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Three Tips to Make a Big Impact on Small Business Saturday 2016

A small business can’t compete head-on with the big box stores. But, like David facing Goliath—if you play the game on your own terms, you can score a victory. For small business owners, the opening gambit for a successful holiday season is Small Business Saturday on November 26, 2016.

Mega-stores own Black Friday. These national chains can offer deep discounts on selected items because they can offset those losses with other merchandise and they can leverage quantity buying to keep their costs low. Let’s face it, small, local businesses can’t win on price and volume purchasing. 

However, that doesn’t mean that a local business can’t have a successful holiday season. You just need to use a different strategy—one that capitalizes on what small businesses do best. Instead of competing on price, focus on providing the highest level of customer service and offering unique products, based upon your knowledge of your customers and your community.  

Small Business Saturday is the perfect opportunity to showcase what makes your business special. Started six years ago, Small Business Saturday is rapidly gaining momentum as the day small businesses can shine. According to the 2015 Small Business Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, conducted by the National Federation of Independent Business and American Express, 95 million people opted to "Shop Small" at independent retailers and restaurants during Small Business Saturday 2015, up 8 percent from the previous year. And, the day generated spending of $16.2 billion, an impressive 14 percent increase from the 2014 amount.

Although Small Business Saturday is a promotion of American Express, you do not have to accept the American Express card to participate in the promotions and publicity. The Small Business Saturday website offers a variety of marketing tools that you can personalize to help you get your message out to your community. These resources include:

  • Digital banners and logos that you can use on your website or blog
  • Artwork for signs
  • Social media and email templates that include prewritten posts, examples of blog posts, tweets and emails

Now that you know where to go to get Small Business Saturday promotional materials, let’s consider three steps you should take to have a successful holiday season in 2016.

Be the Antidote to Big Box Black Friday

Even if no one gets trampled when they fling open the doors at the mega-store near you, the Black Friday shopping experience can be traumatic. The experience probably involves long lines, limited quantities and jockeying for position to score one or two items.

Take the opposite tactic. Make shopping pleasant for your customers. Not only will you reap some of the holiday spending, satisfied customers are year-round customers. Try one of these ideas.  

  • Are you near a big box store? Take advantage of your location by promoting yourself as a "rest station." Feature coffee, tea and cookies along with one or two specially discounted seasonal items and a coupon to be used on Small Business Saturday.
  • If you operate a restaurant, plan “Black Friday Recovery” specials—comfort food to reward the stressed out shopper.  Consider a small discount for customers who show a sales receipt as proof they braved the fray and a coupon for a Small Business Saturday treat.

Know what makes your business unique. Look for ways that you can provide exemplary service or a unique product.

Publicize Your Holiday Events and Sales

One of the advantages to operating locally is that you can use a variety of cost-effective strategies to inform customers (and potential customers) of your holiday promotions. Social media can be a small business’s best friend and email campaigns for a local business can also be very successful. Here are a few pointers:

  • Social media. Update all your social media sites for the holidays. Make sure your Facebook cover photo showcases your business—and the holiday spirit. (Guidance regarding what is permitted on Facebook can be found in the Facebook Page Guidelines.) Develop special offers that you promote directly via social media. (Twitter is particularly valuable for promoting daily specials.)
  • Email. According to Adobe's 2016 Holiday Shopping Predictions, email is a huge driver of business. Don't overlook this method of reaching customers. Send out email that highlights the products that make your business unique—and why they are the perfect gifts. Let your customers know of upcoming sales and holiday events. If you don't already have an email sign-up for your customers, now is the time to get started.
  • Website. Obviously, if you are an online business, or have a significant online presence, you know the critical importance of having an updated and fully functional website. This means that you need to review each page to make sure that it conveys your holiday messaging and any special prices. Make sure that any discount codes are working as intended. Even if you don't consider yourself an online business, take the time to review your website and make it as festive as possible.

Partner with Other Small Businesses to Increase Customer Interest

The small business owner is part of a community in a way that large-scale chains are not. Tap into this—especially during the holiday season. Partner with nearby businesses to create paired discounts or holiday promotions. Participate in any holiday events offered by your area's Chamber of Commerce or merchants' association. While there might not be enough time to develop a unified Small Business Saturday event, there is still time to play joint activities throughout the holiday shopping season using suggestions suggestions found on the Small Business Website and creating events unique to your community.

By focusing on the value a small business can deliver, rather than on price and quantity, you will be able to have a strong holiday season

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