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Small Business Saturday: What It Is And How To Make The Most of It

small-business-saturday1-e1320932175381Saturday, November 30th, 2013 marks the 4th annual Small Business Saturday. If you aren’t aware of Small Business Saturday, don’t feel bad – it’s still a relatively new thing. It’s exactly what it sounds like: it falls on the Saturday after Black Friday, a day when larger retailers all over the country offer special deals, discounts, and often extended hours, to lure shoppers as they dive into holiday shopping. Small Business Saturday was started as a response to Black Friday wherein consumers are urged to forgo the big stores in favor of patronizing local small businesses.

It’s new, but already powerful and indicative of a shift in the general consumer consciousness; more than ever, shoppers are aware of the damage that big corporate retailers can inflict on local economies. Through events like Small Business Saturday, consumers are empowered with the ability to support small businesses and do their part to reverse the monopoly that big stores typically hold over holiday shopping.

As a small business owner, what can you do to get involved with Small Business Saturday and compete with corporate retailers? We have a few thoughts and strategies:

  • Leverage your social network
    • This is an obvious thing to do, but that makes it all the more worth mentioning – and doing really well. One of the key advantages that small businesses have over big businesses is an intimate connection with their audience. You work with them on a daily basis, are personally familiar with their needs and wants, and you might even be their neighbor. All of this makes it more likely that your social media audience will directly engage with you and pay attention to what you have to say. So what do you want to say?
      • Educate your customers via social media about what Small Business Saturday is and why it’s important.
      • Tell them what kind of deals your business will be running in conjunction with the new shopping holiday (can we call it a “shopiday”?) along with any details about extended hours.
  • Connect with other businesses
    • Chances are, other businesses in your local area are participating in Small Business Saturday. Talk to them and find out what they’re doing, and see how you can work in support of each other. For example, maybe you can team up with 2 or 3 other small businesses nearby and create a shop-a-thon punch card – if a person gets stamped at every location, they get an extra 10% off their purchase (again, just an example, but you get the idea. There is strength in numbers.)
  • Host an event
    • Small Business Saturday is often the perfect chance to take your sales off-campus by hosting a pop up shop, or other special, temporary marketplace experience. Book sales, craft fairs, art exhibitions – all of these (and obviously much more) have been gaining popularity as one-off events. The benefits are many:
      • You can take over interesting, unique spaces that may not work for a permanent retail location but make for an alluring one-day shopping destination.
      • You can expand your inventory – bring out all the things you maybe don’t have room to display in your regular space.
      • Jump off the computer screen – are you an online retailer? A real life shopping event on Small Business Saturday is the perfect opportunity to give your customers an exclusive chance to peruse your goods in the 3D world, and also a rare opening to personally interact with them and expand your brand with more depth than a web presence alone can give you.
      • Working with others: get a big enough space and invite other, related small businesses to join your event. You can share the space, the costs, expand your promotion capability, and offer your customers a more diverse way to experience the convenience of one-stop shopping that big stores can provide while still supporting local small businesses.
  • Compete online
    • When it comes to brick-and-mortar businesses, it’s easier to give customers a reason to choose small businesses over big corporations; a more personal experience, better customer service, supporting your local neighborhood economy…the list really goes on and on. But what about if you’re an internet-based small business? What makes people want to choose your company when mega-retailers like Amazon exist?
    • The answer: you need to have the same differentiators as your non-online small business counterparts. You’re unlikely to be able to deliver the same extensive range of goods at low prices like Amazon (and if you can, then please let me know so I can invest in your company) but you can offer great customer service. How do you do that?
      • Think of your website not as the thing that interacts with your customers, but as a tool to allow you to interact with them.
      • Make sure your website conveys a personal sense of who you are. It doesn’t have to try too hard or be annoyingly obvious – just make sure your audience understands that your online retail site is as much as human-run small business as it would be if it were in a storefront down the street.
      • Ask for feedback – and actually listen.
  • Same strategies as offline businesses
    • Find similar online businesses (you probably already know who these people are) and see if they’re interested in cross-promoting for Small Business Saturday.
    • Use social media to push out marketing materials for any special events or deals associated with Small Business Saturday.
  • Be present and be prepared
    • Ideally, your online business will see a huge influx of sales and traffic because of Small Business Saturday and the associated marketing you’ve been doing around it. As such, make sure that you’re ready for those extra sales and new customers. Executing the process of filling and shipping orders, and quickly addressing any issues, questions or concerns that might arise, will go a long way towards converting new patrons into lasting customers. Small businesses can give so much more to an online shopping experience that big retailers can’t. You know that, and we know that. Small Business Saturday is a fantastic opportunity to really be on your game so that your customers know it too.

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