Ask SCORE: Start your planning now for Small Business Saturday for next year

Published 4:16 pm Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Ask SCORE by Dean Swanson

Small Business Saturday (SBS) is an initiative created by Amex to help encourage consumers to shop small and help out local businesses. It was celebrated on Nov. 26 this year.  From what I hear, most small businesses did well this year. But, my visits with CEOs over the past week have surfaced some deep thinking by some. The most common question that I got was, “What can I do to have a better result next year?” 

Dean Swanson

Over the years, SBS has essentially become a part of the American consumer culture. In 2019, 70% of American adults polled said they were aware of the event. SBS 2022 reported that it was on track to be the biggest year for it yet. 

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Small businesses have been unjustly hit in 2020, and the devastating impact of COVID-19 is felt across the world. Numerous small businesses are having to alter the way they operate, or risk being forced to close.

I will dedicate this column to those CEOs who feel that they could have done better.  I will give some suggestions as they look toward planning for 2023 and share some of the work pulled together by one of SCORE’s content partners, Nahla Davies who is a software developer and tech writer. 

Digitize your business.  The pandemic has been a catalyst for certain businesses and a wake-up call for others. Highlighting the importance of digitizing your business and having new channels for your customers to access your products or services. From the ability to order curbside pickup, new delivery options, bookable appointments, or an online shop, we’ve seen all forms of small businesses adapt.

Ensuring you have an up-to-date and modern presence that allows your customers to buy online is key to future business, even if you’re currently running a physical brick-and-mortar store. 

Focus on your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).  It can be tough competing with big brands and stores, but your differences can be your strengths. For example, focusing on the fact that you are small, family-owned, or you have local products. 

Let your customers know why you are special and what makes your small business unique. One example of this is telling your brand’s story in your marketing efforts. You’ll be surprised how effective this can be. Understanding your selling point and marketing is critical to succeeding as a small business. Make sure you scream it from the metaphorical rooftops.

Be social. Having a consistent brand presence can work wonders for your business. Using the right social media tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer, you can integrate with each of the major social media platforms and automate your posts to help maximize your social ROI and increase sales.

Broadcasting your involvement in SBS and creating promotions can entice even more sales, and is a great social media strategy for this sale day. In addition, using the hashtag #ShopSmall on your social channels in the coming weeks will increase awareness and help potential customers find you easily.

Consider gift cards. One thing that increases exponentially from consumers around the holiday season is the purchase of gift cards/certificates. With this in mind, there’s a huge opportunity for your business to develop gift cards to entice future purchases. 

One of the major benefits of gift cards is they take the pressure off customers so they don’t have to pick an item right away. Offering an additional promotion on buying gift cards can also help increase your exposure and sales. An example could be when someone buys a gift card you can give them $5 additional gift credit for free. This can create a buzz around the promotion and spark more shopper’s interest.

Build partnerships. Supporting our communities is always important, but this year, it’s even more so. Finding ways to partner with other small businesses in your area can be a great way to improve your exposure and support other local owners.

An example could be partnering with a local charity. Working with these types of charities can create positive ripple effects and aid your local community in a plethora of ways.

Get ideas from your team.  The beauty of smaller teams is that they are normally pretty tight-knit. Have a couple of meetings with your staff to get ideas and strategize how you are going to approach Small Business Saturday.

Making SBS a win for your team and a part of an overall group effort will help improve your chemistry and morale. A further incentive could be a staff bonus or a prize for whoever has the best idea.

Create awareness. Creating awareness for Small Business Saturday can be done in a range of different ways, whether it’s via word of mouth, flyers, social media posts, or a mailshot. 

Interestingly, in recent years we have seen an increase in the successful use of email as a part of small business awareness campaigns. With roughly 250 billion emails sent every day and a ton of tools to use them effectively, it shouldn’t be hard to see why email marketing should still have a place in your strategy. If anything, email marketing can be more effective than social media. 

Regardless of the method you choose, making sure your customers know you are part of Small Business Saturday is critical to improving your exposure and sales.

Conclusion. Small Business Saturday is just one step towards localized economic recovery. This program allows customers to actively find and learn about businesses in their area, get a better idea of where products come from, and engage in the local community. Evaluate your SBS experience for this year. Review the suggestions above. Are there any items that you can do for next year? Start your planning now.

Dean Swanson is a volunteer certified SCORE mentor and former SCORE chapter chair, district director and regional vice president for the northwest region.