Are you planning a Small Business Saturday (SBS) promotion or event for your small business?
If you’re not yet on the SBS bandwagon, here are reasons why you should be:
- A whopping 14.3 billion was spent on Small Business Saturday in 2014.
- On Twitter, SBS is predicted to approach 1 million tweets.
- While American’s are spending less money shopping in general, a larger percentage of that is predicted to go to small businesses.
However, even if you know you should be planning, sometimes it’s challenging to come up with great ideas. We decided to track down some small business owners who have maximized the Small Business Saturday opportunity to create big gains for their small businesses.
Inspirational Idea No. 1: Shining a spotlight on Portland’s small businesses
Betsy Cross, co-owner and creative director, Betsy & iya + Little Boxes
“Several years ago, my partner and I created a Black Friday and Small Business Saturday event for local retail shops (like our own) in Portland, Oregon, called Little Boxes. We saw a need for a spotlight to be shone on the smaller local shops in our city on a day historically known as the biggest shopping day of the year.
The event—a huge prize raffle and cross-promotional discount—was an instant hit and five years later, it has become a household tradition. For two days after Thanksgiving, shoppers can unlock 10 percent off at participating businesses and enter to win a raffle full of incredible prizes (including travel packages, shopping sprees and an iPad Air).
Over 200 Portland shops participated last year and we anticipate even more this year, with an expected 20,000-plus shoppers and almost 6,000 purchases (an additional 23 purchases per participating shop) topping last year’s $323,500 of additional revenue (over $15,000 per store).
People, who typically avoided the hubbub of big box shopping on Black Friday, now spend their time and money perusing our shops on those days and people who love the door buster sales come to our shops after. It's a massive coming together of the community and something that has helped our shops' bottom lines as we dive into the holiday season.
We are also working on developing a package we can sell to other cities around the United States starting in 2016 because we've had so much interest around it already.”
Cross’ top SBS success tips:
- Consider creating an app: We offer both Android and iPhone apps to help shoppers enter the raffle, track purchases and access the neighborhood map.
- Encourage shopping beyond SBS: Paper Passports feature coupons from over 40 participating Little Boxes shops. The coupons don’t expire until the end of December, encouraging people to return to these shops after the event.
- Make your event about more than just shopping: Consider a promotional strategy that highlights all aspects of your experience. We focus on the idea that while you may or may not make a purchase during our event, you will enjoy yourself. This is the story we tell to the combine 10,700+ Little Boxes Social Media Followers.
Inspirational Idea No. 2: Don’t let a rural location hold you back
Katy Kassian, Buffalo Gals Mercantile
"My idea was born of frustration. Since we are 45 miles to 'town' and I only go once a week, attracting attention is a bit of a challenge. Ninety-five percent of my business comes from word of mouth or Facebook. A couple years ago I talked to some friends who are also small independently owned businesses, who just happen to also have rural roots.
I decided right then that I could participate in SBS too, just differently. We have been promoting and cross-promoting each other’s businesses and running specials and heavily market on our social media sites. It was a pretty simple campaign. Promote the page and constantly use the hashtags #shopsmall/#shoplocal everywhere we could, as well as constantly talking about each other. It's pretty simple really—promote your fellow small business and they will return the favor. There's room for all of us.
Gift basket created with donations from 10 rural small businesses.
Last year I also asked each of my fellow businesses to donate an item and $5 each (to cover shipping the basket to the winner) to a gift basket that we would run as a Facebook promotion. In the end, we had jewelry, coffee, biscotti, and cookies in the basket along with business cards and flyers from all of us.
It has become a tradition amongst us to constantly come up with new promotions. This year will be no different, just more creative!”
Kassian’s top SBS success tips:
- Don’t be afraid to reach out: You'd be surprised at how many want to try something along these lines. Some will say no, but more will say yes.
- It doesn’t end on Small Business Saturday: Don’t forget to send thank you notes and share positive posts. Just because the event is over, doesn't mean it's over—you can cross promote any day of the year and lead into the next event.
- Focus on lead generation: In hindsight, I wish I had offered some sort of an opt-in for email or newsletter to make the most of the new connections.
- Take it beyond social: Talks about your promotion—not just in social media, but also to people you see. Mention what you’re doing and tell people where to find the information; many people are happy to help you spread the word.
Inspirational Idea No. 3: Take advantage of the power of Instagram
Tiffany Sartor, owner, Posh Peyton
“After discovering some really amazing small businesses on Instagram, I had the idea to create a way to generate more brand awareness around our products. With Small Business Saturday rapidly approaching, I thought that a contest or a giveaway would be a great way to collaborate with other small businesses in order to expand our reach.
I reached out to all of the small businesses whose brands I loved and thought to be synonymous with ours. After approaching them to see if they wanted to participate in the Small Business Saturday Loop Giveaway, they were all very excited and immediately agreed.
The Instagram image Sartor used to promote the giveaway.
The giveaway included 11 other small businesses. Each participating business selected one winner to receive a complimentary item of their choice—for a total of 12 businesses and 12 winners.
To participate, followers were required to:
- Follow each business
- Like each loop giveaway post on each of the businesses page
- Tag three friends, under each loop giveaway post on each of the businesses page.
Participants in the giveaway and a ton of onlookers equated to a large crowd of new curious shoppers that flocked to our site to find out more about us. This resulted in an increase in sales. Had we not hosted/ participated in the giveaway, many of our new customers would have never discovered us."
Sartor’s top SBS Success tips:
- Embrace partnerships: Partner with some fun shops that have products that are synonymous with the style and content of your brand.
- Don’t forget to have fun: Simply have fun with it. If your sales don’t immediately boom, just consider it free marketing and more exposure for your brand.
- Try gift cards: If you can’t provide a physical product, gift cards are always an awesome alternative.
- Use the power of social media to your advantage: Make sure your giveaway campaign feature hashtags like #SBS15 and #[your brand name].
Inspirational Idea No. 4: Don’t overlook the power of gifts
Roberta Perry, Scrubz™
“Oh how we love Small Business Saturday! We register with American Express every year to be recognized as a participating Small Business, and I even get my own card cranked up and ready. We start advertising on all social media platforms. We send out direct emails and have in-store signage. Our sales more than triple with the holiday promotion days and we love that our existing customers give so many of our products as gifts.
We focus on creating some simple, yet fun, specials:
- Twice as nice: Combine 2 items, wrapping with a ribbon and offering two for the price of one.
- Tiered discounts:
- Spend up to $100, save 10 percent.
- Spend over $100, save 15 percent.
- Spend over $250, save 25 percent.
- Special holiday items: Repackage your items in a special way. We’ve created a wreath or menorah made up of mini Scrubz™ jars and product and Frost the Scrubzman™, which has two small jars or products stacked with a lip balm as the hat.
- Special treatment: Offer a holiday card and gift wrapping for free.
- Contests: Offer contests to allow participating customers to win free product.”
Roberta’s top SBS success tips:
- Be social: We post our Small Business Saturday graphic all over social media.
- Be accessible and unique: We have earlier and later store hours and host decorating classes too.
- Use all available platforms: We share our specials in store, via emails to our list and in social posts.
Inspirational Idea No. 5: Keep it simple
Andre Kay, CEO/CMO, Sociallybuzz
“Sociallybuzz is a social media management, campaign, and reputation company. We have been helping our small business clients execute successful Small Business Saturday planning for the past two years.
We recommend businesses to start their Small Business Saturday promotion early. We’ve done many promotions, from charity programs (the business will make a donation when a customer makes a purchase on SBS), as well as contests and discounts. These helped to build more loyal customers and increased sales while giving back to the community.
The local community is very important to growth of small businesses. Small Business Saturday does not have to be one day; it can be every day.
Last year we helped a local restaurant develop and execute their SBS promotion:
Promotion: Free dessert with purchase of $20 or more on Small Business Saturday.
Results: Though simple—this promotion was a huge success—with a combined social reach of 17,600 and 200-plus new and returning customers taking advantage of the promotion."
Example of the Amex Social Media Marketing Materials Kay’s client used in their promotion.
Andre’s top SBS success tips:
- Have fun: Don’t overthink it; do what is natural for your business. You don’t have to give away anything big, just to match up with other small businesses. Show your community and customers that you care about them.
- Make the most of the Shopsmall website: Get access to customized marketing materials and Printable signage to help promote the movement to walk-up customers.
- We created printable posters for the doors and windows.
- We printed the custom invitation sign provided by Amex and employees took pictures with customers.
- Create awareness on social channels: We used the custom Shop Small awareness social media banners provided by Amex to update Facebook and Twitter accounts. We also posted about the business' involvement with the movement and got customers excited.
- Get Excited: We made a huge deal about it in the store and posted the business’ involvement with the movement on social—this got customers excited.