7 Ways to Make the Most of Small Business Saturday
People like to patronize local small businesses—and Small Business Saturday, sponsored by American Express, gives them the chance to do so. This annual national event, taking place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, has led to millions of Facebook likes, a tweet from the President, and more than $5.5 billion in business.
Here are seven ways you can prepare for and make the most of this important occasion.
1. Start your 30-day plan
“I would encourage small business owners to promote their participation in the day as early as possible,” says Patricia Norrins, a retail expert and Small Business Saturday spokesperson.
“Consumers start very early making plans for the stores and restaurants they will visit during the weekend after Thanksgiving.”
Reminding customers you are participating will ensure your business gets added to their customers’ lists of “must visit” stores that weekend.
Kevin Weir, a business coach with ActionCOACH, provides another good way to stay top-of-mind: “Give a flyer with a coupon to hand to all your existing customers when they purchase something at least 30 days before Small Business Saturday with a special offer to get them to come in on that day.”
2. Get inspiration from others
According to a 2012 study conducted by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express, the majority (67 percent) of the small businesses participating in Small Business Saturday planned to offer special deals or discounts on the day.
Need some small business marketing ideas? The Small Business Saturday Facebook page includes plenty of success stories from merchants that might spur some thoughts for your plans. For example, a Japanese martial arts school offered a special Japanese calligraphy class during which students write a single character that describes how they feel about their favorite small business.
3. Get free customizable content
The Small Business Saturday web page includes free, downloadable content, such as online banners, logos, and printable signage that you can customize with the name of your business and city.
“Have an A-Frame outside your shop or store saying that you are a Small Business Saturday participant,” Weir says. “Make sure the dates are on the A-Frame Sign.”
4. Get Social with Your Customers
Social media marketing is a crucial element of Small Business Saturday success.
“Social media isn’t just affordable, it also can help you stand out from the big guys,” says Bill Brunelle, head of Independent We Stand, a national organization dedicated to promoting buying local. Not sure what to say?
The Small Business Saturday web page includes suggested Facebook posts and tweets that you can use for your social marketing. Participating on the event’s Facebook page can bring attention as well.
“The Facebook page has 3.2 million fans—that’s a lot of exposure,” Brunelle says. “People want to support small business. It’s a feel-good story: David vs. Goliath.”
5. Team Up with Other Small Businesses
“Partner with your local merchants to offer group discounts for Small Business Saturday,” Weir says. “For example, everybody gets a free item if they buy from a store in your local merchant group on that day if they bring in a receipt to your business. Make sure you e-mail and/or pass a flyer out to everybody in your customer database about this group discount.”
Norrins notes in one specific downtown community the merchants planned events for Small Business Saturday that encouraged shoppers to stop by participating stores and then rewarded customers during their last store visit with a special card which had been stamped by all the businesses.
6. Get some press—and some VIPs
“Small business owners can make a big impact in their community by reaching out to local media to encourage coverage of Small Business Saturday and their store’s participation in the day,” Norrins says. In addition, she says you might consider contacting local officials such as a mayor or councilman to encourage them to stop by and support the event.
7. Keep It Going
A massage therapist in Illinois saw a 45 percent boost in sales on last Small Business Saturday, and for this year’s event will host a guest artist. She also gives a bonus discount to customers who wear a button promoting shopping in the local area. But the efforts don’t stop on Sunday. She is part of a grass roots alliance of more than 50 local small businesses that engages in a yearlong marketing campaign that uses Small Business Saturday as its kickoff.
As Norrins says, “Small businesses owners should communicate the importance of shopping small year round so that consumers have a continual reminder that when they support the businesses in their community they are helping maintain housing values, boosting their local economy by preserving jobs, and helping the local school system.”