American Express is credited with starting Small Business Saturday in 2010 to help boost sales with a strategy to capture the attention of holiday shoppers. Today, it has become a recognizable retail holiday like it's neighbors - Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Some businesses now even add more days during the holidays to help boost sales and stay visible.
While small, neighborhood businesses generally also benefit from the holiday shopping season, Small Business Saturday is a focused way to shine the light on businesses that provide unique products and services, with highly personal customer service. Perhaps even more important are the ongoing contributions that small businesses make to the fabric of our neighborhoods and cities.
Here are five tips to help draw more customers in the door:
1. Join forces with other local businesses and extend your hours.
Hold one or more events co-sponsored by several businesses in the area. For a small investment, you'll create goodwill, establish great partnerships, increase recognition and boost sales. Try sidewalk sales with a fun theme or host a scavenger hunt to direct customers from one business to the next. By combining resources, you’ll reach a wider audience. Consider joint neighborhood promotions using banners, signs, posters and window ads. Another way to help boost sales is to extend your hours at opening and closing.
2. Offer a variety of incentives.
These come in all shapes and sizes. From special drawings, raffles and refer-a-friend promotions to discounts, buy one/get one, branded product samples and freebies, there's a wide range of creative and fun ways to bring customers in the door. Some of the big box stores offer door-busters (selling an item for less than it's manufacturing cost just to get people through the door). However, that may not be the best strategy for a small business if the budget doesn't allow for it.
But you can spread the "love" with discounts to customers who bring in receipts from other small businesses. Be sure to communicate with other business nearby to help cross-promote. Also, consider offering complimentary gift wrap and free or discounted shipping with purchase.
3. Make it a day to remember.
Expand upon the season and plan to make this day highly recognizable and different from the average shopping day. Consider a bake sale to promote your support of a local charity to show your philanthropic side and serve free refreshments while supplies last. Also consider an informal Matching Gifts program, where you match donations made by customers, or collect donations that you can bring to one or more local charities. Also, consider donating a percentage of sales during the holidays to a charity you are passionate about.
4. Spread the word.
In this case, more is more. No amount of publicity or advertising is too much for this time of year. Many small businesses also do well simply by mentioning the upcoming event to customers and getting them excited about it. Put up signs early so they have advance notice. Use social media heavily to let everyone know about special discounts and drawings. In many communities, participating small businesses join together to purchase radio or newspaper spots. Research ways to list your business on websites dedicated to educating communities about the importance of buying local.
5. Sustain the momentum and excitement.
Your holiday campaigns can be a success if you put your heart and mind into it. Your employees will be excited, other businesses in the area will thrive, charities and the local neighborhood will certainly benefit. But don't stop there. Work together to create ongoing events throughout the year to promote small business. Consider joining with other small businesses to create a monthly or bimonthly event to promote local businesses in your community. Use a variety of signage, banners, printed flyers and other marketing materials to get the message out. You'll create and sustain lasting goodwill and increased sales.
And maybe you won't have to wait until the next holiday season for great, local turnout.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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