Small Business Saturday®—November 28 this year—is an annual chance for small businesses to engage their customers and local communities around the benefits of supporting locally owned businesses.
But it’s also a great opportunity for small businesses to try to draw in more foot traffic and rev up sales. Across the nation, consumers will be looking to spend money at local businesses participating in the event and do some holiday shopping along the way. How can you make Small Business Saturday help your business be a blockbuster success?
“This is really the day for small and independent retailers to amp up the volume,” says Bob Phibbs, CEO of the Retail Doctor, a retail consultant based in Coxsackie, New York. “You want to make the day memorable for your shoppers.”
Phibbs recommends that small businesses think creatively about making their business a “destination” for Small Business Saturday shoppers to help stand out from the sea of other small businesses promoting the day—including posting signs outside their store and promoting the event through email, local media and social media. Businesses should also encourage shoppers on Small Business Saturday to sign up for their email list and to follow them on social media.
Here are three other ways you can help maximize the impact of Small Business Saturday at your business.
Host Special Events
Many businesses will be hosting special events on Small Business Saturday to draw in shoppers. An event is a chance to give shoppers a memorable experience that they can’t get at other businesses or on other days of the year.
Octavia Books, a 15-year old independent bookstore in New Orleans, will be inviting local authors to volunteer as booksellers on Small Business Saturday 2015. According to co-owner Judith Lafitte, it's an opportunity for authors to give back some of the support independent booksellers give to authors. Each author will be chatting with customers and recommending favorite books by other authors. "It gets customers excited when they know the author who's going to be in the store. It's always [a draw] to see authors selling other authors' books," she says.
According to Octavia Books, a similar event on Small Business Saturday in 2014 drew a steady flow of customers all day long and helped the store increase its sales by 20 to 25 percent over the previous year's Small Business Saturday. The store will promote this year's event on its Facebook page, Twitter, Instagram, radio and "wherever else we can," Lafitte says.
Events can be particularly effective around the holiday season, she suggests, because shoppers are looking for unique experiences and to get in the holiday spirit. "It gets people excited about the holidays and they start to think about what presents they're going to buy," Lafitte says.
(Read these 12 tips for hosting an amazing event at your business.)
Offer Small Business Saturday-Only Promotions
Many retailers and restaurants are designing special promotions around Small Business Saturday, whether giving shoppers freebies or special discounts.
Mindy Thein, owner of Beloved Boutique in Breckenridge, Colorado, plans to hold a "Give and Get" event for Small Business Saturday 2015. When customers shop with Beloved on Small Business Saturday this year, they’ll have the opportunity to donate an amount to charity, and then receive a discount on their purchase. “We want to help provide for families in need in our community at Christmas,” Thein says.
Phibbs, the retail consultant, suggests businesses should think about creating promotions beyond just discounts or coupons. Shoppers generally don’t shop at small businesses just for deals, he explains, as they do with major retailers. Rather, they want a more rewarding and memorable experience.
He recommends that businesses consider creating charitable-giving promotions around Small Business Saturday, such as giving a portion of sales that day to a local cause. The most effective charitable-giving promotions tend to be those linked to the business’s focus. For example, a sporting goods store might donate to a local youth athletic program.
Band Together With Other Businesses
Many small businesses find they can drum up more publicity for their business by joining forces with other local businesses. Working together with other businesses and enlisting the help of neighborhood associations or economic development groups can help generate more awareness of the day and the events happening around it.
Golden Key Gifts, a gift and candle shop in Sterling, Illinois, is working with four other local businesses—a local dog treat maker, a candy store, an antique store and another gift boutique—this Small Business Saturday to promote a selfie contest. Each year, Golden Key comes up with a special theme and event for the day, but has found that working with other businesses helps create more shopper buzz.
For Small Business Saturday 2015, Golden Key and the other participating four businesses are holding a selfie contest for their customers. Starting November 1st, customers can take selfies in each of the participating businesses, holding up signs like “I Love Shopping Small at Golden Key.” The businesses will then put together a slideshow on their Facebook pages using the hashtag #shopsmallsterling. Whichever selfies get the most likes will win a prize—between the five stores, the prizes are worth $1,000 in value.
Penny Bright, who owns Golden Key Gifts with her husband, Terry, suggests that working with other local businesses helps attract more shoppers to downtown Sterling on Small Business Saturday because they know that multiple businesses will be participating and providing interesting promotions to celebrate the day. Golden Key Gifts has participated in Small Business Saturday for several years and finds that shopper traffic on the day is generally higher than what it is the following Saturday.
“Working together [with other businesses] just always seems to yield more benefits,” Bright adds.
Read more about Small Business Saturday.
A version of this story was originally published on October 13, 2014.