On Nov. 29, while big box stores recuperate from the Black Friday madness that descended on them the day before, it's the small business community's time to shine—and give those cash registers a workout.
If last year's results are any indication, local shop owners have much to look forward to during the Thanksgiving weekend, according Small Business Saturday spokesperson, Nicole Leinbach-Reyhle, founder of Retail Minded, an online resource for independent retailers. Now celebrating its fifth year, Small Business Saturday is expected to continue the momentum that made last year's event a success.
In 2013, Small Business Saturday "powered 5.7 billion dollars in sales with independent merchants," Leinbach-Reyhle told Small Business Computing. By comparison, consumers spent $5.5 billion a year earlier.
The yearly tradition resonates loudly with the buying public, and that spells great news for neighborhood boutiques, restaurants and countless other businesses, she said. "Consumers and business alike become more engaged." The movement "really celebrates the small business owner" and generates enthusiasm by shining the spotlight on the entrepreneurs and familiar faces that help drive local economies, added Leinbach-Reyhle.
Free Small Business Marketing
It also helps that the initiative's founding member isn't shy about flexing its massive marketing muscle. American Express not only advertises on its own behalf, but also rallies other supporters to provide free marketing assets and services for local companies, which you can find at ShopSmall.com.
This year, IT heavyweight Microsoft supports the cause with $100 in Bing Ad credits and a digital education pack with online marketing tips and tricks, as well as seminars at Microsoft Store locations. Yelp is also offering $100 in advertising credits.
Need signage? FedEx Office will print two free copies of the 11-inch by 17-inch poster available at ShopSmall.com. Finally, Neighborhood Champions can coordinate and promote their activities on Eventbrite, the online ticketing service.
This year, Etsy sponsors Trunk Shows that bring its virtual shop owners' goods to partner brick-and-mortar stores. It's a win-win for both online craftspeople and physical store owners, according to Rand Niederhoffer, a senior program manager at Etsy.
"These events provide online Etsy sellers with the opportunity to put their products in front of customers in an offline retail setting," she wrote in a company blog post. "For the small businesses that host, a trunk show is a chance to increase foot traffic into their stores."
No Time to Waste
The key to a successful Small Business Saturday is getting started right now, stressed Leinbach-Reyhle.
Independent shop owners are busy people, she acknowledges, but it's worth spending a few moments on ShopSmall.com for its wealth of free, personalized downloadable resources and special offers. "It free, it's turnkey," she said, before adding that it is a rare chance for small businesses to "gain visibility and marketing as well."
"Start right away with the countdown," she advised. It's an opportunity to build excitement and serves as an unobtrusive way of delivering a daily reminder.
Even better, small businesses don't need sophisticated Web wizardry to get the message across. Business owners need only to log into their social media accounts at least once a day—or schedule the posts ahead of time, if your social tools allow it—and post an update that Small Business Saturday is only 10, 5 or 2 days away, for example.
Countdowns serve as a "repetitive reminder" that consumers don't mind getting caught up in, said Leinbach-Reyhle. As anyone who has counted down to the New Year can attest, they create anticipation and make participants feel invested in the occasion.
Meanwhile, now is the time to brainstorm welcoming and engaging experiences for customers.
It's an opportunity for shop owners to "identify what makes sense for them to make Small Business Saturday unique" and put into action plans to build new lasting customer relationships, she said. Today's promotional incentive can help turn neighborhood shoppers into year-round fans.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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