Small Business Saturday (the day after Black Friday) is a great idea to help support small businesses, but one day isn’t enough. We need a Small Business Season! Here’s how you can leverage this idea.
With COVID, employee shortages, supply chain and delivery issues, and now the added burden of increased costs of materials, small business is really struggling.
With the biggest inflation surge in over 30 years, price is going to be a major concern for people shopping this holiday. Their dollars just aren’t going to go as far.
Therefore, it’s going to take a lot of smart marketing to entice shoppers to buy local or small, especially because those businesses don’t have the large loss leaders that the big box stores run to get customers in the door.
It’s going to be a challenge … but when has the chamber industry not been up for a challenge?!
Here are some marketing ideas and shopping exposure programs you can use during small business season to help entice more customers to shop small.
Host an Expo or Creators Market
Host an expo featuring artisans and local crafters. If you have no or low-cost access to space, you may be able to offer free tables for them. Not only can this lead to more sales, you may be able to make introductions between your artisans and your local stores. In my town, our First Friday event helped a jewelry maker land a spot for her items with a local business.
These types of expos or fairs are very popular during the holidays. You may even be able to feature local items at your chamber office.
Create Graphics and Use Them Everywhere
Actually, you don’t need to create them. They’ve already been done for you. If you want to celebrate Shop Small Season and promote the idea, your images are done for you:
- Get a new image every day on the Chamber of Commerce Professionals group on Facebook.
- Or, if you want to create your own, Download the Small Business Season logos here.
- Use the images and logos on your mailers, website, social media, email signature, newsletter … anywhere you’re communicating with your community.
They can’t be overused! When it comes to marketing, Microsoft popularized the “Rule of 7” which says that getting your message through took at least 7 mentions and up to about 20.
Elf on the Shelf
This has been a popular marketing tool the past few seasons. With this idea, the chamber hides an elf (or other fun creature–some chambers use something that’s related to their town/area) at a new business every day or week. The chamber then invites people on social media to guess where their little friend is.
This “event” gets lot of social media interaction. The Bedford County Chamber does this and offers a daily prize drawing from their participating businesses.
Here’s a copy of the notification they send out to businesses.
If you make it exclusive to chamber members, you may even pick up a few new members who want to be a part of the fun.
“Shop and Win” Campaigns and Contests
Another popular marketing program around the holidays is rewarding customers of local businesses. We’ll refer to these as “Spend At” programs. If you spend money at a stipulated number of participating merchants, you will either receive a reward or be registered for a drawing.
This may not always convince someone to buy from small businesses, but it does reward those who do. When you are rewarded for doing something, you’re more likely to continue those actions in the future.
Here’s a great example of how you can use the program from the Bradford Chamber of Commerce.
Notice they give marketing space to all of their participating businesses and they’re giving away Chamber Bucks to encourage additional spending locally. Plus, they add anticipation and build excitement by announcing the winners live with enough time for them to spend their “winnings” before the end of the holiday season.
Other variations on this idea include shopping passports, bingo cards, and loyalty stamps.
Share Pictures and Stories from Your Events and Merchants
You’ve heard of “fear of missing out” (FoMo), right?
It can be a very strong motivator for participation. Well, there’s no better way to cultivate that fear than by sharing images and stories from your Small Business Season events.
Everything you create should be done with the question, “Does this make the viewer wish they had been there?” If the answer is a resounding yes, you have a popular marketing piece.
If you haven’t hosted any shop local / shop small events yet and you don’t have images from last year, think about running a very localized small business spotlight campaign. Highlight what makes each business special. Pay attention to their stories and tell their why’s.
If you watch any type of reality TV challenge or program, you’ll notice the stories they share. They don’t just place a good singer on the stage and ask you to vote for them. They tell you how that singer is singing for her grandmother who died last year of cancer. They do this because it helps people become invested in cheering for that singer.
Your local merchants may not all have sad stories like the singer, but they do have hopes and dreams, connections to the community, hobbies, and loves. When you share these things, people will respond to them, but you have to concentrate on the human element in these stories.
Giving a list of merchants, their hours of operation, their address, and their specialty isn’t enough to drive action. You need to tell a story that builds a connection. No one feels connected to a 9:00 AM opening.
Once you’ve created these stories and spotlights, make sure you include a link to the business website. After all, 30% of small business owners have difficulty attracting relevant or high-quality traffic to their site (survey by Bluehost).
Become a Resource
Small business has had to do a lot of adapting in the past two years.
Some local businesses didn’t even have a website prior to COVID. Now that they understand the importance of digital marketing, many of them still do not know how to do it. Helping them with quick tips can go a long way to improving their holiday season.
For instance, they may not know that they can tag products in images of their store, adding their cost and a quick link to buy. They can even give special discounts to the Facebook audience on some items. These quick tips can help them sell more with very little effort and if you’re the one to provide them with this information, even better.
Small businesses need your help now more than ever. Chambers have a large audience and are well respected. You can ensure that the voice of small business is heard, not just one day, but all season long.