Small Business Saturday, the day after Thanksgiving and the mega-store and mall madness of Black Friday, falls on Nov. 28 this year — are you prepared?
And not just for Saturday. The community needs to know about you and appreciate you 365 days a year. You are a valuable member of the community and it’s time to let everyone know, if they don’t know already.
Here are 10 tips to boost your business for Small Business Saturday, and every day.
•Tell your story. Brick and mortar shops connect businesses, neighbors and visitors in a way online retailers never can. A real shop is personal. What’s your business’ personality? Its story? Every business has a story, and if shoppers know that story (preferably with good pictures) before they set foot in your store, they’re more likely to like you, buy and share your story. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram have become far more business friendly, letting you expand your story and everyone see the magic in your business.
•See who else is participating. Established by American Express in 2010, the finance firm has a lot of resources to get your business revved up for Saturday, including a list of all businesses in your area formally participating. Go to AmericanExpress.com/US/small-business/shop-small and enter your ZIP code. A casual search of a few Missouri cities resulted in dozens of businesses with whom you could team to make the event community-wide, not just store-wide, cross-promote your message, see what’s going on at other businesses and formulate a plan that benefits everyone.
•Hang ’em high. Social media drives customer behavior the way few other media can, true. But there’s still no substitute for good old-fashioned posters, signs, banners and postcards. Which gets your attention more, a new post on that tiny phone screen or a handwritten postcard? Again, go to AmericanExpress.com/US/small-business/shop-small to create personalized printed matter.
•Make it an experience. This may sound obvious, but research consistently shows that people are far less satisfied with material purchases than with life experiences. Unless you operate a zipline, exotic animal farm or skydiving service, you might think you are not in the life experience business. But you are, and with a little thought and planning you can provide great experiences. Is there a product or part of your establishment — a sign, a corner, the exterior — that people take pictures of or selfies? Do you offer classes or lessons in using a product that connects and enlivens people? Has your business changed someone’s life? Encourage customers to share pictures and connect on social media. Make your business part of people’s lives.
•Prep your staff. This too might sound obvious, but even the best business plans fail if staff don’t know about your Small Business Saturday strategy, special offers or how to guide customers to what they want — or worse, don’t care. This is an opportunity for your business to shine and while you may not want your staff dressed in suits and ties or dresses, they should look sharp and be sharp. Do you need seasonal staff or regularly call family or friends to help out in a pinch? Make sure they’re prepared, too, even if they only work a few hours a week.
•Hold a contest. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Contests are a great way to get people engaged with your business, and Small Business Saturday is the perfect excuse for hosting one. A contest may seem like way too much work, and it can be unless you set limits and make it manageable. So just have customers drop business cards in a box. (You now have their contact information, too. Just make sure you post a sign saying that sharing their card constitutes permission to reach out to them.) Or simply hold the contest online.
•Create an offer or incentive. People also love a good deal, as shown by the often certifiable behavior on Black Friday and increasingly Thanksgiving itself. So make an incentive for customers to buy from you on Small Business Saturday with 15 or 20 percent off certain items, buy one get one deals, free giftwrapping, coffee or cookies. Just make sure you can afford it.
•Reach out to media. Many people are skeptical of today’s media. But local media by definition needs to mine local news, local success stories, local heroes. Are you a hero? Many of us have unique experiences and backgrounds we seldom share — why not share it with your local media? Heroes are in short supply these days and such stories are media catnip. Send a press release to local media, contact the paper or radio station. It might take a little while to get to the right person, but if you can grab their attention they can then grab the community.
•Extend Small Business Saturday into December. Don’t stop capitalizing on what makes you unique on Sunday. Look for ways to extend the holiday with gift cards and other holiday gift ideas with in-store signs and social media mentions. You’ll not only drive sales through the holidays, you’ll also drive customers to use those gift cards in the new year.
•Say thank you! There’s nothing quite as precious as a face-to-face conversation with an engaged customer, so make sure to thank them for their support, and have you staff do so, too. Some businesses hand out gift bags with cookies to thank customers for visiting, but no matter how you choose to say thank you, be sure you do it.
For personalized help exploring business ideas, marketing, finance, management, technology, international trade, workforce development, growing your business or other business issues, contact a Small Business & Technology Development Center near you. Visit our full list of training courses to find an upcoming training seminar.