The Saturday after Thanksgiving, people around the country will visit independently owned stores and restaurants to mark Small Business Saturday. Last year’s event drew 108 million shoppers who spent $12.9 billion, making it one of the busiest days of the year for many small businesses.
Yet, Small Business Saturday is more than just a big day for sales. It’s also a celebration of community. By joining forces with other local businesses — for example, by hosting a joint event — you can showcase what makes your neighborhood special and build lasting community spirit.
Even with just a few short weeks before Small Business Saturday, there is still time to round up other local businesses and plan a memorable day.
1. Gauge Interest
Reach out to other neighborhood business owners about teaming up on for Small Business Saturday. Include those that may not be obvious candidates — for instance, the owner of the neighborhood hardware store, the dentist, the local accountant. Don’t worry about specifics just yet; simply find out who would like to participate and compile an email list. Call or stop by your neighborhood business association or chamber of commerce, if you have them. They may be able to contribute resources, offer suggestions or let you know about other Small Business Saturday initiatives already underway.
2. Brainstorm Ideas
Once you’ve gauged people’s interest, start soliciting event ideas from the group. You could arrange a face-to-face meeting, but using email might be easier than finding a meeting time that works for everyone. Aim to keep the planning simple: For example, each business could offer its own promotions, giveaways or other incentives and then decide as a group on a common element or two to tie the event together.
A few ideas that have worked for other communities include:
- A neighborhood-wide raffle. Each business could hand out raffle tickets to customers who make purchases (or, in the case of service-oriented businesses, when customers book an appointment or consultation). When customers are finished shopping, they can turn their raffle tickets in to a drawing for a gift basket that includes items from all the businesses.
- Cross-promotions with restaurants. Ask neighborhood restaurants and cafés if they would be willing to offer a small discount or other incentive to people who bring in a store receipt. You could work out similar arrangements with other types of businesses — for example, a spa might offer a small discount on a massage or other services to customers who show receipts.
- Committing to a cause. The group could choose a local charity and encourage customers to bring in donations in exchange for a discount or small gift. Customers could bring in three canned goods for a local food bank to get 15 percent off a purchase, for instance. After the event, the businesses can present the pooled donations to the charity.
Set deadlines for providing input and gaining consensus to keep the planning on track. Also, decide on the hours the event will take place, choosing a time when all the businesses will be open (or that will require minimal disruption).
3. Assign To-Dos
Create a list of tasks that need to be completed before the event and deadlines for getting them done. Then, decide with the group who will do what. If someone has graphic design skills, he or she could take charge of creating and printing out event fliers. Someone else could order raffle tickets if you’re planning a drawing, or contact the charity the group has chosen if you’re collecting donations. Make sure to pass along any important information that comes from those conversations — such as whether the charity you’re working with needs some types of items more than others.
Along with delegating essential tasks, look for opportunities to liven up the event. For example, if someone in the group knows a singer or a popular local street performer, he or she could ask them to participate.
4. Promote the Event
Encourage business owners to promote the event through their email lists and social media pages, and to send reminders as the date draws closer. Be sure fliers are distributed to each business so they can hang them up.
Also, reach out to your local newspaper to spread the word. If you’re working with a business association or chamber of commerce, they might write up a press release and send it to news outlets. A concerted, consistent publicity effort will boost your chances of a strong turnout.
5. Stay Connected
Keep the momentum going after Small Business Saturday by finding other opportunities to team up with your peers. One way is to work with complementary businesses. For instance, a home goods store could plan a home design workshop with a local interior designer. An accountant and financial planner could co-host a money management seminar.
Simple, everyday gestures also go a long way in building community. Recommending other local businesses to your customers and on your social media pages shows your generosity and gives people a better sense of what makes your neighborhood great. That gives customers more incentive to keep returning — which could boost your sales, and your peers’.