Today's the day.
The day after Black Friday when most of your customers were fighting the crowds at large retailers and outlets across the nation.
Two days before Cyber Monday when most of your customers are back at work, surfing the Internet for massive savings from online retailers.
It's Small Business Saturday, and today's the day when small businesses like yours get to fight for your share of the pie.
And the pie is quite large.
In 2015, over 95 million people spent $16.2 billion (with a B) in small businesses and more than 55% of Americans were aware of the holiday! This year, some project small businesses can look to claim nearly $18 billion in receipts, a 10% increase over last year [Grasshopper Blog – Small Business Saturday Statistics].
It’s Not Too Late to Make a Difference for Your Customers and Your Business
Whether you've prepared for this day or not, it's too late to adjust course now. It's too late to develop a new marketing campaign, and too late to create flyers for some new sale.
But it's not too late (even if you are reading this at the end of the day) to do a few simple things that will delight your customers, getting them spending more money, getting them to share the word with friends and family, and ultimately attracting more customers to your business.
It's important to remember, after all, that people are coming in because they want to support small business. They want a unique experience. They want to find gifts that they can’t find anywhere else. And they want to earn a few points on their credit cards in the process (American Express cardholders can earn up to 2x the points when they spend with small businesses).
So how do you make today a huge day for your business? Make today about your customers. ALL about your customers.
When Humans Connect, Viral Marketing Can Happen
Start by making a human experience for them. Take the time to connect. Give them a memorable shopping journey they can share with others.
Just two days ago, we paid a local restaurant to prepare our Thanksgiving dinner for our family. Not only did they knock the dinner out of the park, when we went in to pick it up they treated us to hot apple cider and loaded our car for us. I told no less than a dozen people that day about my experience, and you can bet a few of them will visit that restaurant now to check it out.
Think about that. It probably cost them less than $20 to heat up some apple cider for the 150 customers they made Thanksgiving dinner for. It took them less than 60 seconds to load our car. But I told a dozen people about it. That’s viral marketing right there!
People Love Receiving (and Sharing) Unexpected Surprises
Small business isn’t like big retail business. You’re not there to check people out as fast as possible so you can scrape up the next customers' hard-earned cash.
If you want your customers to talk about a great experience at your store, surprise them with an unexpected token of appreciation.
NOT something for the future (like a discount for future purchases or a free cup of coffee next week). Something right now.
You can throw that future discount in their bag to find when they get home. But right now, make an impact. 10% off their order, a free trinket, a cup of hot apple cider (man that was good) will give them a pleasant mini-shock that they’ll want to share.
And getting them to share just may attract more customers to your store before this holiday shopping season ends.
Customers Always Have a Full Experience… Good or Bad
As business owners, it’s easy to think about different phases of “customer acquisition”: Attracting customers to the store, showing them a great deal, checking them out quickly, etc.
But customers don’t have a phased experience… they have a FULL experience. And that experience will be summed up as either good or bad.
So today, take a moment to think about shopping at your store from your customers’ perspective.
- How do they find you?
- Why do they decide to come in?
- When they come in, what do they see? What do they hear? What do they smell?
- How do they wander through your store? Is it easy? Are they bumping into each other?
- Which of your employees do they interact with? What is that experience like?
- Where do they wait in line? How long?
- What is the checkout experience like? How fast? Friendly? Memorable?
When you think through the whole experience, you can inject thoughtful “small business memories” into it at convenient points. Hot apple cider here, a friendly discussion with a cashier there, helping them load their car before they go, and so on.
You Make a Difference; Everything Else is Trickery
Here’s the bottom line.
Customers are going to be out shopping today for something different. Not just a different kind of gift or different way to save money.
They are out to have an experience, and they are out to make a difference themselves by shopping in their local communities.
So, help them with both.
Whether on your way to work or at your next break, think about how you can set the expectations, motivations, and spirit of yourself and your employees. Think about how you can make a friendly, memorable experience for every customer that walks through your door.
It may be too late to attract new customers with a unique marketing campaign or other such trickery. But you can sure as hell attract future customers by making today’s Small Business Saturday something special for every customer that does walk through your door.
About the Author
CO-FOUNDER | TECHNOLOGY, PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT, MARKETING, AND SALES