5 Things to Do (or Not Do) for Small Business Saturday

By Carolyn Evans, Staples® Contributing Writer

Small Business Saturday can be big business or a big let-down. It all depends on how you leverage the national buzz to create local results.

Campaigns that raise general awareness of shopping small "will make consumers think of small businesses in their community and hopefully decide to visit a local business like ours," says Tina Guidroz, head designer of Lafayatte, LA–based Flowers & More by Dean and a florist on BloomNation.com.

How can you make sure your Small Business Saturday is a success and not a failure? Start with these expert tips.

FAIL: Don't participate. Small Business Saturday is a big deal for retailers, but it's designed for every small business. "It's a great community platform that can draw local people in your area to your business - retail or not," says Christina Shaw, chief marketing officer for Blue Fountain Media in New York City. Encourage all the local businesses in your area to promote the day and offer special promotions. After all, a rising tide lifts all boats.

SUCCESS: Go omni-channel. It's not enough to make a few posts on your Facebook page. You need lots of impressions on lots of channels to get through the clutter. "Prior to Small Business Saturday, let your community know via Twitter, Facebook, in-store promotions, email newsletters and other social channels to stay tuned for offers and sales for that Saturday," recommends Tiffany Monhollan, director of content marketing for ReachLocal in Plano, TX. Consider a Facebook campaign using Local Awareness Ads for a cost-effective way to reach a highly targeted audience. Add the #ShopSmall and #SmallBizSat hashtags to your tweets and other social posts to help people find you, and to be part of the larger promotional effort for the day. And don't forget traditional media like radio, TV and print: Check with your local chamber of commerce or economic development office to see if they're running any special promotional packages for the occasion.

FAIL: Ignore customer traffic patterns. If you're not located in a vibrant retail district, or if you're not traditionally open on Saturdays, folks who are out and about shopping may not think to come to you. Start promoting your Small Business Saturday activities early to your existing customers with targeted email or direct mail and signage in store. Or have a big event like a food truck rodeo or live entertainment that makes a stop in your area worthwhile. Get added traction by networking with other businesses and asking them to do some of the marketing, too.

SUCCESS: Offer deals. "To compete with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, get creative with an offer that will drive in-store visits and sales," Monhollan says. "Highly compelling offers such as Buy One, Get One Free on select items, or 30- to 50-percent off purchases will help you compete in a very competitive shopping season." Or offer free giveaways like they do at Flowers & More by Dean. "Freebies always bring people in, show off your store, generate business and keep the doors swinging," Guidroz says.

FAIL: Ignore existing customers. Small Business Saturday isn't just about attracting new customers and clients. "It's a great time to reward your existing customers and keep them coming back - and recommending you to others," explains Melinda Emerson, the Small Biz Lady and publisher of SucceedAsYourOwnBoss.com in Drexel Hill, PA. "One great way to do this is with an email that contains a special offer, like a benefit for referring a friend or a discount on booking business. Don't feel like the offer has to be given that day - you can use it as a tool to build out your business for the next year."

Use these lessons learned to have a successful Small Business Saturday that reaps benefits for days afterwards.

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