Marketing, PR & Advertising, Retail, and Small Business & Startups

Get involved in Small Business Saturday

November 28, 2019
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George Fotis large
George Fotis. Courtesy Michigan Small Business Development Center

Nov. 30 is Small Business Saturday, a day to celebrate and support small businesses and all they do for their communities.

Small Business Saturday was originally founded by American Express in 2010 when small businesses were still hurting from an economy in recession. An effort was made to help support local shops on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, encouraging shoppers to do their holiday shopping in their local communities.

Known for the #ShopSmall campaign, all small businesses can participate in Small Business Saturday. The main focus is on shopping with the smaller mom-and-pop stores, unlike Black Friday where shoppers hit mostly big chain stores. According to a small business economic impact study done by American Express in 2018, for every dollar spent at a local shop, approximately 67 cents stays in the local community, which has a big impact.

Small Business Saturday gained national momentum in 2011 when the Senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of this day and even got a shout-out from the president of the United States. It’s since become very popular with many small businesses throughout the country and endorsed by the U.S. Small Business Administration and many local chambers of commerce and shopping districts. It also has become an important part of the way many small businesses launch their busiest shopping season.

According to the 2018 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, total reported spending among U.S. consumers who said they shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on this day reached a record high of an estimated $17.8 billion. The same survey reported that more than 70% of consumers are now aware of the Small Business Saturday initiative and 96% of consumers who reported shopping on this day make them want to shop in their local communities all year long.

As a consumer, not only will you be making an impact in your small business community by participating in this holiday shopping tradition, but you can benefit from the many special promotions by participating retailers. If you’re a small business, you can take advantage of the many customizable marketing materials from American Express to help promote your business and get the word out. Resources for small businesses are available here.

The U.S. Small Business Administration also is a big supporter of the event. They offer small business owners a variety of helpful tips.

As a small business, you can drum up some extra sales by getting involved in local events in your community. Make sure to check with your local chamber of commerce for any shopping events you can participate in. Most chambers will provide a directory of local shops to help customers find you. Small Business Saturday isn’t just for retailers; if your business has a physical location in a high traffic area, consider hosting an open house where you can invite shoppers and offer snacks and refreshments. It’s a great way to connect and offer an extra energy boost for their busy shopping day, especially if they have kids with them.

As a previous small business owner with several retail stores, Small Business Saturday was a great time to communicate with our customer base through email and newsletters. I recall the buzz we generated in preparation for this day and how important it was to get new shoppers through the door and convert them into repeat and lifetime customers.

Regardless what promotional methods you use to bring in shoppers, make certain you provide them with a very pleasant and positive shopping experience to keep them coming back. Since many small businesses can have a hard time competing with larger chain stores, especially on price, it’s important to add value in other ways by offering refreshments, free gift wrapping, free gift with purchase and a coupon they can use on their next shopping experience with you.

Here are some additional ways to consider in motivating shoppers to visit you.

Post on social media

Make sure to post relevant content on social media, share any personal story related to your business and how it has impacted your local community. Also consider live streaming with Facebook Live to share what is going on in your business in real time, and remember to create a Facebook event to encourage your social media fans to visit by inviting them.

Offer a special discount

Promote a special event discount or early bird discount for those early shoppers.

Reach out to your customer base

Email a special invite to your current customer base with an exclusive offer only for them to make them feel valued and special. If you do not have their email, call them or mail them an invite. When they do visit make sure to capture their email to send them future promotions.

Partner with another business

Partner with other businesses next to you and promote each other. If you’re a coffee shop, hand out a special discount card to the book store next to you. Have that business do the same and it’s a win-win. You also can offer discounts to shoppers who have a receipt from your partner stores.

Entertain visitors

For inexpensive entertainment, set up a photo booth as your shoppers are more likely to share their pictures and shopping experience on social media.

Entice shoppers with visual displays

If weather permits, try displaying some popular items outside your store to further entice shoppers. Also, get creative and have fun with window visual displays that are eye-catching and make sure to have plenty of gift certificates on hand for those unsure what gift to buy for that someone special.

After the day is done, consider posting pictures and stories of your event on social media, and remember to personally thank everyone who came out and supported your business by sending a hand-written thank you letter or holiday card to show you really value them.