For many small businesses, the holidays start with Small Business Saturday® (SBS), an event that takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Launched in 2010 by American Express, SBS drew in $16.2 billion from U.S. consumers last year for independent retailers and restaurants — a 14 percent increase over the previous year. Want to succeed on SBS? Develop a game plan modeled after companies that have made a splash (and a lot of revenue) this day.
Develop Clearly Defined Goals.
As with any important initiative, you should clearly delineate what you want to achieve on SBS. Would you like to tout a specific product? Reach a specific group of customers? Reach new customers? After you know what you want to accomplish, you can develop a strategy map. Constant Contact, the email marketing company, put together a handy kit that leads you step-by-step through the process, with prompts questions like “what type of incentives have inspired your customers to take action in the past”?
Get an Early Start.
Begin by announcing your participation in SBS from two to five weeks before the event, announce your offer, provide reminders, and afterwards thank customers. As a result, each interaction will allow you to deepen your relationship with customers, extending the value of SBS for weeks and weeks. Journey of Life, a Pittsburgh book store, starts marketing on Facebook and through its email newsletter several weeks before the holiday and offers a number of in-store promotions, revving customers up for the big day.
Spread the Word.
Lolo Boutique, an independent clothing and gift shop in Fullerton, California, collected a list of its 100 best customers, and called 10 a day, alerting them of discounts and events planned for SBS. The personal touch can help build enthusiasm and spread word of the event. For example, The Park Avenue Merchants Association in Winter Park, Florida, budgeted funds for a radio ad and YouTube video. In addition, they also arranged a block party along with a mayoral proclamation. SBS is a big national event, so toot your horn.
Get Some Press.
While you’re reaching out to customers don’t forget to contact local newspapers, radio and television stations announcing your SBS participation. Tout an unusual angle, like an event you’re planning or the importance of small businesses. The Toy Chest, a toy shop in West Hartford, got coverage by emphasizing how SBS reflects attractive small business values.
Do Something to Stand Out.
Since SBS is out of the ordinary, you should do something out of the ordinary to stand out. For example, one year independent bookstores around the country had authors staff their stores. How much attention did that attract? Even President Obama stopped by a Washington bookstore to grab a handful of books. Need inspiration for an unusual stunt? Check out the Small Business Saturday Facebook page.
Use Free Marketing Materials.
The SBS web site offers lots of free local marketing materials. Some of these materials include a personalized “Shop Store” signage, email templates and even sample social media posts. Pippen Lane, a children’s fashion boutique, said promoting its SBS events by using Shop Small email templates and social posts led to a 20-percent increase in sales.
Team Up For Success.
Pure Detroit, which sells Detroit-branded merchandise in the Motor City, created a “passport” with 18 other local businesses. Shoppers received a stamp and a discount each time they went to one of the retailers. Each stamp unlocked other deals. The passport discounts were good until January 31, giving people a reason to come back after the holidays. Co-owners of the Boulevard at South End store in Charlotte, NC coordinated with the neighborhood association to provide free trolley service from one end of the neighborhood to the other. The SBS web site lets you find (or sign up to be) a “Neighborhood Champion” who is rallying support for the event. Neighborhood Champions receive a SBS Event Kit with branded merchandise that they can use for events to help their community celebrate the day.
Don’t just focus on Black Friday. If you prepare for Small Business Saturday properly, and execute adroitly, it can put your business in the pink.
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