Small Business Saturday is a national shopping holiday (and why not?) held on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Unlike Black Friday, which typically features sales big-box retailers, and Cyber Monday, a day heavily focused on e-commerce, Small Business Saturday is designed to encourage shoppers to check out small businesses.
And it does. Last year customers spent $15.4 billion on Small Business Saturday, and over 80 percent of those surveyed said they encouraged friends or family to shop or dine at small retailers and restaurants.
Still: While Small Business Saturday may provide a sharp spike in revenue, do what entrepreneurs always do -- think bigger. Make the most of the day... but also think strategically. Find ways to not just attract new customers -- and then turn them into repeat customers.
Is it possible to do both? Of course it is. Here's how.
1. Share your story.
Promotions are typically transactional in nature: 10 percent off, BOGO (buy one, get one), etc. To really connect with customers, though, a sale needs to become more than a transaction. That means establishing not just what, but why. As Simon Sinek, everything should start with why: Why your business, why your products or services, and why the customer should do business with you.
Then you can talk about what.
Make sure your website, social channels, and promotional materials help explain your why. Briefly describe your mission. Tell your business's background story. Make sure potential customers don't just know what you do, but who does it -- and why.
2. Focus on running promotions with lasting benefit.
You might be tempted to compete with big-box retailers and create your own "door buster" sales.
Don't. For one thing, that's a battle you can't win. For another, most customers will come to you because you're a small business, not because you're running a 50 percent off sale.
Instead, offer short-term discounts and longer-term incentives that allow you to collect contact information and reach out to customers throughout the year. Again, your goal is to leverage Small Business Saturday to create long-term customers and not just short-term revenue.
3. Take advantage of free resources.
You can download everything from content for social media to website badges and email templates to custom flyers and signage for a physical store. You can even get materials in Spanish.
4. Extend your normal hours.
Small Business Saturday typically results in greater foot traffic; plus, the people who will check your business out on Small Business Saturday will be new to your business and won't be familiar with your store hours, standard processes, etc. See what other businesses are doing, see if any events are being held nearby, and plan your store hours accordingly.
And then make sure you post any changes on your website, social pages, etc.
5. Partner with other small businesses.
If you own a gym, bundle incentives with a local health food store. If you own a clothing store, bundle incentives with a local jewelry store, hair salon, or spa. Think about small businesses that offer complementary products and services and band together to run promotions that provide even bigger benefits to customers.
That way your marketing can go twice as far and your pool of potential customers can be twice as big.
6. Go big on social media.
Sometimes sharing your message on social media can feel forced; it's hard to constantly come up with new angles.
Small Business Saturday is the perfect "excuse" to tell the story of your business. Show what you've done to prepare. Show customers in your store. Share which products are selling quickly. Your followers won't mind -- after all, shouldn't you be excited about a day that celebrates small businesses?
And feel free to use hashtags like #SmallBusinessSaturday and #ShopSmall.
7. Give customers something to remember you by.
Give out something small, like a pen or a business card with candy, to each person that comes into your store. You could even buy a Nespresso machine to make fresh coffee.
8. Plan to reconnect.
Small Business Saturday shouldn't be a one-off event. Find ways to collect contact information (without being pushy.) Create incentives for customers to return. Find ways to encourage them to follow you on social media: Not by saying "Like us on Facebook," but by providing special offers, packages, or discounts available only through social channels.
Small Business Saturday is a great way to attract new customers. Make it a great way to create loyal, long-term customers.