If you’re running a small business, November 25 should hold a special mark on your calendar. Consider it your Black Friday holdover, made especially for local shops like yours. But Small Business Saturday (SBS), a tradition started by American Express in 2010 and officially recognized by the U.S. Senate a year later, isn’t just a shopping day—it’s a movement.
Small Business Saturday was started by American Express in 2010 as a day to “shop small” and support local businesses.
It’s a day Americans recognize that small businesses are the economic engine of communities and that, collectively, these brick and mortar storefronts have a huge impact on neighborhoods. Last year alone, SBS generated an estimated $15.4 billion for local retailers. But beyond this financial impact, local businesses create community and keep neighborhoods alive in many ways. Here are some tips for boosting your small business for the big day.
Set Your Place
Don’t be afraid to decorate your storefront and set out signs to draw attention and attract foot traffic. From left to right: images courtesy of cherryandme.com; creativeandco.tumblr.com.
Placemaking isn’t necessarily a new term, but it’s a visible trend as more and more real estate developers answer millennial live-work-play demands. Look beyond major cities and notice how even suburban areas these days are “urbanizing.” You’ll find apartments built above grocery stores, shops next door to restaurants, and co-working spaces on the same block as clothing stores. The live-work-play lifestyle, where your day is no longer compartmentalized, but flows from morning to eve in the same neighborhood, is on the rise.
As a small business, this is your gateway to success. So in the spirit of placemaking, make your storefront a welcoming and unique spot in the neighborhood—on Small Business Saturday and every day after. A sweets bowl on the counter and dog treats at the door can go a long way to connecting with your community in a fashion that online retailers simply can’t.
Make the Old Neighborhood New Again
Once upon a time, the neighborhood was the center of life. As times have changed, so have community rituals. Your neighbor may not bring you a pie when you move in. And when you run out of sugar, instant grocery delivery service can be just as convenient as knocking next door. But when you live in a placemaking world, that’s bad for business.
Get to know your fellow neighborhood shop owners. You’re not only selling your wares, you’re selling your where. Band together as one, and separate shops create a hot spot for all.
Since every neighborhood has its own vibe and local reputation, make yours a destination by coordinating a Small Business Saturday event. It’s as easy as designing flyers with a single local theme (like a Pajama Shopping day) and a directory of stores in the area. And since you’re in it together, that’s all the more hands to hang the flyers around town and get the word out to your collective customer base.
Make Your Budget Work For You
If you’re running a small business, you may not have the biggest of budgets. So how can you make a splash without breaking the bank? Get creative.
Use sidewalk chalk art to serve as a wayfinder to your front door. Get a college intern to run your social media for credit or a part-time gig. Rally your neighborhood shop owners to buy into a memorable #hashtag, and make it your marketing mantra.
Remember those neighbor relationships you’re nurturing? Pool together community dollars for some co-op campaigns, and mine each other’s networks for resources. Independent designers, writers, and marketers can help bring your ideas to life quickly and cost-effectively, like creating a shopping passport that promotes bigger savings when shoppers visit several retailers in your local directory.
And finally, don’t limit the festivities to the day itself. Bring the buzz by starting a countdown. Promoting “10 days to Small Business Saturday”—with sales and perks that get increasingly better—can turn a single day into a bigger occasion.
Go All-Hands on Hands-On
Providing a unique service, like a DIY gift wrapping station in your store, makes for a more personalized shopping experience.
‘Tis the season for…shopping stress. Along with holiday joys come the frustrations of driving, parking, and squeezing in more errands than time allows.
Lift the tenor by holding family-friendly holiday events in your shop, like a make-your-own-ornament or cookie-decorating contest. A simple table setup can also serve as a draw for passersby to check out what’s happening. Entice more people to participate by dangling discounts or small prizes for the most creative or unusual entries.
And don’t let the festivities end there. Use the event as a promotional device by capturing photos on Instagram or Snapchat, which participants can share out to their networks. Who doesn’t love a “look what I made” selfie?
Sell More Than What’s In-Store
In this on-demand world, the ability to buy what you’re looking for doesn’t necessarily pass muster for customer service. Add value and up the ambiance ante for shoppers to give them a fuller experience in real life.
Consider a strategic partnership with another small business that complements your offering. If you own a shoe store, think about letting an independent masseur/masseuse offer on-the-spot foot massages for a nominal fee. They get the foot traffic (pun intended) and your customers get a treat while shopping.
Or for something less industry-specific, hold your rummage sale with a bowl of punch. Customers lining up at the cashier can have a cup while they check out.
Want to really charm harried holiday shoppers? Help them check items off their to-do lists. Hire or partner with a local poet or writer who can pen customized cards that speak to newly bought gifts. Double up with visual artists who can add hand-stamped or calligraphed flourishes to gift-card envelopes. Adding a little extra pizzazz to the shopping experience not only boosts your customers’ mood, it may also build word-of-mouth marketing for your shop.
Close with a Come Back
Small Business Saturday is the perfect time to start an in-store email list or referral offer to build your network and get repeat customers.
“Come back soon,” you say to your customers—but how can you really help make that happen? Set your shop up for repeats.
If you hold a contest or in-store event, collect email addresses from participants so you can send out notices for future sales. Incentivize email signups with the promise of exclusive, pop-up sales for those who opt in—but only today, for a limited time!
To build your network further, try an instant referral game where customers get a small percent discount if they send out a social media post of their purchase to their followers and friends. Present a special voucher for a discount on their next visit, or offer a special bonus gift when they pop in on their birthday. After all, even though Small Business Saturday comes once a year, you’ve got 51 other weekends to sell-e-brate.
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