By Margot Carmichael Lester, Staples® Contributing Writer
Small Business Saturday gives small business owners a terrific opportunity to get their share (and maybe even more) of holiday spending between Black Friday’s consumer chaos and Cyber Monday’s digital deals. So be sure to make the most of this event for your retail business.
Try these tips for getting ready for Small Business Saturday:
Once you’ve settled on your promotions, create a postcard and matching flyers for your cashier or front desk staff to give out, and then head to a Staples® Copy & Print Center and your promotional mailer will be landing in mailboxes in no time. “With everything — I mean everything — online, our mailboxes have become almost empty except for the occasional paper bill,” says Orlando-based copywriter Sara Anastasia. “Yet we still open our mailboxes in hopes of finding something pretty and intriguing. That's when a beautifully designed direct mail piece can be used to a small business's advantage. It catches our eye and we read it.” You can also use the same design to send an email blast that reinforces your messaging and serves as a last-second reminder.
If you don’t have a list of customers and you’re a member of your local Chamber of Commerce, you may be able to buy or rent a mailing list of business owners — and potential customers — in your area. Print out custom labels and you’re ready to go. Ron Cates of marketing services company Constant Contact says you can build a list quickly and easily from your Facebook page. “Include a link to your email sign-up form with a status post that says: ‘Shop small this holiday. Join our email list for a special Small Business Saturday offer,’” he suggests. “This post sets the stage for future reminders as November 29th approaches.”
You can do more if you collaborate with other stores participating in Small Business Saturday. Go in on advertising and marketing materials with other businesses in your neighborhood. This shows that there are several options in your location, attracting customers who want to do more in less time. See what Small Business Saturday activities and promotions your local Chamber of Commerce or economic development office is planning. You may be able to piggyback at low or no cost while extending your reach beyond your normal customer base.
“Businesses need to play offense and take a more proactive approach,” says Las Vegas-based Adam Dukes, author of They Said What?!, a reputation management book. He suggests doing a drawing at your place of business to drive foot traffic. “It would obviously have to be a great prize, but [it’s] a great way to build buzz before Small Business Saturday.” Promote the contest via social media, email marketing, displays and signage or a banner. Don’t forget to state clearly when the drawing will occur and that customers must be present to win.
Many small business owners go beyond deals and contests on Small Business Saturday. “We have spotted a trend with small businesses...hosting in-store events to attract new customers and give existing customers a good reason to return and spend more,” says Barb Morgen, chief storyteller for Brown Paper Tickets, a fair-trade online ticketing and registration company with offices in Seattle and Bellevue, WA. “Restaurants are holding cooking classes, musical instrument stores are holding concerts, cabinetmakers are holding kitchen-design classes, and clothing boutiques are holding fashion shows or banding together with other boutiques to do the same.” Plan festivities during store hours or make it even more special by hosting an after-hours event.
Customers’ needs are high this time of year. Most want a suitable outing with family and friends alongside a calm and productive shopping experience. Plan to make your business a welcoming environment with cheerful holiday music — maybe live performances by a local chorus or combo. Check the fire code and then use battery-powered or real candles to create ambience, and perhaps even tee up a Yule log screensaver on customer-facing monitors, too. Serve hot chocolate or eggnog and holiday-themed cookies.
Help customers remember you after they’re done shopping with promotional gifts like posters, can/bottle holders and business cards or discount coupons. Choose items that complement your business type and will be useful to your customers. For instance, a letter opener emblazoned with your logo and address comes in handy opening all those holiday cards; a customized tote bag is useful for carrying gifts.
While you may not have time to do all these activities this year, even one or two will help to make the season bright and keep your cash register ringing like jingle bells.