As a small business owner, you might feel jealous of the crowds that large, national retailers bring out on Black Friday. Their deep discounts, big advertising budgets and long hours are effective in turning out the shoppers.
Even though you’ll likely benefit from the crowds of shoppers who will be in a buying mode and ready to escape their visiting family-filled homes, there’s now an after-Thanksgiving Day retail promotion specifically created to encourage shopping at small businesses — Small Business Saturday.
Created as a promotion called 3/50 by Cinda Baxter, a small business advocate in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the original program encouraged shoppers to support three local merchants with purchases of $50 or more. Later, American Express adopted the idea and rebranded it Small Business Saturday. The credit card company then supported the promotion with the kind of marketing muscle typically reserved for major Hollywood productions, even including a commercial during last year’s Super Bowl.
Small Business Saturday quickly became a recognizable retailing holiday (like White Sales, President’s Day, etc.) that consumers are beginning to anticipate. It is something that you need to plan for early. Some small retailers are even expanding the idea to include more days during the holidays.
Try some of our tips to turn out large holiday crowds yourself this year:
Partner with other small businesses. Create an event by joining together with other nearby small businesses to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Try sidewalk sales, extended hours or even a scavenger hunt on that day that will direct customers from one business to the next. By pooling your marketing resources, you’ll reach a larger audience.
Offer incentives. Big box stores can offer door-busters (selling an item for less than its cost just to get people through the door). If your budget won’t allow a similar sale, try giving discounts to the first 10 customers or offering a buy one, get one (BOGO) program. Spread the love by offering discounts to customers who bring in receipts from other small businesses where they’ve shopped that day. You can also offer complimentary giftwrap or free layaway for purchases made on Small Business Saturday.
Make it an event. Celebrate the season and plan things that make Small Business Saturday different from an average shopping day. Serve refreshments, hold drawings for prizes and offer one-day-only coupons and sales. Use the day to support a local charity and take up items or monetary donations at your store. Or give a portion of your proceeds back to the organization.
Spread the word. Publicize Small Business Saturday every way you can. Lots of small business owners have had good luck just mentioning the event to customers when they’re shopping there in preceding weeks. Use social media to alert customers about special discounts or drawings. In many communities, participating small businesses join together to purchase radio or newspaper spots. You also can list your business for free on IndependentWeStand.org, a website dedicated to educating communities about the importance of buying local.
Keep it going. If Small Business Saturday is a success, there’s no reason you should wait a year until the next one. Join with other small businesses to create a monthly or bimonthly event to promote local businesses in your community.