Each year, American Express sponsors an event dubbed Small Business Saturday. The event--always held on the first Saturday after Thanksgiving--is dedicated to helping small businesses get more customers. The event has become a movement: Last year, consumers who were aware of Small Business Saturday spent $5.7 billion with independent merchants, which is a huge success by any measure.

Now's the time to get a jump on the event. In her new book, Sell Local, Think Global, small business and entrepreneurship expert Olga Mizrahi provides small business owners and entrepreneurs with 50 powerful tips for increasing sales and growing a business. Here are 11 to get you started.

1. Pinpoint your unique-EST-ness

Every business offers something unique to its customers. You may be providing the same kinds of products and services, but how you provide them differentiates you from the competition. First figure out what makes your business unique, then make sure your customers know what makes it unique too!

2. Get to know your target audience intimately

Do you know who your customers are--I mean do you really know who your customers are? Intimately knowing the target audience for your marketing messages is the first step in crafting effective advertising, social media campaigns, and more. Don't waste your time and dollars hitting the wrong target.

3. Build word of mouth into your product or service

Every business wants to build buzz about its products and services. Why? Because when your company's fans talk, people listen. You can build word of mouth into your product or service by catering to brand ambassadors, creating an aura of exclusivity using added perks through loyalty and reward programs, and cultivating an "under the radar" vibe.

4. Gather assets, including testimonials

When you consider the assets you have in your business, you probably automatically think of such things as money, people, office furniture, and such. However, you have other important, but less obvious assets at your disposal, including marketing assets, social assets, customer testimonials, and more. Make a point of gathering and organizing these less obvious assets and using them to your advantage.

5. Make metrics meaningful

You can measure the performance of your business in a variety of different ways, including such things as sales per visitor, average order value, revenue (and profit) per product, and much more. Amazon constantly tracks more than 500 different performance measures. Figure out the key performance indicators for your business, then measure and analyze the results.

6. Create brand ambassadors

Brand ambassadors are everyday customers who love your products or services so much that they just can't help but tell everyone they meet about you. They're the ones who say, "I've got the greatest CPA--you should have her do your taxes!" To start connecting with your own brand ambassadors, think about what it would take to make someone fall in love with your company--and then do it.

7. Track sales systematically to success

There are a variety of great customer relationship management (CRM) tools available today that can help you track your sales in ways that will help you better understand who your best customers are, which products they like best, and where you should focus your selling efforts. Use them!

8. Respond to your reviews

If your business attracts reviews in review sites such as Yelp, Angie's List, and TripAdvisor, then be sure that you take the time to respond to those reviews. Doing so presents you with a great opportunity to reinforce your good reviews, and to manage your bad ones. The key is to be authentic and professional, and avoid being defensive or antagonistic.

9. Eavesdrop to find the social butterflies

Use Twitter to gauge the pulse of the local conversation. Make a point of following socially active local restaurants, event organizers, promoters, DJs, Chamber, Rotary, and other local networking organizations, and bloggers. When you follow them, they'll likely follow you--and help you get your own messages out to a wider audience.

10. Forget location, location, location

With the advent of social media, your physical location is not as important as your online visibility. Work hard to develop a strong social media presence, and people will seek out your business.

11. Tap into the best of Generation Z

Generation Z includes people born after 1995, and they are the future for your business. Keep an eye on them and understand their needs and perspectives as they grow into your next generation of customers.

Published on: Nov 21, 2014