November is a big month for consumers and business owners alike – the aroma of upcoming holidays floats in the air, and the first real experience of the all-out brawl we call holiday shopping is set the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday (and Cyber Monday). But one PR campaign effectively made way for local business owners to ‘own a day’ as well. Since the inception of Small Business Saturday in 2010, American Express’ PR campaign has taken a life of its own as a ‘local movement’ among the massive community of locally run businesses. Small Business Saturday lands the day after Black Friday, partially in an effort for local businesses to contend with the eye-popping sales large retailers tend to advertise. Do not try to compete with giant retailers in the same fashion – more on that below.
It’s Not Just One Day
Any wise entrepreneur can tell you that one day out of the year will not make or break your business. So why is Small Business Saturday potentially so important? Because if marketed and executed correctly, you are not gaining a sale – you are gaining a customer.
Forbes explains Small Business Saturday “is not about showing pity towards poor, ignorant small business owners struggling to survive”, as some have suggested. The article continues, “It’s about awareness, free marketing, and opportunism, not pity, insult, or manipulation.”
Small Business Saturday is every local business’ opportunity to set themselves apart from giant retail competitors that slash prices during the holidays. Your business is part of your customer’s community. With social media and/or a physical location, your business ideally can be the community.
Your goal on Small Business Saturday is to really make a connection with each customer so that when they see you on social media (see: 8 Last Minute Social Media Marketing Ideas for SMB Saturday) or drive by your storefront, they think of the experience – not just what they purchased from you.
Prioritize customer service – The easiest way to make an impression is with great customer service. Make sure your employees are trained up and ready for every scenario your store is accustomed to. While many people like to buy online, your business’ in-store experience is still very valuable and a factor for their repeated business if they leave feeling good.
Customer incentives – Provide a reason for people to check out your business and/or event. Consider offering a raffle for a really unique product or service your business provides – this can be a great source of leads down the line. Cash can be an even better incentive but don’t break the bank doing so! Leverage any connections you might have to get an influencer to your business and have them promote to garner more attention.
Work with your local businesses – Plan an event together! Most of the smaller towns I’ve lived in have had local businesses work together to encourage locals to ‘make a day of it’ on Small Business Saturday. You can turn the event into a Block Party with food, music, fun activities for the kids – all in the name of supporting your local businesses. Entrepreneur suggests looking into your city’s or local community’s schedule of events. Maybe there’s already a Small Business Saturday event in place and you can get your business in on the action for some free publicity.
Making nice with your local businesses can help you throughout the year as they probably don’t carry everything you have and could send referrals your way.
Hashtags, selfies, check-ins – Small Business Saturday is essentially a free marketing tool for local businesses and your customers are your best advocates. You can encourage your employees and customers alike to share their Small Business Saturday adventures online. Entrepreneur noted that in 2016:
“… there were nearly 250,000 social media posts combined on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter using #ShopSmall, #SmallBizSat and/or #DineSmall…”
According to the article, 150,000 were posted on Small Business Saturday alone.
Why would they share? Because you’ve offered incentives mentioned above!
Bonus: Don’t be afraid to whip out the camera phone and do some ‘behind-the-scenes’ video for your social platforms. I expect to see a lot of live streams during Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday – don’t be the one who’s left out of the online party.
Don’t compete with big box stores – Chances are, you cannot discount the way large retailers can without taking a hit. Black Friday and Small Business Saturdays serve two different purposes – one is to stay up late (or wake up early) and hunt for those huge bargains and the other is to connect and meet people in your community – and perhaps build something together down the line. Which sounds more pleasant to you?
Don’t view this as make or break – There are 364 other days in the year. If you didn’t do anything for Small Business Saturday, the above principals can work regardless of the holiday. Stay in tune with your community and your community may stay in tune with you.