Independent businesses often don’t have the big marketing budget that bigger companies have, and they miss out on the Black Friday shopping stampedes that are common at big-box stores. Last season, American Express set out to help smaller enterprises earn more of holiday dollars by creating a “buy local” event called Small Business Saturday. It worked: Participating merchants in 2010 reported a 28 percent increase in sales compared with the same day in 2009. This year’s event is set to take place on Nov. 26.
Although Small Business Saturday inevitably boosts its sponsors’ profiles, the campaign also supports independent retailers nationwide by promoting local merchants as an attractive alternative to big-box and e-commerce competitors. It also features incentives: For example, AmEx has pledged to give a $25 credit to each of the first 100,000 consumers who purchase products with its cards at independent stores on that date. Partner company Facebook is also offering $100 of online advertising to 10,000 small businesses to help them promote the event. Another partner, FedEx, is offering $1 million worth of $25 gift cards for patrons of small businesses on Small Business Saturday.
Here’s how to make the most of Small Business Saturday at your shop:
- Promote yourself. Take advantage of American Express’ Facebook advertising offer by signing up here. Your ad will include your business name and chosen message and will be displayed to consumers within your target geographic market. Beyond alerting existing customers to the event, the advertising campaign may help you pick up new patrons and Facebook fans for your business’ page. If your business accepts American Express cards, put a message on your Facebook page and website and in your email newsletter that encourages customers to register their cards for the $25 credit — and then to qualify for and spend it in your shop. Consider, for example, promoting products that cost $25 or less.
- Create event-themed marketing collateral. Counter the Black Friday marketing blitz by collaborating with other small businesses in your neighborhood on marketing materials. Create a Small Business Saturday brochure that offers details about each participating business and any special deals available on Nov. 26. Distribute the pamphlets throughout the neighborhood to encourage walk-in traffic. Put the information from the brochure on a one-page dedicated website, too.
- Keep your “buy local” campaign going year-round. Although the official event is only once a year, it’s up to independent businesses to instill the “buy local” spirit in consumers all year long. Take advantage of the Small Business Saturday buzz to educate your customers about the importance of buying products locally, and invite them to other special events and mixers focused on giving back to your community. Show people the value of local merchants, so they’ll be willing to invest in your business no matter what day it is.
Want extra cash to fund your own marketing efforts? Intuit’s Love a Local Business program has given away over $800,000 to deserving local small businesses. Nominate your business for a $50,000 grant, rally your fans to vote, and help them understand the importance of buying local.