No doubt you’re familiar with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday, the first Monday after, which kick off the holiday shopping season for big box retailers and e-commerce sites respectively. Sandwiched in between the two, Small Business Saturday puts the focus on smaller, local merchants, the backbone of our communities.
As a small business owner, you know how crucial it is to take advantage of every promotional opportunity you can, which is why it’s important you know about—and participate in—Small Business Saturday.
Founded in 2010 by American Express, Small Business Saturday (SBS) is a marketing campaign designed to bring attention and sales to small businesses and local retailers as they compete against national chains and big box stores. The Saturday in question is the first one after Thanksgiving, when the holiday shopping season really starts to take off.
American Express spends a considerable sum on advertising, social media, and promotional campaigns to encourage people to support SBS, and the effort has expanded every year since it began. Many politicians and small business associations have jumped on the bandwagon, and awareness of the program continues to grow. In 2011, the U.S. Senate officially recognized the day, which has now become a “Shop Small” movement.
How to Benefit From Small Business Saturday
The National Federation of Independent Business says $5.7 billion was spent with independent merchants last year on Small Business Saturday. Wouldn’t you like a piece of that? If you’re a local or regional retailer, restaurateur, or service business, you can piggyback on the success of the day and take advantage of the promotional campaign to spotlight your company.
Business Resources from American Express
If you accept American Express cards and meet their definition of a “small business” (click to open a PDF), the company has a collection of resources available on its website, including free Facebook advertising. The company also offers cardholders who’ve registered a $25 credit for shopping at a small business on SBS.
Even if you don’t take AmEx cards, there are promotional materials you can use, including “Shop Small” logos, signage, and other printables, plus templates for email and social media posts, and free online ads.
Follow the Small Business Saturday Facebook page for some great ideas that can apply to your business. Follow the Shop Small Twitter account for more ideas, and use the hashtags #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat in your own tweets to promote the event. The Shop Small Instagram account offers even more inspiration.
Small Business Saturday Promotional Partners
Online scheduling service Eventbrite will help you create a Small Business Saturday event, with tools for inviting current and potential customers. Yelp is offering $100 in advertising credit to new advertisers, as is the search engine Bing.
Advertise Your Small Business Promotions
Think about what’s likely to get people in the door to try you out. A percentage off? A buy-one-get-one special? A free, no-strings consultation? Put together your most potent offer and spread the word now! People are already thinking about holiday gift lists, so get the word out through your own Facebook and Twitter pages, email newsletters, on your website, and in your store. Offer an incentive to shoppers who visit you on SBS, and promote it.
On this day, when so much positive attention is being paid to local businesses, be loud and proud, and all about being small. Concentrate your advertising and promotional message on the fact that you’re local. Incorporate the slogans of the day, “Shop Small”, “Buy Local”, and “A Big Day for Small Business”. Encourage customers to keep their money close to home this Holiday Season.
You don’t want to be heavy-handed about it, but tell your customers what the day is all about. Remind them that supporting a local business supports the community. Successful local businesses hire local people, boost the local economy, and keep local property values high.
Make SBS Into a Big Event
If you’re in a downtown area or other shopping district, get your fellow businesses to join you. Have your local Chamber of Commerce or Visitors and Convention Bureau champion the idea, and get local politicians to support it. The more organizations involved, the more people will know about it, and the greater the chance for excitement—and business! Refer customers to each other. Partnerships like this can extend and help you long after Small Business Saturday is over.
Extend your hours to make it easier for customers to get to your location. Hire a clown for the kids, offer face-painting, music, free snacks, anything to add to the festivity. Hold a drawing and give something away. Have fun and make the shopping experience even more personal and enjoyable.
Don’t Stop with SBS!
Make sure you have a way to stay in touch with your new customers throughout the year. Have a guest book and ask visitors to your business for their address, invite them to join your email list, and get them to like you on Facebook. Follow up with a thank you to everyone who shopped with you. Let your new customers know you value their business. You might even send another special offer as an incentive to get them back in the door well before the next SBS rolls around!
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