicts and affects almost all other aspects of running a nation. So the only entity accountable for directly affecting employment is government. Preferably not through the current trend adding even more jobs in government, but through policy that creates the environment conducive to stimulating business, thereby indirectly increasing employment.
But whatever the environment, entrepreneurs don’t start businesses to create jobs. The only place job creation should exist as a mission statement is a government department.
Don’t get me wrong. Lockdown is decimating employment levels and creating hardship for thousands. Losing a job is traumatising for both the worker and the boss. At the macro view and micro, individual level, unemployment is a blight. But nobody buys local purely for the sake of buying local. “Buy local” is not a sales pitch.
As an entrepreneur, your business exists because it solves a customer’s problem. In this, value is created for your customer where the benefit of your solution outweighs your price tag.
As a consumer, whether the benefit is a tool that helps us make money, save money, enrich our life, reduce pain, or even lift our social status, we spend our money because we expect greater value in return.
That being said, buying local to save jobs does have its value, just like any other charity, except there’s a limit to how much customers can spend on charity. Whether your customers are businesses or consumers, that limit comes fast: the feel-good from charitable spending is quickly sated. Beyond this, a “buy local” campaign quickly peters out when more-substantive factors, like functional and economic utility, dominate the decision criteria.
If you’re relying on artificial conditions to prop up your business (and save jobs), then there’s a problem with your business model. Sure, play on the heart-strings in your sales pitch if it works, but only as a bonus benefit.
Don’t conflate government’s job of reducing unemployment with your customer’s problems and needs. Your job as entrepreneur is to help your customers buy your product because it’s the best product to solve their problem, and their problem is not to keep you in business.