Globalization and the world marketplace have given us access to things from all over the world more cheaply and easily than ever before in history. But there's a cost, of course. When you can even do your grocery shopping online, it's easier and easier to forego in-person shopping for in-pajama shopping at your computer. And that can be a potential killer for small, local businesses. You know, those warm, sometimes quirky stores that scramble to survive among the monster retailers of the world. But great client engagement skills can be a source of hope for small companies.
In 2010, American Express started Small Business Saturday (SBS) as a way to bring local stores and vendors into the excitement and big dollars spent on Black Friday. It's a nod to the little guys and gals who work so hard to deliver personalized service and unique offerings, not to mention employment opportunities for people in our local communities.
SBS could be an opportunity for your small business to boost business in the all-important holiday season. Consider using these these strategies leading up to the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
1. Get savvy about using social media.
Ordering extra merchandise, scheduling additional staff and even bringing in free coffee and donuts won't mean a thing if you can't get your customers into your store—real or virtual.
As social media evolves to become even more important for companies who want to engage with customers, it's important to get your social media groove on. If you're not tech savvy, consider asking one of your employees to manage it for you. Ignoring the free outreach Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media platforms offer to small businesses is simply inadvisable at this point.
Try not to limit yourself to only mentioning your special events or sales. Social media can also be a hugely valuable source of information about your customers and how to better serve them. Using the data analytics that are available to you can tell you what's working and what isn't.
Just like with other forms of communication, the best kind is two-way! Encourage your customers to interact with your company and their friends on your social media pages. It can help get the word out!
2. Embrace creativity as one of your client engagement skills.
Now you may not feel like the most creative person on the planet, but it's worth investing a little time in differentiating yourself, both from big businesses and from your local competitors. Try listing those qualities that make your company unique and turn them into your hallmarks.
Maybe you notice your customers enjoy the eclectic music you play; turn the volume up! Perhaps one of your cashiers has an amazing voice; let 'em sing. Do you have menu specialties that people travel for miles to obtain? Advertise them!
Focusing on what makes you special and valuable to your community can help inspire you to develop creative promotions and create meaningful client engagement.
3. Team up with another local business for Small Business Saturday.
One of my favorite approaches to SBS is teamwork. Try partnering with other local businesses and encourage customers to visit each one of you. You could create little passports and stamps that customers can collect at each stop, offering a free gift for each customer who completes the circuit.
Or you could approach a friend who owns a small business across town to collaborate on a special offer for your shared customers. You could create a month-long discounted trial for beginner martial arts at your studio and another month-long trial at your friend's yoga studio. Or you could sell a pair of discounted gift cards for your friend's coffee shop and your dry cleaner.
Not only will these sorts of client engagement skills help bring in enthusiastic customers, you may be able to attract brand-new clients from other local small businesses. Share the love!
4. Use Small Business Saturday as an excuse to tune-up your company.
I like to look at SBS as a good opportunity to give my company a little checkup. Consider taking a step back and make sure everything's running smoothly in your business.
Before SBS, you can tend to the little details we sometimes let slip. Go ahead and fix that door that sticks dozens of times a day. Make sure all the information on your website is accurate and optimized for mobile users. Do an extra-deep clean so everything is sparkling for the big day. It may be easier to show off your client engagement skills if you make a favorable first (or even second) impression.
5. Create customized offerings for your customers.
While SBS can be a great way to bring in new or occasional customers, try not to miss out on your chance to further develop your business with existing customers.
I love to come up with a special bundle of products or services that I offer just once each year. Finding a way to make your usual services “deluxe” lets you charge a premium price and still have customers feel like they got their money's worth.
6. Foster a sense of community.
In a season that's so often focused on fulfilling material desires, SBS can be a chance to position yourself and your business as a force for good in your community. Consider partnering with a local organization and raising funds or donated items to help less fortunate people right in your own neighborhood.
Enlisting your customers in taking action for positive change can help deepen your client engagement while making a difference for people—your neighbors—in need.
Small Business Saturday comes but once a year, but it can be a good opportunity to really use your client engagement skills. When you have a chance to shine with local shoppers, you have a chance to give them a reason to shop local, not just on one Saturday a year, but every day.
Read more articles on customer relations.