Did you know that small businesses account for more than 99% of all companies in the US? But sometimes they get overlooked because large companies are more visible and have bigger marketing budgets.
That’s why there’s a special day each year that highlights the benefits of shopping small! In this post, we’ll explore what Small Business Saturday is all about and show you how to make it a success, with tips you can use all year long.
Here’s what’s coming up:
- What is Small Business Saturday?
- Why you should participate in Small Business Saturday
- 8 ways to make your Small Business Saturday a success
- What do I need to succeed on Small Business Saturday?
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Small Business Saturday (SBS) is a national event dedicated to celebrating and supporting small businesses. It’s part of the Shop Small movement started by American Express in 2010, which aims to help smaller companies (both online and brick-and-mortar stores) compete with the big players.
It always takes place the Saturday after Thanksgiving, giving small companies a boost between Black Friday and Cyber Monday (when most people shop with retail giants).
Since around 67 cents of every dollar spent with small businesses stays in the local community, Small Business Saturday is a huge boost for your local economy. In addition to this overall impact, here are a few things Small Business Saturday can do specifically for your business:
The annual event encourages spending, which will really help your small business in the year ahead. Americans spent $19.8 billion on SBS in 2020, up from $19.6 in 2019. And because it’s so close to Christmas, the event gives a boost to your holiday sales.
If you sit out Small Business Saturday, you could be leaving real money on the table.
Improves customer relationships
The day puts your business in the spotlight and gives you a golden opportunity to show what you can do. You can attract new prospects who might not have otherwise noticed you, reconnect with existing customers, and strengthen relationships with both.
Develops community spirit
SBS also offers the chance to become part of your community, whether it’s partnering with other businesses or showcasing products from local craftspeople. While small online companies are a big part of SBS, the event is a great way to bring people back to town centers.
Provides ways to learn about your customers and business
Another benefit is that you can evaluate your SBS performance and use the findings to improve your services. Using analytics, you can measure which products were best-sellers, which marketing campaigns and channels attracted the most people, and whether you had enough staff to meet demand.
You can also use customer data (personal details submitted, demographic trends, average spend) to learn more about behaviors and preferences—enabling you to create bespoke offers in the future and improve the overall customer experience.
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With all eyes on small businesses, SBS could be a way to meet new customers and create a revenue boom at the end of the year. If you’re ready to jump in but aren’t sure where to start, here are some ways to make the day successful:
1. Plan ahead
If you’ve done SBS before, you’ll be able to take inspiration from previous years. But if this is your first time, you should start planning early (think spring, or early summer at the latest).
Here are some things to consider in your SBS plan:
- Marketing strategy
It’s helpful to know how many people to expect in-store. You could use Facebook events or Eventbrite to encourage sign up and get a ballpark headcount. It’s harder for online businesses to get an idea of traffic, so make sure your website can handle high volumes!
Your budget should factor in special discounts and giveaways, plus marketing campaigns and wages for extra staff if you need them. If you’re holding a raffle, you could ask other businesses to donate prizes.
2. Get organized with your local small business community
SBS is all about community, so get networking with other local businesses and figure out how you can help each other. In-person meetings are tricky to arrange at busy times of the year, so find virtual ways to connect outside of lengthy email chains.
One suggestion: instant messaging platforms have gotten really cool and helpful, and some are even free! RingCentral Video’s messaging feature, for example, lets you pin ideas that bubble up, share files, and even track tasks together:
Plus, you can start video calls from a single click. And it’s 100% free, with no time limit on your video calls.
A robust communications system is also essential for planning and within your company. Connecting departments like marketing, IT, and customer service with advanced calling and messaging tools will help you prepare for the big day.
3. Make Small Business Saturday worth it for your customers (in more ways than one)
Although you don’t have to hold a sale on SBS, special offers and discounts can bring people through the doors. You might consider buy-one-get-one-free promotions, selling products in bundles, free gift wrapping, and gift cards for holiday services that will entice return customers.
However, don’t be tempted to discount too heavily, or you’ll negate any boost in profits. If your goods are sold too cheaply on the day, customers will be disappointed when they make a follow-up visit only to find that everything’s back to full price. Choose just a few high-value, popular items to discount.
Here are a few more promotion ideas that won’t break the bank:
- A scavenger hunt where visitors collect stamps from businesses
- A kids’ trail with clues in each store
- A kickoff event at the start of SBS, with entertainment and VIP guests
- Games, such as spin-to-win coupon wheels
- Pop-up prizes for every 50th/100th visitor
- Discounts for signing up to your newsletter or blog
You can continue promos throughout the holiday season to keep people coming back, as well as attracting those who didn’t get a chance to visit on the day.
Another incentive is to promise a percentage of profits to charity, which encourages visitors to spend a little extra for a good cause. You could tie this into Giving Tuesday (a few days after SBS).
4. Get the word out
People can’t visit if they don’t know where to find you! Your website and posters should clearly show locations, opening hours, and contact details. Get yourself listed in local directories like Google My Business and Yelp.
Here are some ways to get the word out about your special offers well in advance of SBS:
- Display posters at coffee shops, community centers, and the town hall
- Ask for a write-up in the local paper
- Contact local radio stations
- Social media marketing (more on that shortly)
Reach out to existing contacts and loyal customers with email marketing, SMS texts, and voicemails, telling them what’s happening on the day. With the right communications platform, you could even use data to personalize offers for specific customers.
Remember that SBS is for all types of business, not just retail! Sure, people will be in holiday shopping mode, but you just have to be smart with your marketing ideas (think experiences, workshops, coupons that can be redeemed after the event).
5. Use social media to market your Small Business Saturday
Social media gets a dedicated section because it’s so important! It’s a fast and free way to promote your business (there’s also the option for paid ads), and you can widen your reach to far more people. For example: there are over 2 million posts with the hashtag #SmallBusinessSaturday live on Instagram right now!
Instagram is a great place to start for SBS, because it’s extremely visual (unlike Twitter) and hashtags tend to work really well to drive more impressions beyond your local community (unlike Facebook). You can upload images in seconds (showing your store decorated for the holidays or shots of products in use).
Plan your social media posts in the weeks leading up to SBS and for the day itself. Use scheduling tools. Ask bloggers or influencers to mention your business, and don’t forget to engage with the official SBS social accounts.
Here are some more marketing tips:
- Enlist the help of your favorite customers as your “SBS elves” – offer a discount or free product for a picture-post about why they love your business
- Use hashtags such as #SmallBusinessSaturday, #ShopSmall, and #ShopLocal
- Hold an online raffle for customers who submit a selfie at your shop and tag the location
- Snap pics of customers enjoying themselves on the day and share out with the hashtags above
Bonus: You can use these photos next year as promotion for SBS.
Small Business Saturday might bring in a lot more interactions on social media. That’s why it’s helpful to use customer service software like RingCentral Engage Digital™ to manage all your social media and digital interactions in one single interface. That way, you can meet customers on their preferred channels and improve engagement without losing track of any messages.
6. Polish up your website
Most businesses have a website these days, but some work better than others! SBS is a great opportunity for an overhaul—make sure contact details are correct and payment processes work smoothly, as well as describing your Small Business Saturday promotions.
Even if you only have a basic site with information about your physical store, you can still update it for SBS. As so many people browse and buy on smartphones these days, your site should be fully optimized for mobile devices.
Other ideas include:
- A special landing page for the event
- Long-form blogs about your business
- Plenty of visuals, including product images
- Search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) keywords to reflect special offers
Check that your site will be able to cope with higher volumes of traffic. And ensure your customer service team is ready to handle inquiries about online shopping.
7. Look after your customers
SBS is a great chance to make a positive first impression on new customers, as well as retaining existing ones. But poor customer service will quickly lose you all the goodwill generated by the event. Staff must be friendly and polite, and systems and processes must be optimized so that customers aren’t kept waiting.
If you know from past experience that SBS will be super busy, offer some extra training and take on additional staff to help out. Brick-and-mortar stores could invest in a digital point of service (POS) system to speed up checkout and integrate it with a customer relationship management (CRM) software to create customer profiles including preferences and purchase history. It’s also a good idea to set up loyalty programs and encourage sign up on the day.
If you know you’ll be inundated with customer questions and requests, it might be a good idea to scale up your support for the holiday season. With a flexible solution like RingCentral Contact Center, you can scale up your contact center just for the holiday rush and go back to normal afterward. It takes seconds to set up new users in the cloud.
RingCentral can enhance your customer support in other ways, too—from video training for remote hires to chatbots and self-service options for customer inquiries. RingCentral’s unified communications includes team messaging, video, and phone to enable agents to work from anywhere, and the 99.999% uptime SLA means your systems won’t crash right in the middle of a busy period!
P.S. Don’t forget to keep up the momentum after SBS—encourage customer feedback, and be proactive by sending follow-up emails and targeted offers once you’ve analyzed the data.
8. Form partnerships
If you think it’ll be too costly or time-consuming to go it alone, why not partner with one or more local businesses and celebrate SBS together? You can share marketing costs and referral traffic, sell each other’s products, and host the event at whichever premises are largest.
A whole street or town could join forces and make SBS into a bigger event with entertainment, food, and local celebs. Since it’s almost the holidays, you could combine it with the town’s festive plans such as carol singing or a visit from Santa. Business representatives can liaise with local council members (in person or via video link) to set it up.
Going the whole hog for SBS will definitely increase foot traffic and give people a reason to spend lots of time downtown. They might not bother traveling just to visit one store, but this way they can get all their shopping done in one go!
If your company is online only, don’t worry—you can still work with another participating business. For example, if you’re a freelance gardener who doesn’t have physical premises, you could partner with a local garden center or hardware store.
Any business can benefit from reciprocal digital marketing, where companies promote each other online by swapping links or sharing posts and tweets. Even without an official partnership, you could share content from another business (remember, you’re all in this together).
When you get down to it, the answer is pretty simple:
- Good planning
- Smart marketing
- Sensible discounting
- Local partnerships
- Great customer service
- Unified communications
You’re going to be super busy planning and running your event and handling increased demand after it’s over.
RingCentral’s all-in-one platform is a great way to stay on top of everything with unified communications to connect colleagues and partners, collaboration features for planning, tools for customer engagement and support, analytics for evaluation, and integrations with the essential apps.
If you follow our tips, you’ll be ready to make a success of SBS—for your own company and for other small businesses, too. Seize the opportunity and keep the Small Business Saturday effect going all year.
Originally published Nov 11, 2021