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Small Business Saturday: Not Just For Retailers Anymore

Small Business Saturday is about supporting local businesses, retail or not. These ideas will help non-retailers make the most of the annual initiative.
November 22, 2013

It may seem like retailers have a lock on Small Business Saturday. Traditionally it’s a day for shoppers to support their local businesses while holiday shopping, but what’s often overlooked are the many non-retail businesses that fit into a consumer’s daily life. Where’s the love for the plumber? The consultant? The home health-care agency and the auto repair shop?

Shop Small, Support Small

Few non-retail companies participate in Small Business Saturday. They can feel somewhat invisible, or simply don’t recognize that they too have a place within a community that wants to celebrate local companies. Many non-retail small businesses simply write a blog post promoting the concept and reminding customers to support local businesses. But there are other non-retail companies that have found creative ways to fully participate in Small Business Saturday, connecting with their community while also growing their businesses.

Admittedly, there are some inherent challenges. Companies, like B2Bs, have long sales cycles and can’t necessarily push to “close” on a specific day. Or they may have high-end pricing, and feel that buyers won’t be motivated by a cash-back reward. And, of course, many non-retail companies don’t even open on Saturdays.

Those challenges didn’t deter Lisa Alexander, a marketing consultant in Cypress, Texas. “It’s all B2C that time of year,” she says. “I was asking myself, how can I take advantage of that weekend?” Instead of trying to close sales or make offers to existing clients, Alexander decided to use the Small Business Saturday hook to reach out to new potential clients.

Last year, Alexander offered a “marketing boot camp” webinar that attendees could audit for free from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. “I wanted to see how much traction and response I could get,” she says.

The response was terrific. Over 50 people signed up, and only five of those were existing clients. Alexander offered all the attendees a reduced price if they signed up for her entire bootcamp series within a week after the event. Alexander plans to run the special again this year, but she’ll shorten the conversion time frame on signing up for the whole webinar series to 24 hours.

It can certainly help if a non-retail business either has a retail component, or partners with a retailer. Lambert’s Home Health Care sells uniforms and medical equipment to hospitals, schools and to some home-based customers with medical conditions. The company has two retail spaces in Knoxville, Tennessee, that have participated in Small Business Saturday.

“We tried to focus on items appropriate for a one-off purchase,” says Ashley Plauché, whose parents own the company. “B2B wasn’t our target here.” Plauché says that retail traffic that day was strong, “We will definitely do it again. People want to reinvest money into the community and we are able to fulfill that component they are looking for.” Many of those customers who shopped on Saturday also work for those large corporate customers, which gives Lambert’s not only an extra visit and a sale, but an extra brand impression.

Another way to strengthen customer response to Small Business Saturday is to extend the concept into the rest of the year. At Yobo Restaurant in Newburgh, New York, owner Debbie Raacke has trained her waitstaff to mention it all year long, especially when a customer pays with an American Express card. The company also advertises the concept year-round. “It’s great for us especially since in the past few years a number of franchises have opened up near us and it’s difficult to compete,” Raacke says. “Business jumps that day by at least 30 percent.” Yobo also sells a lot of gift certificates that Saturday.

Tips To Get Involved

Whether your small business is B2B, service-oriented or not even open on Saturday, there are several ways to successfully participate in Small Business Saturday:  

  • Make an offer to customers with a window of opportunity that connects to Small Business Saturday— for example, a discount redeemable during the week before or after.
  • Rather than simply offering a coupon, create an event for customers to attend like, “Join us for cake to celebrate!” Consider partnering with a retail or other high-visibility business that fits your brand or customer base.
  • Send notes to your clients (and stand out from the typical holiday card rush), thanking them for supporting your small business during the past year.
  • Show appreciation to your own small-business vendors and suppliers, letting them know that you recognize they're a fellow small business and you're happy to support them.

Small Business Saturday isn’t just for holiday shopping. It could be a day for your customers to request an estimate, book a vacation or sign up for a service or educational training. Or it could be a day for you to celebrate and be thankful for your own and others’ successful small-business ventures. It’s about making a personal connection with people in your community who are eager to support local ventures. You don’t have to be a retailer to do that.

Read more articles on Small Business Saturday.

Photo: Getty Images