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9 Ways to Capitalize on Small Business Saturday

Mark your calendars for November 24 #shopsmall


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Small Business Saturday 2018 is fast approaching – Nov. 24 – which means local firms have just a few weeks to prepare for the nationwide event that celebrates what these organizations do for their communities.

Nestled between the big box store sales of Black Friday and the rush to get deals on tech products on Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday (or Shop Small Saturday) was started in 2010 by American Express to promote local businesses – independent, family-owned, startup or otherwise small ventures – which make up 99.7 percent of all registered businesses in the U.S.

In 2017, the movement generated a reported $12 billion in spend, as neighborhood champions, trade groups, public officials, and everyday consumers came together to shop small.

But Small Business Saturday is about addressing a very real issue: Small businesses are being crowded out by the enormous economies of scale that companies like Amazon and Walmart can afford. There’s a sense of community on SBS, but that camaraderie will mean little to small business owners if the sales don’t follow and their cash flow suffers.

Here are nine ways to capitalize on the "shop small" movement, which culminates with Small Business.

1. START PROMOTING NOW

It’s never too early to talk about Small Business Saturday — so if you haven’t already, start promoting. Drop it into conversations with customers, post photos and videos on your social media with #shopsmall hashtags, and outfit your website with Shop Small logos, badges and materials that remind customers the day is almost upon us.

2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THE FREE RESOURCES AT THE SHOP SMALL STUDIO

American Express created a Shop Small Studio to help businesses get the word out. You can create unique promotional materials like posters, flyers, and social media badges (in both English and Spanish), download an event checklist, and learn how to rally your neighborhood to your cause.

3. EXTEND YOUR HOURS

To make the most out of the single day, consider making Small Business Saturday your longest day of the year. Give customers every opportunity to walk by your store and get drawn in, whether they’re on their way to breakfast or strolling through the neighborhood after a late dinner.

4. GO BIG ON CUSTOMER SERVICE

Customer service may be one of the last true benefits that small local businesses hold over the big box stores and e-commerce giants. On Small Business Saturday, of all days, make outstanding customer service your hallmark: Re-emphasize to employees how to engage customers, problem solve on the floor or over the phone, and what their talking points should be in particular on Small Business Saturday.

5. ROLL OUT PERKS

You can’t, and shouldn’t, compete with big box-type discounts on Small Business Saturday. One of the takeaways of the celebration is understanding the value of paying a little extra to support local businesses.

That said, you can use SBS as a showcase for the little perks customers get when they shop with you. Offer free gift wrapping, home delivery or personalized shopping experiences and advice. A survey by the NFIB showed that 83 percent of those who became aware of Small Business Saturday were inspired to “shop all year long” at small – and offering those little touches could be a good reason why. 

6. TEAM UP WITH OTHER SMALL BUSINESSES

Small Business Saturday is as much about the neighborhood events, such as the locally organized pop-up markets or food festivals, as it is individual businesses. You’re not in this alone, and you should champion other ventures as much as you’re asking others to champion your own.

Consider spearheading promotional partnerships with nearby businesses where alignment makes sense—shopping at a related store will get you discounts from both. Or do what businesses in Fruita did and create a small business-themed scavenger hunt for the day. Whatever you can do to raise up the entire small business community will benefit you long-term.

7. PLEDGE SUPPORT TO LOCAL CAUSES

Young people in particular love businesses that have a social element to their model. See if you can find a local charity that aligns with your business and promote your promise to donate a portion of SBS proceeds to that organization. You’ll be doing a good deed and encouraging people to donate themselves – by way of buying from you.

8. GATHER EMAIL ADDRESSES FOR A NEWSLETTER

Email newsletters are one of the most powerful and affordable ways to market your business. A good marketing newsletter, when done right, can deliver your latest deals, coupons, promotional events and other big news to your customers.

Use the expanded foot traffic and excitement of the “holiday” to encourage people to sign up for your newsletter. A special SBS newsletter with extra deals should seal the deal and get them hooked on your updates.

9. TIE YOUR BUSINESS TO HOLIDAY SHOPPING

Black Friday has become synonymous with holiday shopping, to the point that “Black Friday deals” now last for weeks before and after the day itself. Use SBS to promote your holiday-related products, deals, and packages, and deck your halls with holiday-themed decorations to drive the point home: This is where people can and should come to shop for their loved ones for the next month.

Small Business Saturday may be a huge day for your local business and community, but don’t stop there. Use this increased awareness to think beyond that single day and encourage people to shop with you and your fellow small business owners more often.

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Meredith Wood

Meredith Wood is the VP of Content and editor-in-chief at Fundera, an online marketplace for small business loans. Prior to Fundera, Wood was the CCO at Funding Gates.

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