Last year, customers spent an estimated $5.7 billion at small, independent businesses on Small Business Saturday. This year, the day dedicated to shopping local is projected to draw even larger crowds—and spur even bigger sales.
How can you make Small Business Saturday last well beyond November 29? Try the tips below to keep customers coming back to your business all year long.
1. Put your business on the map. For Small Business Saturday, you can put your business on the Shop Small map that tells local consumers where to find participating independent businesses. But all year long, you can making sure you’re listed on local search directories, too. If you haven’t already done so, visit local search directories such as Google, Bing, Yahoo!, Merchant Circle and YellowPages.com. The more local search directories you are listed in, the better chances your customers have of finding you.
2. Think local when it comes to keywords. Be sure to include geographically specific keywords in your business’s website tags, content and online advertising. For example, if your business is in Long Beach, California, you might want to include a range of geographic keywords, from Los Angeles to Long Beach to the neighborhood-specific direction, such as Belmont Shore and 2nd Street.
3. Spread the news. Your local business organization may be promoting Small Business Saturday to local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and local blogs and websites. But outreach shouldn't stop on Saturday; promote your business to these local media outlets all year long. The secret to success here is to get really local. For instance, sticking with our Long Beach example, don’t target a major newspaper like The Los Angeles Times, but a small community paper like The Grunion Gazette.
Smaller media outlets are less likely than big ones to be overwhelmed by PR pitches, so your message won’t get lost in the crowd. You can likely be less formal, too, and reach out to reporters or bloggers with a friendly email and a quick note. You’ll benefit from your community connections: talk about your business’s history in the area and your involvement in local organizations, or mention a mutual acquaintance to break the ice—local media probably know lots of the same civic and business leaders you do.
4. Reach out. Targeting your local community is just the beginning. Thanks to the Internet, many smaller businesses are finding new customer bases outside their immediate vicinity. Even if you don’t sell online, extending your online marketing by targeting prospects in nearby areas can pay off.
For best results, look for communities with a similar demographic to your customer base, and consumers who appreciate small, unique businesses. If they’re within a reasonable distance—and if what you sell or serve is unique or in-demand enough to make your business a “destination”—this approach can be the beginning of a whole new income stream. For instance, one retailer I spoke to whose clothing boutique caters to hip Long Beach women successfully attracted the attention of similar customers in the hip Silver Lake/Los Feliz area of Los Angeles, a 40-minute drive away. Online and social media advertising are great options; they allow you to target an extremely narrow geographic area and demographic, without spending a ton of money.
5. Be yourself. As a local small business owner, you’re the face of your business. People prefer to do business with people they like, so make it a point to be known in your community. Be active in charitable and business organizations. Engage on your community’s local Facebook page. Share your personal story in your marketing. (Why did you start your business? What is your mission? What is your passion?) Talk to your customers and get to know them. Greet regulars by name and learn what they like so you can show them the latest and greatest beer/dress/dog food you know they’ll love. Remember, you are your own best advertisement.
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