Small businesses have survived the judgment made about them as “non-essential” and now there is a groundswell of support for them this Small Business Saturday that didn’t exist just a few years ago.
We collectively woke up and realized it really mattered that we chose our neighbors to buy from so we could repair our communities.
The important thing for small businesses to realize is the holidays in general and Small Business Saturday in particular is the time you can be the most connected with your community.
I think too many retailers and restaurants have used it as a day to try to have discounts but that is not the way to give value to customers.
Especially with supply chains still broken – you put a 20% off sale – you’re going to sell out of all of your best sellers – then have to go back to your vendor (who has raised prices) to refill.
That doesn’t scale. It doesn’t build profits. It doesn’t make sense.
What does make sense?
Give more than a discount
Smart retailers understand that job No. 1 is to find ways to connect with your customers in a real way.
That is not going to be through a discount that is quickly forgotten.
The more you can partner with other retailers on your block the better – it’s a community day.
And I get it, there are also cogs in your neighborhood. You know the ones. The ones griping about business and all that others aren’t doing for them.
Maybe they own the building but haven’t invested in paint or upgrades in decades. I’m not talking about them. And don’t waste your time trying to convince them to join you. They think someone will swoop in someday and give them a pile of money for their old stock and building.
No, instead concentrate on getting as many positive business owners as possible to staff up and welcome anyone more than you think possible.
There is still time for you to partner with a charity. Give more than the old “we’ll donate a % of profits.” Instead, give them a chance to get their name out. Could you give them a featured place to signup volunteers for the dog park? Adopt a shelter for the holidays? Be creative.
Yes, it takes a bit of planning but don’t catastrophize it as “too much.” Make time for the community and they’ll make time for you.
Again, your main focus is on building community this year. We have all had our trust broken in multiple ways and now is the time to continue the repair process.
We don’t find loyal brands online, we find them in these moments…
Someone opening the door for a stranger
A warm greeting on a chilly day.
Gift wrapping a purchase just because.
Your shoppers want to put a face to your brand.
The shoppers are out there now. They want to go back to brick-and-mortar stores so make it something that feels jolly and happy.
What not to do with new shoppers?
Don’t share stories about how you can’t get anyone to work and it's horrible to be you.
Instead, your messaging should be:
It's great to be back.
We're glad you're here.
We’re looking forward to a big holiday season.
If you see it, you should buy it.
What kind of food to serve on Small Business Saturday
I’m a big advocate of providing food but why not make it more interesting? So if you’re going to have hot chocolate, make it something different like a hot chocolate bar with milk, dark, and white chocolate, colorful sprinkles, the works. Make it something visitors find remarkable when they leave.
If you are a jewelry store everyone likes the idea of a champagne reception. Get some of those plastic flutes and some sparkling cider. Hand visitors the flute and offer to fill it while they browse. Who wouldn’t want to feel they were living lifestyles of the rich and famous even if they are in Poughkeepsie and not Paris?
Surprise and delight is the moniker of great retail so if they buy something over $1000, gift them a bottle of good champagne as a surprise gift – but don’t promote it as a gift with purchase.
The goal is to really think of Small Business Saturday as an event of building community - not trying to discount your wares.
What customers want is service, what they want is a happy smile and they want to be taken away from the apocalypse stories in the news of fires, hurricanes, death, and disease.
Shop Small is the anecdote to Black Friday. It is about finding small interactions, not doorbusters.
Your shoppers want to feel they get to create a Merry Christmas, a Joyous Kwanza, a Happy Hanukkah, or whatever their celebration is for the holiday.
Brick and mortar can do something online can’t, which is giving people a feeling.
And people who feel they matter buy more –that has never been truer than at Shop Small this year.
Associates need your help too
For the past nearly two years, anyone who worked in retail, hospitality, or restaurants was afraid of customers. They could give you Covid-19, they could get too close, they could challenge you for a video to post on social media.
Just like grocers have had to do, you’ll have to train your people to get over that. The customer isn’t the enemy.
They aren’t someone to avoid.
They are the reason you have a job.
While the customer isn’t always right, they are always the ones we serve.