Small Business Saturday is one of my favorite causes. The three year old program is one of the biggest efforts by the US Chamber of Commerce in partnership with American Express to grow small businesses. Every year for decades now the biggest shopping day of the year (or most celebrated at least) is Black Friday. The only problem with a huge Black Friday is that it generally is the event of the year for big box stores at the expense of small retailers. Shop Small Saturday was created to give small business a day of their own to make a big splash in the mad rush for holiday gifts and end of year savings. I have a few simple suggestions for retailers to try and implement in the next three days to make Small Business Saturday their biggest day of the year.
Today (tomorrow isn’t too late but today is better) you need to get on social media and make sure ALL of your followers and fans know you are participating in Shop Small Saturday. The emphasis on all is important this time. This may be the one time of year that I encourage small retailers to use the paid promotion options on Facebook or any other platforms. Create five or more posts about your "big sale" on Shop Small Saturday and pay for sponsored posts or even just straight up advertising. This will generally work out to a relatively small amount of money ($20-50) and the reach will be much higher than your typical posts. All five of those posts need to be posted today (tomorrow) and they need to have pictures of a product that you are selling or a service that is easily represented by a picture.
Tomorrow you need to follow up all of those posts with in-store branding from American Express for the Shop Small Saturday event. Make sure your store is decked head to toe for this event. Some of the free marketing materials from American Express should have been ordered a couple of weeks ago to ensure use for this week, but there are plenty of free options that are still useful. Plus there are electronic templates that can be downloaded and taken to your favorite print shop or sign shop for a quick run to be ready for Saturday. If you find you have time on day one…get all of this done in day one and you’ll have that much less stress.
Shut down for Friday. This means getting ready for an extra day off. I know that this isn’t something that many of you are keen on doing, particularly if you are a restaurant or have a shop in a strip mall with lots of traffic. If you think you can capitalize on that traffic then stay open. If you are going to be competing directly with the big box boys then I suggest you close shop on Friday. This means if you’re closed on Thursday (most of you are I assume) then Wednesday is going to be VERY busy. You need to make sure that you store inventory is prepped. Your employees are well trained on the discounts, inventory, and every little detail of customer service related information you can give them concerning your traffic generating deals. You need to make sure that you are ready with a bank run. You need to ensure that all of your systems are updated with proper pricing and that your signs are ready to go. Then you need to make sure that ALL of your customers know that you will be closed on Black Friday and reopened on Shop Small Saturday. Again, this may mean that you create five or more posts on your website, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, newsletter, and Pinterest accounts to ensure that ALL of your customers understand you will be closed on Black Friday. Make this another opportunity to explain that you’ll be having a "big sale" and that you wish them a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving with their family and friends. This is your way to overcome the hype and commercialism of Black Friday and become a more "human" alternative to the big box store. Ask people what they’ll be doing for the holiday. Share a favorite recipe. What ever you can do to make sure that people understand the importance of Small Business Saturday and encourage loyalty at the same time. This is a big deal and shutting down on Friday will make it all the more clear that this is a big deal and that you really do want their business on Saturday.
Thanksgiving day isn’t all turkey and football. Black Friday isn’t all shopping and coffee. Take time on these two days to remind people of the things you are thankful for, or to remind people of your sale, or to show people what you are doing on those days. Be personal. Be human. But don’t let the hours of social media browsing spent waiting for the turkey, or after the last big box deal go to waste. There will be millions of people using this "down time" to catch up with people on social media. If you happen to be one of those people they are catching up with…all the better.
Finally…I’d like to wish all of my readers a Happy Shop Small Saturday, and a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.
Here’s a great infograph from American Express and the Small Business Saturday team demonstrating the importance of small business and it’s impact on the national economy and more importantly the local economy.