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Keeping it Local – with a punch

January 11, 2021Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce

If you follow the Chamber on the various social media platforms, I bet you noticed a new product we rolled out just a few days before Christmas. It’s a program we call Keep it Local, and it’s powered by our friends at First Financial Bank.

It may appear to the naked eye as a basic gift card program. And some probably thought it went away after the holiday.  Neither are true.

Instead, the Chamber – as a means to help get cash in the registers of our members during these challenging times – launched Keep it Local after being challenged by this year’s Chairman, Marshall Morris (FFIN) to help offset the impact of the business rollbacks due to COVID-19.

As if Amazon Prime wasn’t bad enough.

Keep it Local is a fully digital program that can be purchased by anyone with computer or smartphone access, emailed to the recipient, accepted like a credit card by any participating Chamber member (it’s free to register!) and the money goes into the merchant’s account that same night the money is spent.

Get all that?

Oh. But there’s an added punch.

As an example, if you (or someone) buys a $50 card, they get $60 in value. Those incentives keep going based on the level at which an e-card is purchased.

The idea is to not only support our members when they need tangible help now, but to do so in a way that’s easy, accessible and provides incentive for the customer all while keeping local dollars local.

I want to thank Marshall for his vision. I’d also like to thank the Chamber staff, led by Stephanie Burke, who really rose to the occasion in short order to get the program launched within days.

I also want to thank First Financial Bank for their willingness to help underwrite the incentives. Joined by other members who felt compelled to help, the program is already exceeding expectations.

Most importantly I need to thank you, our member. Your willingness to jump on board is appreciated. We’re thrilled by the response and based on the feedback, folks are using them.

How did we arrive at this as a product offering? We listened to you. We were horrified by the possibility of painful rollbacks on our members, especially at a time we knew was likely to be among their normally busy period of the year.

I remember one call in particular with a member restauranteur. The news wasn’t foreign to us – folks were cancelling events based on the rising numbers of COVID-related hospitalizations – and the prospect of a government-mandated rollback on capacities wasn’t going to be good.

There appeared to be two options – hunker down and take the medicine in the form of a total shutdown and get it over with, or find a way to put a consumer-friendly program in place quickly to get money moving throughout the community.

Our members are smart. We chose the latter.

Here are some the specifics on how the program works. I’m telling you, it’s easy for the consumer and the merchant. And 100 percent of the participating businesses are local or a locally-owned franchise. They employ our neighbors. They pay property taxes and sales taxes. Their kids play with your kids.

Next time you buy lunch for your employees, use Keep it Local.  Taking your family out for a meal? Buy the e-gift card first and use it at your favorite restaurant. Looking for a special gift for a friend or loved one? Keep it Local. Think of it as an electronic gift certificate with a savings coupon built-in. Consumers get more for their money, and you get cash in your business quickly. It’s that simple.

This isn’t an end-all solution, by the way. It’s meant to help, not be the cure. The Chamber won’t stop working to ease the pain on your behalf. We’re an active participant in trying to help government avert a shutdown and our health system have the capacity to care for those among us who are sick.

We will be sending out window and door decals shortly and hope that you’ll have one at your place. We’ll also follow up with marketing across the area to help drive consumers – and those dollars to your door.

We’re continuing to build the network of participating merchants. The more widely it’s accepted, the more likely people will be to buy and use them. Encourage your favorite bar, restaurant, venue or retailer to sign on. It’s free to them. And the incentivized funds can be used for anything they sell – product or service.

After all, we’re all in this weird place together. We can do this.

Onward,

Doug

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