Small Business Saturday, an initiative to get local customers shopping at small, independent businesses, is held every year the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It has grown exponentially since it was launched in 2010—last year, it generated an estimated $5.5 billion in consumer spending. But the really good news is, Small Business Saturday doesn’t need to be, in fact should not be, the only day your business benefits from consumers’ local-minded spirit. Whether you own a retail business or a restaurant, or provide a service, here are some ways any business that depends on local customers can enjoy Small Business Saturday-level sales every day of the year.
1. Hire right. Friendly, personal service is a big selling point for small businesses. When hiring new employees, look for those with “people skills.” It’s easy to train someone how to work a cash register, but you can’t teach a grouch how to be friendly. If you’re not hiring right now, make sure your front-line employees fit the bill for friendliness and helpfulness.
2. Know your stuff. Of course, friendliness isn’t everything: Employees need to be helpful and knowledgeable, too. With more customers “showrooming” by visiting small, local shops to touch and feel merchandise, then searching online for lower prices, you need to combat this behavior. Make sure your staff is well-versed in what you sell and can help customers compare options to find the best products for them. Educate your team about new merchandise and how to showcase what makes your business unique.
3. Offer something special. You can’t compete with Walmart on low, low prices, so don’t even try. Instead, go the opposite direction of mass-produced and focus on hard-to-find items. Promoting products customers can’t find anywhere else is an easy way to make your small store stand out. Look for unique items such as products made by local artisans or manufacturers or wares that tie into your neighborhood’s history. Not everything in your shop has to fit this bill—but be sure some key pieces do, and highlight them in your store windows, displays and marketing outreach.
4. Make your place a “hangout.” Is your business somewhere customers want to get in and get out of quickly, or do they linger? If your business becomes a community hangout, you’ll enjoy the benefits of growing sales and word-of-mouth. Figure out what would make your business more enjoyable and add it, whether it's tea and cushy chairs to refresh shoppers in your boutique, free Wi-Fi in your lunch cafe or a dog-friendly patio with fresh water bowls and pet treats.
5. Keep in touch. Capture customer information when they make a purchase. It’s easy to ask for an email address at the point of sale or include a form customers can fill out with their restaurant check. Once you’ve got their information, you can stay in touch with personalized emails and offers throughout the year. Streamline customer connections by using loyalty tools such as Belly, Perka or Mplifyr to capture purchase history as well as contact info so you can really tailor your marketing messages to what customers are interested in.
6. Be part of the community. Get involved in your local community in any way that makes sense to you, whether by joining the local chamber of commerce or business development association, speaking at local events or conferences, or participating in local charities and nonprofit events. When customers and prospects feel like you’re invested in the health of your community, they’ll naturally want to support you right back.
7. Team up. Small Business Saturday works because businesses nationwide participate, but you don’t have to wait until next year to join with other businesses in your area. Work with nearby businesses to come up with event ideas—a sidewalk sale during the summer months, a “taste of” event with local restaurants or anything that draws local customers to your area. A new company, Alignable, just launched to help empower local business connections.
8. Start your own “buy local” campaign. If your community doesn’t already have a buy-local movement, consider starting your own. Talk to your local elected officials, civic organizations and other business owners. The American Independent Business Alliance (AMIBA) website offers tools, templates and other resources to help you get started.
Read more articles on boosting sales this Small Business Saturday.