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Small Business Saturday: 8 Offbeat Ways To Attract More Customers

Stand out from the rest with these creative marketing ideas sure to get holiday shoppers through your doors.
Author, Profit First
November 19, 2013

To show their support of locally owned small businesses, consumers will unite to spend their dollars on Small Business Saturday, November 30. How can you capitalize on this opportunity? A little preparation can set you up to kick off the all-important holiday shopping season with big sales. Think differently, stand out and watch customers stream through your doors.

1. Legal Graffiti

Hire a local artist and commission him or her to create artwork in chalk around your shop. (Need help finding an artist? Check out your local high school or college.) Whether your artwork is holiday-themed or not, the idea is to capture the attention of passers-by. You can even use your sidewalk to encourage shoppers to text or email for special offers. Let consumers know what’s special about your shop, and they’ll want to know more. (Check with your municipal authorities to make sure chalking’s legal in your area, but once you have the go-ahead, the sky’s the limit.)

2. Oops! 

Leave sticky notes around town with discount offers for your shop, or drop lookalike cash with special deals for your special event. (Word of caution: Don’t work too hard to make your faux twenties look authentic; you don’t want a visit from the Treasury Department.) This tactic requires minimum investment and can yield big results.

3. Use The Magic Of Names

If you’re part of a vibrant shopping area, hire a magician or other sort of street performer to entertain folks near your store. As they perform, make it part of their job to collect prospective customers’ names and text them in to your store. Put a chalkboard in front of your store and invite your guests by name on the chalkboard.

I’ll tell you this, if I’m walking down the street and I see a chalkboard that says, “Come inside, Mike Michalowicz,” then I’m following orders. Names are magic. They’re compelling, and we can’t ignore them.

4. Cater To The Smallest Customers

Children may not be spending money, but they have enormous influence over the folks who are. Dinosaur footprints that lead to the store, or pictorial displays that hit eye level for kiddos can help bring grown ups in as well. Make it easy and pleasant for parents to shop with their children, and they’ll be able to comfortably spend more time and money in your store.

5. Use Free Samples As Bait 

Studies have repeatedly shown that if consumers actually hold an item in their hands, they’re less likely to walk out of a store without making a purchase. It’s loss avoidance—we want to keep what we have. Put your products in your customers’ hands. Whether it’s stationery (“Feel the texture of this paper”) or a cashmere scarf (“Amazingly soft, isn’t it?”), your customers will develop an attachment to your merchandise and want to make it theirs.

6. Build A Display That Moves Toward Your Door

If you have window display space, use it purposefully. Build your display so the most interesting pieces are closest to the door. Bonus points if you can build from left to right (mirroring the way we read) and have your display lead customers right to your door.

7. Show The Before, After, and After After

That’s not a typo. Mark your items with the regular price, your discounted price, and your special Small Business Saturday extra special price. Don’t hide your amazing deals; show them off!

8. Play Up A Teaser

People feel a need to continue when they. (That sentence is incomplete on purpose.) The full sentence? People feel a need to continue when they are left with incomplete information, hence the cliffhanger. Present shoppers with a cliffhanger outside your store and invite them inside for the resolution, such as “What was voted Top Toy of 2013? Come inside to find out.” or “This building was once used for illegal purposes. Step inside to find out the shady truth.”

Now that you’ve brought shoppers in who are curious, you’ll want to make sure to put your answers near the back of the store. That way people can browse all of your store as they work on resolving the puzzle.

Small Business Saturday is too important an opportunity to overlook. We have the rare opportunity to turn our locally owned limitations into assets that will allow us to capture our share of holiday retail sales. Make yourself stand out. Commit to being different.

Read more articles on Small Business Saturday.

Photo: Getty Images