10 Steps for Shops to Get the Most Out of Small Business Saturday

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Saturday November 30, is dubbed “Small Business Saturday” as part of a nationwide campaign to drive shoppers into locally-owned businesses with deals and events similar to Black Friday.

Small Business Saturday, also called Shop Small, is an event sponsored by American Express.

The fall and winter holiday period is typically the busiest time of the year for most retailers. It’s important for local economies and communities that small businesses don’t go overlooked.

This event is the perfect opportunity to rally the surrounding community around you to check out what local stores have to offer before making purchases at national chains during the holiday shopping season.

Take the opportunity to get creative, make a plan and capitalize on this event to try to drive traffic into your stores. Here are some practical ideas on how you can make a splash with customers on this year’s Small Business Saturday.

Set a goal.

Do you want to attract local media, create awareness of your business, build a mailing list of potential customers or sell slow-moving products? Set goals first, then determine the type of event that will best achieve them. Also, determine the key factors that will make this event successful in your mind (increased daily visitors, higher daily revenue, etc.).

Figure out the scope of the event.

Will you have refreshments, entertainment or workshops? What’s a unique attraction that you can you offer customers to draw a crowd. Scale the event’s scope to your level of experience. If you’ve never held an event before, don’t start by trying to host a day-long party for hundreds of people. Be prepared for large crowds, but keep it small if it’s your first business event.

Select your event team and delegate.

Who will be in charge of the event? Whether it’s you or another employee, you need one person to take ownership and manage all the details, then others can help with the rest of the moving parts. Making sure responsibilities are clear-cut ensures you don’t end up without prizes for a contest or glasses at your wine tasting.

Make a plan and anticipate possible problems.

Sit down with your team, and talk through every step of the event. Take your team’s feedback and incorporate productive ideas into the event. Envision it happening, and picture everything you will need—from chairs to napkins and clipboards. Also, consider how much manpower you’ll need at the event itself, what could possibly go wrong, and what (and who) you’ll need to have on hand to handle those situations.

Set a budget.

As you envision your event, you may find the costs are adding up to a price beyond your means. That’s when it’s time to either scale back your plan or find a way to bring in the additional money you need. Depending on the type of event, you might consider seeking a sponsor for the event (perhaps one of your vendors or suppliers), selling tickets in advance, or partnering with a complementary business to share the costs.

Alert the media.

Allow plenty of time to get the word out. Depending on the type of event you’re planning, your marketing plan could include email outreach, direct mail, in-store signage, and radio, print, online and cable advertising. Local media are critical to building awareness of your event in the community. Send local reporters and bloggers a press release about your upcoming event, invite them to cover the event, and send them a follow-up press release after the event. The publicity will help spread the word about your business even to those who can’t attend.

You can download free email, blog, and social media post examples, as well as other resources, for free on the Shop Small site.

Build buzz in the community.

Use social media to get your target audience excited about the event. You can tease the event well in advance, post pictures of and news about your preparations, and even invite customers to the event via social media. Stir buzz and get people excited during the event by having an employee live tweet and post pictures and video from the event as it’s going on.

Develop promotional offers.

Figure out how you’ll market to customers when they’re at your event, whether with business cards and brochures, discount coupons or gift cards, or product giveaways and contests. After the event, you’ll most likely want to follow-up with visitors, especially new customers. Be sure to capture attendees’ contact information—this can be as simple as having them write their email addresses on a form or put business cards in a fishbowl for a drawing to win a free prize. Or if you don’t do this already, think about incorporating customer email address collection into your checkout process.

Follow up.

When the event is over that’s when your work really starts. Follow up with customers who attended the event to thank them and offer them something special, such as a discount. Ask them to complete a quick survey on the event’s success so you can improve for your next one.

Learn.

Assess how well your event achieved your goals. How many new customers showed up? How many unique or returning customers? How many units did you sell? How many attendees return to the store in the months following the event? Revisit the goals you set in the beginning, gauge how well you did and convert your findings into actionable information that will actually improve business.

For more information on this year’s Small Business Saturday, visit the Shop Small by American Express website.

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Image credit: American Express