Lessons Learned From Small Business Saturday

Image result for small business saturdayLike every year, I went out on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to do a little shopping.  I love Small Business Saturday. It gives me a sense of purpose to my holiday shopping. I feel better helping my community and look forward to seeing what little shops around town have in store for me, literally.  But I can’t help but put on my marketing hat everywhere I go – sometimes to the horror of the shop owner – and give advice on small things business can do to make a big impact.

Here are a few of the most common mistakes I saw in 2018.  With any luck you will stow these away for next year.

Common Mistake #1 – No Community Strategy

Image result for shop local district
Source: castleberryhill.org

Dear Mr or Mrs shop/yoga studio/restaurant owner, Why are you trying to do it alone?!  Mark your calendars now. In September/October 2019 call a meeting with the owners of your surrounding small businesses and work together on a plan.  Design signage, promotions and incentives together that are focused on your community. When you work together, you all win! But how does a pet toy boutique, a coffee shop and a restaurant work together?  

A few ways:

  1. If you don’t already, create an identity for your shop community.  Something like Nelson Street Row or Historic Horton Park Shopping District.  Once you have a name, create a Twitter and Facebook page. Each small business should become a member link to/from the page on their own websites.  Then promote the page in each store with signs or handouts encouraging people to like it. You can also advertise the page on each store’s own social presence.  Once November hits, start promoting upcoming events and deals on the community page.

  2. Develop a Small Business Saturday festival of sorts.  Create a Facebook event and promote it with signage around stores and streets for all of November.  The event might offer free gift wrapping to the first 50 customers at each location or offer piggy-back incentives, like spend $25 or more at Tony’s Pizza and get $25 off to Lulu’s Emporium.  It may even have attractions, like Santa or a photo booth.

  3. Take lots of photos!  You now have content to share on social for the next few weeks and next Small Business Saturday.  I recommend hiring a professional digital photographer from thumbtack.com for a few hundred bucks to cover the whole day.  You’ll be happy you did.

Common Mistake #2 – Nothing Special Planned

Want people to bust down your door this Small Business Saturday?  Give them an excuse. I went to one pet store this year and they had no sales, no incentives and no special draw.  I was in and out in a few minutes and purchased nothing, despite going there for the explicit reason to shop. One thing they could have done is offered a gift bag with the purchase of any of their doggy ornaments.  This might have made me think of my friends Amber and Roy who have a boxer. Wouldn’t they love a little boxer ornament? But I didn’t think about it and the store didn’t make me think about it. Missed opportunity.

Image result for tattered cover small business saturday
The Tattered Cover Book Store Source: David Hoyt’s Blog

The best execution I’ve ever seen of a Small Business Saturday is by The Tattered Cover Book Store in Denver, Colorado.  (PS their community is the Mile High Business Alliance) They turn SBS into a true event – and are packed! For example one year they offered:

  • Free book signing for multiple local authors (with book purchase of course).  How great is it to give a signed book for Christmas? Plus the authors and the store sell more books – win, win, win!
  • Free cookies & cider – inexpensive and a very nice treat.
  • Proceeds from gift wrapping went to support a local charity – reiterating the #shoplocal message

Common Mistake #3 – No Online Strategy

Not everyone wants to drive around town to support local boutiques, so make it easy for them.  Send a series of emails with an online Call To Action, in addition to coming into the store. This is especially valuable for yoga studios, hair salons and other local service companies.  Turn Small Business Saturday into your very own online shopping holiday with 1-day only specials and promotions. Your website is your online store front. Are you using it to its full potential?

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