Sandwiched between the big-box store onslaught of Black Friday and the online deal-fest of Cyber Monday, Small Business Saturday falls on the Saturday after Thanksgiving every year, and is an important opportunity for local merchants to generate attention and kick off their momentum for the holiday season.
CNBC estimates that over 112 million shoppers exclusively shopped (or dined) at small businesses on Small Business Saturday in 2016—13 million more than the number of in-store shoppers on Black Friday the same year—and that number shows all signs of increasing.
That said, as any small business owner knows, it isn’t as easy as simply opening your doors on Saturday morning and waiting for the money to roll in. If you want a piece of that Small Business Saturday success you’re going to have to get prepared and get the word out.
How to Plan for Small Business Saturday
When getting ready for Small Business Saturday, the first thing you’re going to want to do is to craft a gameplan and set realistic goals. In the early going, define what you want to accomplish with Small Business Saturday — and try to make your goals a little more specific than “make a lot of money.”
A few common Small Business Saturday goals that many retailers, shops, and businesses can easily meet include:
- Attract and retain new customers: Many businesses use Small Business Saturday as a way to focus on attracting more walk-ins and/or new customers and boosting retention in the off-season. This approach tends to work better for businesses that have financial stability in the short-term and want to improve their long-term prospects year-round.
- Promote a specific product: If your store focuses on one kind of product, or wants to promote a specific individual product, use Small Business Saturday as an opportunity to push the product through short-term sales or specific promotions. For example, a sporting goods store could promote seasonally-appropriate sports equipment, or a bookstore could advertise sales for a recent best-seller to attract buyers away from other options such as Amazon or chain bookstores.
- Outsell last year: For established businesses that have a strong grasp of their market and customer base, or for businesses whose finances need the short-term gains more than long-term customer loyalty, it may be more practical to simply focus on beating the previous year’s sales figures through various means in order to set a good financial base for the rest of the year.
Whatever your approach, you need to make sure your goals are realistic above all else. You’re not going to be able to keep up with Target or Amazon, and thinking you can is going to lead to disappointment (and potential bankruptcy) down the road. Identify your strengths and play to them.
Executing Your Small Business Saturday Strategy
Of course, after setting your goals, you’ll need to figure out how to meet them. Discounts may not be enough to entice people away from national wholesalers and you will not win the price war. Focus more on having a unique selection and better service and building awareness around “Small Business Saturday”.
Large one-time discounts don’t help build customer loyalty. If you set the wrong expectation with walk-in customers, it will more difficult to convert them into a repeat customer. Instead, give customers a reason to revisit your store. Try offering something like limited release products, giveaways or gift cards. If you need ideas for customer loyalty programs, we’ve got a few articles for inspiration and execution:
Executing your Small Business Saturday strategy requires more than just meeting numbers, getting people into the store, and providing a great experience. You need to ensure that operations run smoothly.
Many suppliers offer special programs for the holiday season that allow for fast shipping of small quantities of one or two items (often referred to as “just in time shipping”) to help you stock up on anything you’re expecting to run low on. If your finances don’t allow for a quick re-stocking of the items in question, you might want to seek some working capital to help cover the costs in the meantime. Now is also a good time to check staffing levels. Make sure you have enough available workers to ensure complete coverage throughout the day. Making guests wait in line for twenty minutes is a sure-fire way to lose their business.
Promoting Your Store on Small Business Saturday
Finally, you need to make sure you know how to get the word out about your plans for Small Business Saturday. A fast and affordable way to start is to leverage any channels you already have. Is your Facebook page or Instagram account up to date and active? Now is the time to buy sponsored ads to target your preferred audience and raise awareness in your local community. Also, don’t forget to optimize your local listings and product pages.
Does your targeted area have a popular local news channel, newspaper, or radio station? A lot of media outlets offer special holiday-centric advertising packages that can help you spread your message, particularly in bigger cities with hip, underground newspapers or radio stations. Indie newspapers and blogs often have more circulation than the established national ones in certain markets. You can buy ad time to promote your store, partner with a radio station for a giveaway, plaster your car with your store’s logo (just try to be tasteful about it), and more. The National Federation of Independent Business has a list of ideas for any budget.
If you’re friends with another local business, you can help boost each other up. Since you’re competing against national chains with massive budgets, locally spreading the word about shopping small will benefit you both. Shopify suggests partnering up with another business to improve distribution and product outreach; for example, bringing in a local brewery to hand out samples while your customers look around. (Trust us, after Black Friday, they’ll be glad for a drink or two.)
After asking and answering all these questions, you should be all set for a successful Small Business Saturday. Then all you have to do is make it through the rest of the holiday season.