While Black Friday may get the lion’s share of shoppers’ attention during the holiday season, the following day may be even more significant for small businesses. Small Business Saturday, which falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, was started by American Express to support small businesses during the 2010 recession. It was recognized by the federal and all 50 state governments shortly after that. The idea is to encourage shoppers to support small businesses as they shop for holiday gifts.
The idea has attracted real support, with 72% of people surveyed by Constant Contact saying they will make more effort to support small businesses that weekend. This year, Small Business Saturday falls on Nov. 26, so it is crucial to be prepared.
What is the biggest mistake you can’t afford to make on Small Business Saturday?
You may think that just being a small business is enough to reap the benefits of Small Business Saturday, but this line of thinking is a big mistake. The nature of being a small business means that you are not necessarily top of mind for your target market. Add that to all the other small businesses promoting themselves during this time, and you can see that it is easy to get passed over and let this opportunity be wasted.
How to successfully prepare for Small Business Saturday
To capitalize on the desire of customers to support small businesses on the busiest shopping weekend of the year, you must promote yourself. Here’s how to go about it.
Tell your small business story
While Small Business Saturday serves to remind customers to shop at small businesses, you want them to support small businesses all year long. So throughout the year (and even more so starting at the end of October), tell customers your story.
Social media is a great way to highlight the company’s founders and history. If your business is family-owned, be sure to include that since it can give you even more of a boost. If your business is still in the same community in which it was started, talk about how it has been an area employer and how it has participated in any community outreach or charitable projects.
Post videos showing your actual employees doing or talking about their jobs. Be sure to repeat the phrases “small business” and “local business” when talking about your company.
Tip: As a business owner, get on your social media platforms and demonstrate transparency by being honest and genuine with followers. When CEOs do so, it pays big dividends. Research from Sprout Social found that transparency prompts 38% of followers to be more loyal to the brand and 32% to purchase more from the brand.
Come up with a Small Business Saturday promotion
Just as you plan to promote yourself to capture more business, so are other competing small businesses. To stand out from the crowd, create a promotion that will be attractive and compelling for your target audience. It can be a sale on certain items, a mystery discount with a scratch-off card, a freebie with a purchase, free hot chocolate and cookies for shoppers, live holiday music, a visit from Santa, or anything else you think will resonate with your customers.
Promote, promote, promote
Make sure you promote your business for Small Business Saturday around the end of October or the start of November. This will remind customers that they should support small local businesses, and it may generate additional business even before the event. It will also generate excitement about the fabulous promotion you created in the previous step. Be sure to use these methods:
- Signs: Have signs printed and posted in your window featuring Small Business Saturday, the date and your special promotion.
- Email campaign: Build excitement by sending a series of Small Business Saturday emails to your email list. Many of the top email marketing services have predesigned templates for Small Business Saturday that you can use. The first in the series should let customers know why they should support local businesses. The second should be a reminder that it is coming up, and then the third should be a day or two before so they don’t forget.
- Social media: Spread the word throughout your social media accounts. Consider doing a special for social followers with an extra discount or freebie with a code to make your followers feel valued and to increase shares.
- Website: Have something on your homepage about Small Business Saturday. Either tell visitors about your promotions, or hint at them and let them know that the details will be revealed to email subscribers and social media followers. This will serve double duty of piquing their curiosity and expanding your email list and follower count.
- SMS: If your customers have shared their mobile phone numbers with you, this is an excellent opportunity to send them a reminder text, especially if you are using location-based marketing and they are nearby.
Small Business Saturday doesn’t need to be every business for itself. Consider cross-promoting with other noncompeting small businesses. If you have a chamber of commerce, networking group or other local business organization, each member can get more benefit by bringing shoppers to small businesses in the area. Businesses located in malls or shopping centers may be able to join in promotions done by the landlord or mall owner for a nominal fee.
Solicit user-generated content
Arguably, one of the best things about being a small local business owner is seeing and interacting with your customers regularly. Express your appreciation for customers and your community by asking them to send you user-generated content, such as photos of them using your products or talking about their interactions with you. Feature this content on social media and your website to make them feel the love (and do some of your marketing for you).
Give back to the community
Effecting positive change through community programs is a great look for a small business. It is particularly effective during the holiday season and will make customers feel more engaged with your business. Organize a toy or food drive, give a percentage of revenue to a local charitable organization, or sell a fundraising item in your store.
Prepare your store
Make sure your physical store is ready for customers on Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and the rest of the holiday shopping season. This includes having adequate inventory and staffing levels, decorating your store for the holidays, and having promotional signage where appropriate.
FYI: If you are going to have hot chocolate, entertainment or gift wrapping, make sure you set aside an area for this and that it is staffed and periodically cleaned and replenished.
Extend the festivities to e-commerce
Give customers a choice to come into your store or buy online and still get all the Small Business Saturday promotions. You can set up coupon codes for use online along with barcodes that can be scanned in-store. It can also be helpful to give customers the option of gift wrapping the item within the shipping box so that curious people in the household won’t ruin the surprise and to buy online and pick it up at the store for maximum convenience.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming that customers will shop with you on Small Business Saturday just because you’re a small business. With a bit of planning and promotion, you can capitalize on customers’ desire to support small local businesses like yours so that you can bring in more holiday sales revenue than ever before.