Local businesses are not getting the love they deserve. Particularly when we’re busy and harried and frazzled. Like during the holidays.
Ask anyone – me included – and they’ll most likely wax affectionate about their town’s quaint mom-and-pop shops with wonderful, one-of-a-kind, unique wares and tchotchkes and artisan offerings.
But do we shop there? Be honest.
Small local businesses are the Davids to behemoth, big box Goliaths. Take a walk down Main Street, Anywhere and the winners and losers are becoming more apparent.
So it’s surprising and somewhat awesome that American Express (a presumed Goliath) decided to do something about it in 2010.
It’s called Small Business Saturday – the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
And it’s working. Arise, Davids. Arise!
So what about Black Friday and Cyber Monday?
What about them, indeed? As shoppers, we love them. As merchants, we’re hopeful to receive love from them (as measured by share-of-wallet, of course). And it’s true that small, local shops also benefit from these two monster shopping days.
But not as much as the Goliaths. Goliaths clean up.
Let’s look at the history:
“Black Friday” got started in the 1960s. Contrary to the recent “get our revenue into the black” rhetoric associated with the day, Black Friday was coined by Philadelphia police to describe the crowded, traffic-choked, frenetic atmosphere of post-Thanksgiving shopping in that city.
Over the years it’s been increasingly embraced as the kick-off to holiday shopping, with brick-and-mortar stores opening ever-earlier (first it was 8 am, then 6 am, then 4 am, soon it was midnight). Black Friday is known for aggressive crowds, with yearly stories of shootings, assaults, and tramplings. (Don’t take the kids.)
“Cyber Monday” is two days later … the Monday after Thanksgiving. The day was invented by online marketers and launched in 2005, sold to us as the first “big day” to shop online after the Thanksgiving holiday where (presumably) we all were taking languid, relaxing walks around Main Street while supporting our local mom-and-pop shops. (Sure, it could happen that way.)
Here’s what we’ve got:
- Thursday = Thanksgiving
- Friday = Black Friday
- Monday = Cyber Monday
Since Sunday should probably be left alone, that leaves Saturday wide open. For something.
And here’s where AMEX – and others – really stepped up for the little guys and gals who are just trying to keep the lights on.
American Express began Small Business Saturday in 2010, using its marketing muscle to encourage consumers to “shop small” on the day after Black Friday. In the past 3 years, the White House, Small Business Administration (SBA), and hundreds of corporations and community groups have joined the effort to give local merchants a bigger slice of the post-Thanksgiving pie.
How’s it performing? In 2011, consumer awareness for the new holiday measured in at 44 percent. That number rose 23 points in 2012, when Americans would spend an incredible $5.5 billion shopping at small businesses on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
Not too shabby.
Look for help in two key places:
American Express has downloadable logos and banners, and social media templates, plus templates for marketing materials — that American Express helps you customize just for your business. You can also choose to be included in ShopSmall.Com.
- 6 Ways to Maximize Your Return on Sponsoring or Hosting Holiday Events
- 7 Holiday Marketing Tips on a Limited Budget
- 5 Ways to Market Your Business for the Holiday Season
- Start Now to Plan Your Holiday Retail Marketing Campaign
- How to Market Your Business with an Event
Plan your strategy, note your goals, and segment accordingly
Are you looking for business from new customers? Or are you more concerned with re-engaging with customers you haven’t seen for a while?
- You could consider doing an email campaign with an incentive to re-engage specific customers.
- For new customers: Given that word-of-mouth is the best method for growth, think about offering a referral-based coupon or discount for your existing good customers to bring in their friends– who will walk in with a pre-formed positive attitude.
- You could also consider doing a rewards program for your steady customers, to jump-start what you hope will be a season of repeat buys from them.
Plan what you’ll do and have in mind the results you want. Having both those in place will help you understand how well you did and plan how to reiterate for the next year.
Get social: Small Business Saturday is very much a local, B2C event
For retail the old saw “location, location, location” can be extended to social media. You’ll profit by becoming a member of the online community just as you are the real-world one, especially with the consumers who increasingly use friends’ online recommendations and comments to evaluate purchases.
People who are likelier to shop sat a local market also may care more about the community. If you’re using Twitter to participate in conversations about your neighborhood, here are two things to tweet:
According to the Retail Merchants Association:
- For every $1.00 spent at local businesses, 45 cents is reinvested locally.
- Non-local purchases keep, at most, 15 cents in your local community.
- Get tips for writing Tweets to stand out, excite followers and drive word of mouth.
- Learn how to launch exclusive promotions to help increase sales.
- Maximize the impact of your Twitter Ads campaign with tips and best practices.
Facebook’s got it goin’ on too: Join the bubbling conversation (with 3.2 million Likes) at Small Business Saturday’s Facebook page
In addition, local SEO has become more and more of a hot topic. Some authorities claim that 30% of searches involve local intent. Expert Brooke Snow of Anvil Media breaks it down to this: 20 percent of desktop queries have a local intent, while 50 percent of mobile ones do.
Given the growth and reach of Yelp, CitySearch, and their ilk, not to mention Google’s own interest in improving the quality of local search results, it’s really important to be on top of this.
To get up to speed quickly, watch the Act-On-sponsored American Marketing Association webinar, “The Quickly Evolving World of Local SEO,” which features Brooke Snow covering how the local SEO landscape is changing, plus best practices on and off your website to increase traffic and sales. This is an on-demand webinar, so you can watch it at your convenience.