Last year, consumers spent $5.5 billion shopping small on Small Business Saturday. Sixty-seven percent of consumers had heard about it, up from 40 percent after the first Small Business Saturday took place in 2010. How is that for reach?
Given that entire communities are participating this time around, chances are that this year's event may reach new heights. The movement has some major backers, including founding partner American Express, Twitter, Foursquare, FedEx Office and the United States Postal Service, all of which are lending their marketing muscle to the cause.
If you're just now starting to prepare for Small Business Saturday, the bad news is that you missed a couple of big deadlines. Monday, Nov. 4 was the deadline to sign up for no-cost online advertising and place orders for promotional materials (Shop Small totes and a swank welcome mat) for the grand total of free.
The good news is that there is still plenty that you can do.
Show Your Small Business Saturday Support
The resources section of the ShopSmall.com website is still up and running. Add your business and grab some personalized marketing materials. They're slick, tastefully designed and they add a real sense of occasion to the proceedings.
At the very least, download the non-personalized materials. Place the logos on your website. Set your storefront apart by printing out the signage, and hang it proudly on your front door. Shoppers will need somewhere to spend their money come Small Business Saturday; let them know that you're ready and waiting.
Be Social This #SmallBizSat
Let the massive user bases of Twitter and Facebook know that you're open for business on Nov. 30. On Twitter, use the #SmallBizSat hashtag to improve the visibility that your tweets get as the topic inevitably trends that day. It doesn't hurt to follow @ShopSmall and join the conversation by retweeting occasionally or posting your insights on the official Facebook Page.
Don't spam your social media accounts, but do work in a couple of references. Better yet, download the official social media templates and get a head start.
In short, social media is your friend this Small Business Saturday. And every day of the year, come to think of it.
Get on the Map
If there's ever a time for consumers to find you, it's Small Business Saturday. Don't make them rummage through your website for your address (mobile users in particular have little patience for this). Put it on your homepage and add your phone number for good measure.
Claim your business on Google, Facebook, Foursquare and Yelp to help users find you. Smartphones often double as a personal GPS, and these companies' apps can help lead mobile users right to your door.
Deliver Amazing Customer Service
Needless to say, you should take exceptional care of your customers every minute of every day. This Small Business Saturday, make an extra effort.
Greater awareness is likely to bring a lot of new faces into your shop. And as the slogan goes, you never get a second to make a good first impression. Turn them into return customers by welcoming them warmly, being genuinely attentive to their needs and treating them like they're the only ones in the room. Make exceptional customer service your number-one priority.
Mark Your Calendar
Small Business Saturday is always sandwiched between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Don't let it catch you by surprise next year.
Set a reminder today for early October 2014, at the latest, to begin preparations. The promotions, programs and resources are sure to change. At the very least you can start building interest by getting an early start with your own marketing and social media outreach.
Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Small Business Computing. Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.
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