Small Business Saturday: What Shoppers and Businesses Should Know #ShopSmall

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Katie Burke
Katie Burke



Ah, the holiday season. Spending time with friends, family, and 10,000 of your closest friends at big box stores racing to win one coveted item at an unparalleled discount. Nothing like that warm, fuzzy Black Friday feeling to start the season off right. For context, up to 140 million people plan to shop over Thanksgiving weekend. 69.1% of these shoppers plan to leverage Black Friday, which is essentially a holiday unto itself for avid deal hunters.  Download 195+ visual marketing design templates to use for social media posts,  infographics, and more. 

With all of that money on the table, it’s tempting for any business to want to get in on the action. The question is how? Consider the following: In the fourth quarter of 2012, Toys “R” Us spent $88.3 million to rent the attention of consumers vying for deals and toys for their kids. Unless you have 90 million smackeroos hanging out in your back pocket, chances are you won’t be able to outspend big box retailers to get customers’ attention this holiday season. 

Enter Small Business Saturday, a vision conceived by American Express in 2010 to help consumers locate and shop from vendors in their neighborhood. In essence, Small Business Saturday is the ultimate example of an inbound marketing campaign. American Express started with a remarkable concept: Take a weekend owned by massive big box retailers and create a window of attention and engagement for small business owners without the budget to compete on spend. They marketed the event leveraging a combination of content, social promotion, and paid advertising efforts. The results speak for themselves: Last year, 213,000 tweets included the hashtags #smallbizsat and #shopsmall, and the movement’s Facebook page garnered 3.2 million likes. Most importantly, the 2012 campaign generated 5.5 billion in revenue for independent retailers nationwide.

Not convinced yet? Here are ten compelling reasons you should consider shopping small on Small Business Saturday:

1) Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.

2) While overall sales growth is up for all retailers, sales for companies with less than $5 million in revenue is down in recent years, so Small Business Saturday can provide smaller businesses with a much-needed boost.

3) 77% of shoppers who are aware of Small Business Saturday plan to shop this weekend. You're already out. Why not visit a small business?

4) There are 23 million small businesses in the United States, so you have a wide range of options to choose from, whether you live in Beaufort, South Carolina, Brooklyn, New York, or Bellevue, Washington.

5) Half of all new establishments survive five years or more and only one-third survive ten years or more -- so don’t wait to support your local bookstore, bakery, or guitar store.

6) The average cost of filling a 500 foot, mid-sized retail store nets out to $20,000so the day-to-day costs to keep the items you care about is significant above and beyond startup costs. Want your corner book store to keep stocking your favorites? Support them this weekend to encourage them to do so.

7) The fastest growing sectors for freelance businesses in 2011 included beauty salons, dry cleaners, and auto repair shops. Consider a local vendor for a treat or a tune-up: Small Business Saturday goes beyond Christmas giving.

8) Although the initiative was started by American Express, Small Business Saturday is payment-agnostic, so whether you choose cash, check, or credit to purchase your merchandise, your neighborhood will benefit.

9) Some of America’s best-loved toys still come from small businesses that care deeply about their employees. Need proof? Radio Flyer gives new employees a wagon full of fresh flowers when they start, and their CEO calls himself the “Chief Wagon Officer.” Small businesses are exceptional places to work, and often pave the way with trends adopted at larger institutions, as well.

10) On the first Small Business Saturday, revenues for SMBs grew 28%, so what may seem like a small expense to you has a huge impact on a business owner.

Now that we’ve made the case for why people should shop local, here are three keys for businesses to succeed and thrive with Small Business Saturday:

1) Plan Beyond Price

Chances are, big box retailers near you can afford to discount items more heavily than you can, so compete on more than cost. Instead, focus on creating memorable experiences. Can you cater to children with a storytime series at your bookstore, or host a hot chocolate tasting contest at your coffee shop? If you’re a home furnishing store, can you host a seminar on first-time home decorating or a free Pinterest inspiration board to customers who support you on Small Business Saturday? Experiences don’t have to be expensive to be worthwhile, so consider what you can do to win customers’ attention beyond just the price tag.

2) Co-market

There is no better time to co-market than Small Business Saturday because you’re automatically part of a group of organizations with a similar goal. Identify a business you admire, either based on their proximity to your business, the crossover between your customer base, or the complimentary nature of your products (you sell floral arrangements, they sell wedding supplies, so there's heavy overlap). Whether you choose to co-market on social media, through a joint event, or a collaborative email, spread the co-marketing love to increase your reach.

3) Don’t Forget Your Thank You Notes

Let’s face it: Attracting customers to shop at your small business can sometimes be a challenge, particularly in the wake of Black Friday. Far too many businesses overlook an important component of the day, which is thanking people who take the time and energy to participate in Small Business Saturday. Consider practicing random acts of gratitude, sending an email with a gift card to a loyal customer, tweeting to thank visitors for their patronage, or delivering a coffee or personalized thank you note to the first person who ever supported your store. Personal touches are yet another way small businesses differ from mass retailers, so delight your customers with gratitude; they’ll return the favor by coming back.

At HubSpot, we are proud to be huge supporters of small businesses. We are proud to call companies like Boston Appliance (here in Massachusetts) and Holden Luntz Gallery (in Palm Beach, Florida) customers, and to encourage employees, customers, and followers alike to shop small this Saturday. We're also taking our efforts a step further by creating a live tweet stream to make it easy for businesses to post what they are doing for Small Business Saturday, as well as for shoppers to post what they are most excited to buy or receive from their holiday wish lists. Whether you’re shopping or selling this Small Business Saturday, we hope Santa is good to you and look forward to seeing your photos, successes, and gifts on Twitter!

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