Ready your storefront, dust off your inventory and mentally prepare for an onslaught of new customers! Small Business Saturday is only a few days away.
The new (AmEx proclaimed) holiday is Nov. 27 and thanks to a massive television and Facebook marketing campaign, customers will come armed with smiles and credit cards to their local retailers.
“I think we are sitting on what will be a serious success,” said Cinda Baxter, founder of The 3/50 Project, a Minneapolis-based small business advocacy organization partnering with AmEx to promote the holiday. “The awareness level is so high, this has the opportunity to be a game changer for a lot of small businesses.
“This is just the beginning. We will be doing this for years to come.”
How can SBOs take advantage of Small Business Saturday?
Set the mood
“Think of your place of business as a big living room,” Baxter said. “You want it to be a place where people enter and feel happy. Make your business as warm and welcoming as you can. Serve hot apple cider to customers and play Christmas music. Think about how your business smells and make sure it is inviting.”
“Look for entertainers, musicians, magicians, clowns or artists that are already in your database and call them up,” said Lauri Flaquer, author, speaker and business consultant at Saltar Solutions, a branding and marketing consultancy in St. Paul, Minn.
“Find out if they can give you a few hours of their time to perform, paint or hand out candy. It will make the day more exciting and lively. In return, offer to give out their cards whenever a purchase is made.”
Use the media
“Call up your local television station and newspaper and tell them what you are doing,” Flaquer advised. “Paint a very exciting picture of the activities for the day and how Small Business Saturday is helping communities. Tell them that they can localize the big national story with your store.
“The press love a feel-good story and they all operate on real time, so you really could conceivably get a camera crew to your shop, no problem.”
Utilize social media
“Go to the Facebook fan page for Small Business Saturday and download a poster for your business,” Baxter said. “Register your company and AmEx will give you a $100 credit towards a Facebook ad. The ad will be geo-targeted, so it will only show up on the pages of those people in your community.”
Social media is the key to more customers on Small Business Saturday, according to Flaquer.
“Launch your social media marketing and focus on this event,” she advised. “Flood your market with information about what you are going to do. Write about it on your blog. Send out invitations to your core group and ask all of them to help you promote it.”
“Work with other small businesses and ask them to tap their databases,” Flaquer said. “If you have four of five stores in your area promoting it, you have a much better chance of making the day spectacular. This is not only about your business; it is about all small businesses. The more businesses you involve, the better the day is going to be.”
“Give one percent of sales from Small Business Saturday to a local school or charity,” said Deborah S. Novick, president and owner of Silver Lining NY, a business plan development creator based out of Larchmont, N.Y. “Make sure to tell everyone who comes in that, as a token of gratitude for the community supporting the store, a percentage will be given back to the community.”
Host an event
“Host a special event during particular hours,” Novick said. “For example, you could have a men’s only shopping hour from 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. During that time, your employees could help men shop for their wives. Advertise this by putting an easel in front of your store or a sign in the window.”
“Run through your database and call your contacts,” Flaquer said. “Invite them to stop by on Small Business Saturday and ask them to spread the word to their contacts.”
“Remember that Small Business Saturday is not just about Saturday, it is about the future,” Flaquer said. “Take advantage of this opportunity to bring more people into your store on a regular basis. Get everyone’s information into your database. Give out a voucher for a gift with next purchase. “
Thank your customers
“Have a meeting with your staff before Saturday,” Baxter said. “Instruct them to look people straight in the eye and say ‘thank you for stopping by’ to every customer. Also, if a customer asks you how things are going and references the economy, instruct your employees to just smile and say, ‘We are happy to be here and we are upright and trying. By the way, have you seen the new stuff we just brought in?’
Keep it upbeat and positive.”
Katie Morell is a Chicago-based freelance writer, specializing in small business concerns.
Celebrate “Small Business Saturday” by visiting your favorite locally owned businesses on Saturday, November 27th. Learn more about this event and how you can show your support at facebook.com/smallbusinesssaturday.