Locally-owned, Family-owned or New Zealand-owned, So What?

Many New Zealand businesses use locally-owned, family-owned or New Zealand-owned as their point of difference. They feel that this is a strong position to take against a bigger corporately-owned competitor. But do customers care?
Saying you’re locally-owned can be a weak default because you can’t think of a stronger reason for customers to choose your product. Saying you’re locally-owned may make you appear small, lacking the buying power, support or efficiencies of larger businesses. Customers may wonder if you are up with the latest trends. They may question the depth of your knowledge or training that corporate-owned enterprises provide.
On the positive side, saying you are locally owned may make you appear more trustworthy because you are part of the community and you are more likely to spend your profits in the local economy. Locally-owned businesses often pride themselves on providing personalised service or curated products that are unique to their region. You can adapt quickly to changes and respond to customer demands more directly. With a distinctive brand image, you may have the opportunity to stand out from chain stores and franchises. Customers appreciate the attention to detail and the ability to connect with business owners directly, creating a more intimate and customer-focused experience.
Family-owned takes locally-owned a step further. Family-owned infers a set of traditional values about how the business is run and how people are dealt with. For family businesses that have been running for a long time, there may be an inter-generational aspect too. On the negative side, customers may think family-owned means limited resources, conservative thinking, succession planning issues, family politics, and lack of professional management and accountability.
When it comes to ‘New Zealand made’ we know that it does make a difference on certain products. As part of a research project we did for a food product, we tested the use of ‘New Zealand-made’ on the packaging, and it was very important. Participants believed that many products sourced and made here are more trustworthy, particularly food and similar consumables. However, they weren’t prepared to pay more than imported products of equal quality but if the price was comparable, they preferred the New Zealand-made product. But it does depend on the category you are in. We may be far less trusting of more sophisticated products like New Zealand-made computer components, medical equipment or motor vehicles.
Don’t settle for the local tag as the main reason for customers to choose your products just because you can’t think of any better reason. You will stand out more with a selling proposition that is unique to your business and more appealing to your customers; local ownership may be one of your secondary messages. But if you are locally owned and it really matters to your customers, then plaster it everywhere, making sure you unpack the benefits of local ownership, such as local knowledge and how you contribute to your community. Choosing the right path always comes back to understanding your audience and knowing what they want.

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