American Express is responsible for this day. It is kind of ironic, seeing as how they are far from local. They started this initiative during the recession, when most people were just trying to stay afloat, and were not concerned with where they shopped. This day is the day after Black Friday– when most people shop the big chain stores who seem to be opening earlier and earlier these days!
Lisette Bernstein, Vice President of Small Business Saturday at American Express, told Forbes: “In only five years, Small Business Saturday has taken on a life of its own and it’s been very exciting to see how small business owners and communities have come together to own the day and make it special.”
American Express’ plan is yielding huge payouts to local businesses- in 2014 88 million people supported #ShopSmall and spent $14.3 billion at independent stores and restaurants, which was an increase of $300 million from 2013! Small Business Saturday doesn’t necessarily mean you have to dramatically cut all of your prices- it just means you need to be creative with your advertising so people come visit you!
Basically, if you want to increase your sales by encouraging people to #ShopSmall, you have to break away from traditional marketing tactics (mailers & signs) and try something new!
Some examples on how to spice up your marketing include:
1. Register (this is probably the easiest one.)
You don’t have to register for Small Business Saturday, but you’ll miss out on some great perks from American Express! You’ll receive logos, signs, and a spot on their searchable Small Business Map! For a little bit of time, this is totally worth it and will help you get the most traffic on this valuable day! Best part of all of this? It’s totally FREE. Now you really have no excuse not to sign up!
2. Don’t give prices too much attention- promote the customer!
Another benefit of Small Business Saturday is the ability to gain lifelong customers. If you’re flashing 60% off signs everywhere, people will be visiting your store for the sale only, and will have no reason to come back once things are regular price again. Take the time to talk to every customer, make connections with them and ensure they have a positive experience- that way you’ll have gained a new repeat customer, which pays off way more than a one-time shopper who bought something at a steep discount.
Depending on the size of your establishment, this may be easier said than done. Employee training is very valuable to ensure the best turnout for this. Your employees should hopefully already know the products, but now they have to take the time to get to know the customer. Ideally, they would already be practicing this method, but a check-in is definitely in order. A simple smile and a brief conversation goes a long way in the customer’s eye, as that is not typical treatment they receive at big box stores. You can give them some easy conversation starters, for example: “Have yo ever been here before?” and let the conversation progress from there as necessary. This could lead to talking about nearby parking, or where a good place to catch a bite to eat afterwards would be. This will ensure a positive experience for your new customer and they’re sure to return.
3. Re-target your Facebook ads.
Assuming you already use Facebook for advertising your business (if you don’t, we need to talk!) this is a great time to leverage the power of Facebook. Target customers who have been to your store, or to businesses close to your store. You can increase (or decrease) the radius of the customers to which you advertise to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
You’ll want to start the ads 3-5 days before Small Business Saturday to ensure the most exposure. Target the friends of people who have visited your store, or live very close by. After all, the whole point is to shop locally, so targeting people who aren’t geographically close to your store is a waste of your time & effort!
4. Tweet your heart out.
Remaining active on Twitter in the days leading up to Small Business Saturday is also very important! This should continue on through the day itself, as well as past it. It’s the easiest way to get information to your customer’s quickly and effectively.
A great way to maximize the benefits is to interact with other small businesses on Twitter. Create a list with @ShopSmall (Amex) and other small business/business groups in your area. Interact with these customers in the weeks leading up to the big day- do some re-tweeting, favoriting, and possibly even highlight another small business (in hopes that they may return the favor some day!)
You should also consider using a social media posting tool (such as Hootsuite or Buffer.) You can analyze posts with the hashtags you intend to use (such as #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSaturday) and see what works best for other companies. 10-15 minutes per day interacting with others goes a LONG way!
5. Do Something Different!
As we mentioned before, price cuts aren’t necessarily the route you want to go on this day. Instead, turn your business into THE place to be on that day. Host a special event with hors d’oeuvres, drinks and possibly some giveaways. This just adds to the customer experience and helps set you apart from the competition!
The main thing you’re accomplishing on Small Business Saturday is getting people through the door. As you know, there are customer retention rates that will also apply to these customers, but increasing the number of bodies through the door will inevitably increase your customer base!
6. Create A Village.
As the owner of a small business, you probably already have connections with other business owners in the area. Maybe you don’t sell the same products, but have similar clientele. Consider joining with these businesses and doing one large giveaway. For example, maybe you own a bakery- you could pair with a local photographer, bridal shoppe, and florist to do a giveaway to include everything for a wedding!
If a giveaway is too big, maybe consider offering reciprocal discounts. For example, if someone visits the above mentioned bridal shoppe, with a receipt, you could offer a discount to that customer. Referral networks are a great source of business!
Before jumping in on this plan, you’ll want to do your research on the businesses you’re considering partnering with. Choose companies with a positive social media presence, as well as someone that you feel would advertise your business the same way you would theirs. Building these relationships with the right businesses will definitely pay off for you in the long haul!
7. Sharing Is Caring.
Everyone has their own unique set of skills. This is a great time to highlight yours (or those of your employees!) Using the previous example, as a bakery owner, maybe you could drop off pastries for the small businesses around you the morning of Small Business Saturday. Or if you are great at dialing in your targeting on Facebook, perhaps you could host a webinar showing how you do it! Don’t forget the benefit of the soft sell in situations like these. They’ll get to taste your pastries, or see what specials you’re currently offering on Facebook!
Don’t Forget The Benefits After Small Business Saturday