My brand story began 10 years ago when I built an online niche business called WorkCabin that leapfrogged the competition to become the biggest service of its kind in Canada. Today, that expertise is channeled into my other business, WorkCabin Creative, an agency founded in 2010 and based in southwestern ON. I help clients grow trusted brands, build wildly effective communication strategies, & create unforgettable experiences. I can say that with confidence because I've been there and done it with my own startup 10 years ago. And I've helped organizations and businesses do it too. Over and over again through WorkCabin Creative since 2010.
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The one simple promotion every small-town downtown is missing

The one simple promotion every small-town downtown is missing

Lots of small-town downtowns suffer from a lack of creativity in marketing. Some have almost zero marketing.

Nothing illustrates marketing uncreativity like stores that go into storage closets and haul out the same bright red ‘Save up to 80%’ sign at the same time every year and stick them in store windows. Shoppers aren’t stupid. They can immediately tell the tattered sign has been used for years.

And then there are the annual downtown theme days like Spooktacular Savings Days that downtowns run year after year after year. Recycling and rotating various promotions on an annual basis is the norm in many downtowns. Some are great. Others are so-so. Some are tired and need to be retired.

Think differently about ‘coupons’

But there’s one promotion approach that can be implemented today and continued into the future. You don’t even need to print coupons. That’s because shoppers supporting your downtown already have the ‘coupon’ in hand. It’s a sales receipt from any downtown business. This, my friends, is the most valuable coupon coming out of your small-town downtown shops every day. You need to start putting it to use.

It’s time to start looking at sales receipts from your downtown stores as a marketing tool. Each one given to a consumer is a Shop Local coupon. What’s more, it’s way more compelling than all those tired slogans, banners and social media posts urging people to shop local, just because you say they should. (P.S. All those pronouncements to shop local go in one ear and out the other of shoppers today. When you hear and overhear a tagline as much as shop local, human nature is to eventually tune it out.)

Easy way for businesses to work together

Using receipts as coupons is a long-term sustainable marketing tool and highly flexible for creativity. The value or reward can change to keep it fresh.

It’s also an easy way for small-town downtowns to get businesses working together for a common goal. Spinoff shopping is the one crucial piece of marketing that many downtowns miss as a call-to-action.

Get your entire downtown involved

Get started by holding a meeting with downtown businesses. This can’t be an approach where just one or two stores adopt the idea. Once you have buy-in from downtown stores, assign value that consumers will receive when they simply shop in a downtown store and show a receipt at checkout from another downtown business.

You’ll also need professional signage at every cash register in every store, and on store windows. Make the promotion top of mind with every shopper who’s walking in your downtown.

Shift ‘Shop Local’ from your lips, to shoppers where it belongs

What’s best about this approach in using receipts? Well, it shifts the shop local slogan away from you and immediately puts it on the lips of people who should be delivering the message > your shoppers.

Let’s stop using tired slogans like Shop Local, and instead, think of strategies that excite shoppers to say in their own words “I shopped local and saved!” and tell their friends.


Based in the woods and working far beyond, Gregg McLachlan is recognized as a leading trainer, marketing rethinker and rural social media strategist in southwestern Ontario. He works with small businesses and organizations who want to elevate their branding. He has been a conference and workshop guest speaker for rural downtown business associations, provincial government agencies, municipal economic development departments and tourism organizations, as well as provincial and national nonprofits. His new conference and workshop talk for 2018 is entitled, 2017 Is Sooooo Yesterday, and helps organizations understand how social media is evolving and how to stay ahead and be effective. Contact Gregg at gregg@workcabincreative.ca

Learn more about Your Town Rising, a new initiative co-founded by Leslie and Gregg McLachlan and find out how you can bring them to your town