By Marie Rosecrans
Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday . . . sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the shopping “holidays.” But I always make it a point to celebrate Small Business Saturday. Falling just two days after Thanksgiving, it reminds consumers to support the small companies around their neighborhoods, cities, and states. For small businesses, it’s an opportunity to get the word out about what makes your business unique.
Why do consumers like to buy from small businesses? For me, it means personalized shopping. When I walk into the restaurant down the street from my home, it’s gratifying to know that Sean at Johnston’s Saltbox remembers what my favorite glass of Chardonnay is and knows that I prefer the cheese plate over the olives. It’s a refreshing trend in uncertain times: People are gravitating more to that type of friendlier personalized experience. Connections still matter—perhaps more than ever.
Last year, Small Business Saturday encouraged consumers to spend about $17.8 billion at smaller companies. Excitingly, more people decided to visit and purchase from independent businesses on Small Business Saturday in 2018 than ever before (which bodes well for this year). A whopping 96% of Small Business Saturday shoppers agreed that the day made them want to continue “shopping small” for the entire year. But for business owners, Small Business Saturday can come with its own list of challenges, especially when you’re already focused on every other task that comes with running your own company.
Competing during the busy season
Small businesses have to compete with larger companies with more staff and larger budgets. Luckily, technology has become an equalizing force for a lot of small businesses, letting you augment the personalized experiences you offer with, say, the convenience of a chatbot or an automated scheduling system. This is democratizing how businesses reach customers through social reach and impact.
For example, the Healdsburg Running Company in northern California’s wine country combines its online store with an unmatched customer experience and a true sense of community. There are a lot of big-box athletic shoe stores, and plenty offer online capabilities to create a convenient experience. But my sister still gets her shoes from a store two-and-a-half hours away because of the community and culture that the company has created. The owner hosts evening runs and uses a highly engaging Instagram channel to marry the in-person customer experience with an online, interconnected world.
Here are a few ways small business owners can distinguish themselves from larger competitors and focus on the authentic and unique interactions that consumers are seeking on Small Business Saturday (and the rest of the calendar year):
1. Figure out your goals
The first thing you want to do when preparing for Small Business Saturday is to determine what type of impact you want the day to have on your business. You want to plan for the types of marketing campaigns you aspire to put into the market.
Planning well in advance is important, and we’re only a few weeks away. Ideally, you’ve already begun to map out the day—not to mention what will go into your follow-up efforts. If you haven’t started, outline all of your objectives and begin putting the appropriate plan in place.
This might include sending out a series of emails inviting people to stop by, bringing in special treats, partnering with a nonprofit (e.g., being a drop-off site for canned food or household item donations), or partnering with other small businesses that offer a complementary product or service.
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2. Set your targets
In addition to creating a marketing plan, make sure you have an idea of how much traffic you want to generate online and how much foot traffic you hope to achieve in-store. Start by looking at last year’s traffic and revenue and use that to determine what type of lift to expect. If you didn’t track this last year, start now so that you’re continually focused on improvement. Take into consideration how much inventory you have on-site and make sure to order more if needed. A lot of flowing traffic is good; a traffic jam is not.
3. Determine your community engagement strategy
What type of community outreach do you want to do? As a small business, fostering community between your customers and partners is critical. How are you promoting Small Business Saturday on your social channels?
There’s a store I frequent in my hometown called Poppy . The owner does a great job engaging followers and prospective followers on social media. In the past, those who shared a social post with the outfits they purchased along with a tag mentioning the store were entered into a contest for a gift card. This is a great way to leverage the power of social media and build that sense of community around your store or product.
4. Provide a unique customer experience
What type of customer experience do you want to provide that day? What is your follow-up plan on all of those people you’ve touched? You want to make sure you’re creating a relationship with that customer in such a way that they keep coming back in the months and years ahead.
The Reading Bug is another small business (and my favorite bookstore) that stands out during Small Business Saturday—and every day beyond that. In a time when most people buy their books online, The Reading Bug helps me find gifts for just about anyone at any age, from books to specialty toys and items you just cannot find anywhere else. But one thing I love most about The Reading Bug is that it’s more than just about books and gifts. The company runs workshops for writers, hosts classes for new moms, and organizes yoga for babies and parents. It has truly created a centralized community hub that’s less like a store and more like a gathering place.
Consumers love small businesses that offer unique experiences and add value to the community around them. In today’s often impersonal world, these businesses add value to their neighborhoods and have the opportunity to create lasting relationships with customers. Armed with these four tips, you have the chance to showcase your strengths this Small Business Saturday, and that’s a pretty big deal you shouldn’t miss.
About the Author
Post by: Marie Rosecrans
As Senior Vice President of SMB Marketing at Salesforce, Marie Rosecrans focuses on empowering small and medium businesses with the tools and resources they need to grow. Before joining Salesforce in 2008, she held positions in customer support, professional services, product marketing, and program management at Oracle, PeopleSoft, Evolve, and Primavera. Marie lives in the San Francisco Bay area and enjoys hiking and traveling with her husband, teen, and tween.
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