American Independent Business Alliance

By Jennifer Rockne

As your Independent Business Alliance or local business organization works to influence the spending habits of locals, new residents merit specific attention. These newcomers may be buying or renting a home in a new community and will likely spend substantial sums on house furnishings, tools, eating out and much more.

One behavioral study (Residential Mobility Breeds Familiarity-seeking, Oishi et. al. 2012) noted some not-so-surprising tendencies among people relocating:

  1. Many seek stability and familiarity in an upending, stressful experience.
  2. Chain stores are familiar and popular with recent and frequent movers — in part because it saves them the work of learning who offers what in your community. Thus, chains tend to attract a larger market share better in areas of higher resident transition than in more stable communities.

The good news is those tendencies can be overcome! New residents are a great target because their local habits are not yet formed and even habitual chain or online shoppers are susceptible to change. Most loyalties to chains are weak, and people naturally want to comply with social norms, so delivering the “Ourtown is the kind of place where people go local” message is important as newcomers seek information, products and services. Make them feel welcomed by your organization and independent businesses as a whole while encouraging them to discover what makes your community unique!

People moving to your community may be students, retirees, military personnel, new employees of area companies or others. The style of messaging and the media used will be determined, in part, based on the newcomers most prevalent in your area. Think about what imagery, language and messaging will appeal to your target audiences.

new-house-welcome-matWhere Do New Residents Live?

  • They purchase houses, townhomes or condos
  • They rent houses, apartments, townhomes or condos
  • Temporary housing
  • Campus dorms or rent rooms in owner-occupied homes
  • Military housing
  • Long-term hotel stays
  • Local or chain hotels or B&Bs while house-hunting

Dorms and military barracks may be reached effectively with directories, literature, special offers and other material if you invest a bit of time to build relationships with the supervisors (talking to recent graduates and current or recent dormitory residents may yield helpful insights). And larger companies may have an in-house relocation service, which may be open to learning about local options to recommend. New home buyers are a matter of public record which you can follow, but developing relationships with local real estate agents may be a more effective way to reach many new homeowners.

One efficient way to reach newcomers is through the people and companies likely to be the first contacts for them locally.

Where Do They Get Information?

  • Realtors and property management companies
  • College/university/schools
  • City/town offices
  • Large employers that hire contractors
  • Welcome Wagon or newcomers club
  • Chambers of commerce and information kiosks
  • Public library
  • Newspaper, community-oriented magazines, online community or regional portals
  • Internet searches

Do you have members of your organization among the above entities? Your members can be your first line of contact and be a critical conduit to newcomers.  Explore partnership opportunities with them to reach newbies. While in most circumstances IBAs seek independent business partners, reaching out to chain hotels, franchise realtors and others is recommended in this case. Even an absentee-owned hotel, for example, may well view your resource as an asset to offer their guests.

Couple relaxing with champagne by boxes in new home smilingOpportunities to Consider

  • Realtors often leave their customers with local information as part of a welcome gift.
  • Colleges and universities want their new and returning students to feel at home in the community, so they often provide resources in orientation and welcome packets (AMIBA affiliates can see more in this realm here).  And parents also receive information!
  • Larger area employers (including colleges, universities and hospitals) often provide new upper-level employees with relocation services.
  • Chambers of commerce and CVBs (convention and visitor bureaus) often produce reference guides and stock kiosks and libraries around the area with informational material.
  • Many city governments have a web page intended for newcomers — make sure your group is on it!
  • Does your community have a welcome center?  Beyond stocking it with your directory, ask about setting up a table during heavy visit times if you have willing volunteers.

If your community has a community-oriented magazine, consider taking out an ad appealing to newcomers and tourists that provides a link to your website and member directory or even a smart phone app. Tip: Approach the publisher about trading ad space for a premium-level membership in your local Alliance.

Now let’s consider where newcomers spend their money.

What Do Newcomers Seek?

(Purchases made within 30 days following a move, according to a 2008 survey of new homeowners and new movers by the Direct Marketing Assn.

  • Appliances (40%)
  • Furniture/rugs/window coverings (60% buy furniture, 57% buy window coverings)
  • Bedding/mattresses (33%)
  • Household items — brooms, mops, yard and garden implements…
  • Food (grocery, restaurant)
  • Items to make their mark on their new home and easy initial updates – outside plants, furniture, paint, light fixtures, shelving, artwork…
  • Repair/services (99%)
  • Entertainment and culture
  • Local information sources — newspaper, area magazines, guidebooks and maps…
  • 52% of new movers spend money on consumer electronics in the first 30 days
  • Banks — while some movers may have a branch of their existing bank available, many will change banks
  • Others?  Think of what you needed or sought when you last moved.  If that was too long ago, ask a few other people of differing demographics with recent experience.

Beyond Consumers?

What kinds of resources can your IBA provide? You’re trying to reach citizens, but consider some also may be candidates for either a citizen or business membership in your organization. So while your main focus will be on introducing and encouraging them to patronize your business members, you also may wish to include information on joining your organization.

pbl-website-directorylist-screenshotItems for potential IBA distribution to newbies:

  • Print directory
  • Flyer with your website url, QR code, smart phone app. leading them to your online member directory), etc.
  • Packet or booklet of coupons to your business members who sell those initial needs.
  • Welcome gift – how about a complimentary year in your loyalty card program or a gift card to one of your member businesses? If your group produces a full-blown coupon book, you could provide it as a gift, but also consider creating a sheet of coupons to member businesses who provide some of those goods or services newcomers seek.
    • The Corvallis IBA distributes Welcome Dollars to area company relocation professionals to distribute to new residents — the Dollars are coupons usable at any CIBA member business.
  • Create a special section of your online directory collecting your businesses who may cater to the needs of newbies in one convenient place. Portland Buy Local started including quick categories in  their online directory for just this purpose, and they add a “thought bubble” feature for periodic special notice – some have been seasonal, such as “spring cleaning,” or “plan your wedding.”  Glean this kind of information from your members when they join or renew!
  • Include a map of your member businesses online to help visitors see which businesses are near them. Identify business types by color or icon (e.g., restaurant, retail, grocer/food)  Even better — a geo-locating app. so mobile visitors to your member map can see their local options wherever they are in your community!
  • Consider hosting a meet-and-greet for area newcomers to meet your members or invite them to your social gatherings.

Resources

Welcome Services International
Privately owned welcome services assisting community newcomers by familiarizing them with local businesses and community services.

Building Buy Local Campaigns that Shift Culture and Spending
This 12-page guide is available free upon request from AMIBA

Newcomers Club International
Discover if there’s a newcomers club in your area through the searchable database — even those not affiliated with the site can post events.

Welcome Wagon
Marketing businesses to new homeowners. There normally are fees, but perhaps you can partner with a local Welcome Wagon representative for mutual benefit. Site includes a locator to find out if there’s a representative in your community.

We’d love to add your ideas, examples or materials to this collection. Tell us about them!

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