Are you ready for Small Business Saturday?

Small Business Saturday may be for American Express what Grandparents Day is for Hallmark, but why not take advantage of the millions of marketing dollars spent on promoting SMBs (small and mid-sized businesses) and the resulting retail groundswell on this day ?

Sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the first Small Business Saturday was held in 2010. Since its introduction, it has increasingly grown in size and importance for local SMBs with each passing year.

According to by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, in 2014, 88 million people went out and shopped at local small businesses, and this was up 15 percent from the preceding year. Even Facebook has jumped on the bandwagon and is endorsing the new shopping holiday, which this year is scheduled for this Saturday, November 28.

facebook-sbs

One important change to note from this year is that AMEX has removed the monetary incentive, eliminating the credit for shopping at local small business merchants on this day. Most of what I have read on this topic points to the fact that the initiative has grown large enough organically, that the incentive is no longer needed to get people out and shopping with local merchants. Therefore, what was once a single company’s promotion has evolved into a shopping trend that all marketers should take advantage of.

With Thanksgiving approaching and the holiday shopping lunacy officially kicking into high gear – it’s time to get creative. So I spent a few minutes this week thinking through tactics that small businesses can apply to leverage this event, as part of their holiday marketing planning.

Remember, pain equals gain, even in marketing. The best promotion ideas surround solving shopper pain points. Here are a few:

1. Offer services to preoccupy kids (and dads)

Let’s face it; it is tough for parents holiday shopping to buy little Jimmy the latest GI Joe with Ku Grip, while little Jimmy is at their side. However, this creates a marketing opportunity for businesses equipped to handle small children.

Local daycare centers or kid-oriented play centers can consider having a “Free Day,” allocating a few hours of the day for parents to come and drop off their kids so that they can shop in peace. Extensions of this idea can include Pediatric Dentists with the resources to cater to small children opening their doors on Saturday, to provide cleanings or sponsor activities that keep little Jimmy busy for a couple of hours, so parents can focus on playing Santa. Likewise, shops themselves can also provide a designated kids’ play-zone to keep the children busy, as parents make purchases.

Just be careful about parental liability releases; only leverage this approach if your business is equipped to handle small children. For instance, this tactic may not be relevant or applicable to the local pool hall or bar – at least in regards to childcare. I came across this local pub when I was in Charleston, S.C., which cleverly took the concept of daycare to another level with this special promotion:

wet-willies

Moms have a place to drop-off husbands that are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of shopping, and dads can relax with live music and cold beer. Though a simple plan, offering promotion-based hospitality on Small Business Saturday is a surefire strategy to rake in the revenue – especially if employed with a dash of humor. (And seriously, think of all the couples’ quarrels this promotion probably prevented? It’s a win-win.) 

2. Leverage parking

Ever tried to find a parking spot while holiday shopping? Oftentimes small business retailers are located far away from the hustle and bustle of the local mall, which can be a huge advantage for parking. Consider offering free valet parking to customers visiting your store on Small Business Saturday.

3. Extending additional customer service

My least favorite post-holiday shopping activity is trying to fit “Tab C” into “Slot D” for my daughter’s Barbie Castle.

barbie-house

Small businesses should consider offering free assembly or delivery for any merchandise bought on this day.

How does this relate to digital?

Keep in mind that 93 percent of retail sales happen offline, and the vast majority of such commerce is influenced by digital, especially mobile. Social media is a natural go-to for sharing your creative Small Business Saturday promotions, but don’t forget that you can get the word out for your offerings with:

  • Search engine marketing (SEM)
  • Event sites
  • Hyper-local portals
  • Geo-targeted mobile campaigns

Ultimately, it’s all about getting creative – tap in the free promotions surrounding the event, measure its impact, and please – pass the sweet potatoes.

Homepage image via Flickr. 

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